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Pursuing an Online Masters in Fashion Merchandising

By earning an online masters in fashion merchandising, students explore the broad field of merchandising in depth. Students look through social, cultural, economic, political, and environmental lenses at:

  • Business
  • Fashion
  • Technology
  • Trends
  • Product development
  • Product distribution
  • Consumer behavior

They use what they learn to better understand merchandising as a field and discipline. Best of all, they learn how to find their way into a field that welcomes a business sense and creativity alike.  

Online Masters in Fashion Merchandising

What Will I Learn When I Pursue an Online Masters in Fashion Merchandising?

Masters degrees in fashion merchandising are meant to help students dive into the discipline and field in great depth. Unlike bachelors degrees in this area, masters degrees are devoted one hundred percent to the topic at hand. Gone are general education requirements and the need to take courses not intimately connected to fashion merchandising. Here to stay is a focused study on the subjects students care about most. Accordingly, as students earn an online masters in fashion merchandising, they take advanced classes that focus entirely on the nuances of business, fashion, and retail as they relate to merchandising. 

The overarching point of an online masters in fashion merchandising is to give students a sense of local, national, or global trade and retail systems and how merchandising, business, and fashion theory and principle meet practice. Ideally, students earn online masters in fashion merchandising having gained a firm sense of how fashion merchandising professionals:

  1. Utilize the best of business, retail, and fashion know-how to produce results,
  2. Navigate the all-encompassing merchandising process, and
  3. Help fashion and retail businesses flourish and succeed

In some programs, students learn about merchandising broadly and gain an in depth look at the field overall (by studying myriad aspects of it at a more superficial level). In other programs, students learn about specific components of merchandising and gain greater knowledge of a specific component of the field than they do the field overall (by studying certain aspects of merchandising in depth, such as finance, production, or management, for example).