Earn an Online Associates Degree in Fashion Merchandising

When you earn an online associates degree in fashion merchandising, you may learn about everything from finding fabrics to designing patterns to promoting lines of fashion. You can also can grow your business skills and learn how to turn art into money as you hone your knowledge of fashion as an industry. Programs may focus on designing, promoting merchandise, or running a business. 

Classes may delve into what it takes to source, design, make, and sell fashion and accessories. You might study subjects such as the art of fashion and how it touches people and societies across cultures.  

Online Associates Degree in Fashion Merchandising

What Exactly Is Fashion Merchandising?

While you might love fashion, you might not know what “merchandising” is. Fashion merchandising is a vast international playing field with lots of parts. At the heart of it are clothes and accessories. And the crux of what fashion merchandisers do is select, buy, promote, and sell clothes and accessories.

But what about all that it takes to make and find the clothes and sell them? What about the talent it takes to set trends, market products, and sell everything from socks to couture? And the field needs the skills and creativity of passionate, educated people. When you earn an online associates degree in fashion merchandising, you become someone who knows something about this diverse industry.

What Will I Study in an Online Fashion Merchandising Associates Degree Program?

Students study four key areas in pursuit of an online associates degree in fashion merchandising:  

  1. Fashion as a field
  2. Fashion design
  3. Merchandising
  4. Business

Combined, these four areas help students understand fashion as an art and as an overall industry.

Studying Fashion as a Field   

To study fashion as a field, you might start by taking an introduction to fashion course. These courses are desiigned to give students a basic sense of the field overall. Then you will dive in to learn more about the field of fashion’s many possible areas of concentrations. For example, as part of your core coursework, you may study some classes like:

  • Fashion selection
  • Fashion buying
  • Trends and design
  • Life cycles of fashion
  • History of fashion
  • Future of fashion
  • Fashion show production

Courses like these give students a high-level view of how fashion merchandising works overall. They also help you learn about the past, present, and future of fashion design and merchandising.

Studying Fashion Design

Some students may choose to focus on fashion design. Classes in fashion design are where you get your hands dirty. They are where you trade pen and notebook for pencil and sketchpad or fabric and sewing machine. In classes like these, you will learn how to design and craft fashion items. Core fashion design classes might cover topics such as:  

  • Color analysis
  • Fashion illustration
  • Textiles, fabrics, and fibers
  • Apparel construction
  • Design and construction
  • Draping
  • Pattern analysis
  • Tailoring
  • Sewing

You might encounter courses in these areas at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.

Studying Merchandising and Business

Merchandise and business are interrelated. Merchandising involves marketing and promoting, for example, which are parts of business. Business, though, extends past marketing and promotions. It includes finance, budgeting, planning, and other things that merchandising may or may not include. Some programs focus more on marketing and promotions, and others extend well beyond both.

Here’s a sample of what you might study through core coursework.

  • Manufacturing and buying product
  • Fashion promotion and coordination
  • Product display and visual merchandising
  • Fashion e-commerce

Other topics may be more focused on the business end of the product. These include:

  • Technology for buying merchandise
  • Consumer behavior and research
  • Brand management strategies
  • Marketing communications
  • Marketing essentials
  • Product analysis
  • Trend analysis
  • Global sourcing
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Economics  

Through studying subjects like these, you will get a sense of fashion’s process from source to consumer.

Put together, core courses in the field of fashion, fashion design, business, and merchandising, give you a clear sense of fashion as a field and industry.


Keep in mind that merchandising is not the same as retailing. Merchandising, as you will learn, relates to promoting merchandise. Retailing, meanwhile, relates to selling merchandise.

When you pursue an online associates degree in fashion merchandising, you will likely learn about both, but the emphasis may be on merchandising.

Elective Coursework

To enhance your knowledge in certain areas of fashion, merchandising, and business, you will take elective classes. Electives help you drill deeper to grasp a more firm or broad understanding of a subject. They also help you expand your knowledge across the field. Here are some examples of elective course subjects:

  • Drawing I, II, and III
  • Ethnic and global fashion
  • Apparel production
  • Pattern grading
  • Advanced courses in core subjects
  • Independent studies

You might also elect to study business in more depth. You could learn about:

  • Small business principles
  • Managing and marketing a freelance business
  • Freelance and small business finance and accounting
  • Entrepreneurialism

These are all just some examples of what you might study through elective coursework.

Your Online Associates Degree in Fashion Merchandising program will be a blend of core and elective courses.

What Kind of Online Associates Degree in Fashion Merchandising Can I Earn?

There are two common types of associates degrees in fashion merchandising that you will see:

  • The Associate of Arts (A.A.)
  • The Associate of Science (A.S.)

Note that A.A. and A.S. degrees assume that you will gain some experience and grow into the knowledge you need for a career. You might find an internship or start in an entry-level position, for example, to enhance your degree.

A less common type of associates degree in fashion merchandising is the Associate of Applied Science, or A.A.S. This type of degree prepares students, with some very specific skill, to enter the job market.

When you look at options for an associates in fashion merchandising, you will see that:

  • Some cover lots of theory.
  • Some teach practical application.
  • Some focus on business.
  • Some emphasize design.

No two Online Associates Degree in Fashion Merchandising programs are alike. Even within each of the A.A. and A.S. labels, there are many differences. However, in general, A.A. degrees tend toward design and application, and A.S. degrees tend toward theory and business. But, this is not always the case in fashion merchandising. Your best bet when looking for a great Online Associates Degree in Fashion Merchandising is to see what courses each program offers. Pick the one that best helps you pursue your career. Also see what sparks your passion. Pursue the one that makes the most sense.

Associates Degree Titles

In addition to being labeled as A.A. or A.S. degrees, associates degrees have specific titles. These titles help prospective students get a sense of the programs content. Some examples of A.A. and A.S. degree titles include:

  • Associates degree in fashion and textile merchandising
  • AS in fashion merchandising
  • A.A. in merchandising and marketing
  • A.A. in fashion design and merchandising
  • A.S. in fashion design and merchandising
  • A.A.S. in Business Administration – retail management

You may find even more titles as you explore your options.

The Architecture of an Online Associates Degree in Fashion Merchandising

Earning an associates degree in fashion merchandising puts you on a path. It helps you grow your knowledge and skills in the field. And it helps you begin your career or transfer to a four-year college or university. So how long is your path and what will be its terrain? Let’s jump into the answers.

How long will it take to earn an associates degree in fashion merchandising?  

Students who pursue an online associates degree in fashion merchandising earn between fifty and ninety credits. Going full time and without delay, students can earn one in two years. In some cases, students can move at their own pace. Some students might therefore opt to take longer to earn their associates degree.

What will be the program’s structure?

A.A.s and A.S.s in fashion merchandising are set up to let students focus on fashion and business. In some programs, students learn about these two subjects for two years. In others, students also take some general education courses in subjects like English, humanities, math, and science as well. Your program will be divided to some extent between general education classes and classes for your major.  

An online associates degree in fashion merchandising program might also include an internship. Since you might be far from your school in an online program, you will get to find one in your home city. Keep in mind, though, that not all programs include an internship.

An associates degree in fashion merchandising can be your final frontier or a step toward more education. Many students transfer their degree to a four-year college. At a four-year college, you can a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science degree in a field connected to fashion merchandising. If you earn an A.A. in fashion design, for example, you might earn a B.S. in business. Or, if you earn an A.S. in fashion merchandising, you might earn a B.A. in the same subject.  

Careers for Fashion Merchandising Professionals

Here are some things fashion merchandisers and others in the industry do:

  • They study fashion trends.
  • They travel to markets and manufacturers to find unique fabrics, clothes, and accessories.
  • They work with teams of people throughout the process of finding, buying, and selling products.
  • They create displays and use other marketing tools to promote products.
  • They plan promotions such as fashion shows and giveaways.
  • Fashion designers, who may have merchandising skills, design clothes and more.

With an associates degree in fashion merchandising, you may pursue entry-level positions in any of these areas. For more advanced positions, and to work in certain roles, you might need to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Potential Yearly Earnings

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2016 survey, professionals with bachelors degrees in fashion-related occupations earned these salaries:  

  • Advertising, marketing, and promotions managers earned a median annual wage of $65,170.i
  • Fashion designers earned a median annual wage of $65,170.ii
  • Buyers and purchasing agents earned a median annual wage of $60,700.iii
  • Market research analysts earned a median annual wage of $62,560.iv

With one exception, people in all of these occupations were required to have a bachelors degree to enter the field. Wholesale and manufacturing sales reps did not. Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives earned a median annual wage of $60,530 in 2016.v

Keep in mind that while you might need a bachelors degree to pursue positions like those mentioned above, earning an associates degree in fashion merchandising may help you pursue entry level positions. Entry level positions help workers gain experience and learn industries in greater depth. Having an associates degree can also set you on the path to earning a bachelors degree.

Consider this career path that you might pursue with an Online Associates Degree in Fashion Merchandising:

  • Earn an associates degree.
  • Find a part of fashion merchandising you find interesting.  
  • Begin in an entry-level job and learn through experience.
  • Use your experience to help you decide what to study when you earn your bachelors degree.
  • Earn your bachelors degree.
  • Pursue more and more advanced positions in your field.

I Am Ready to Pursue My Online Associates Degree in Fashion Merchandising. What Is Next?

Explore our site to find programs of interest to you. Click on a school to see more details about the program. By clicking on multiple schools, you can compare and contrast options. Consider the schools’ curricula, program goals, and predicted outcomes. You can also learn about schools’ financial aid and other considerations. Simply read each school’s program disclosure information. You will find a link for each school right here on our site.

When you find schools you like, simply fill out a form to request more information. The process is truly that easy.

Enjoy your search and congratulations on taking this next step toward your future. We are confident that the field of fashion will never be the same.

i. bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/fashion-designers.htm ii. bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/fashion-designers.htm iii. bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/buyers-and-purchasing-agents.htm iv. bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/market-research-analysts.htm v. bls.gov/ooh/sales/wholesale-and-manufacturing-sales-representatives.htm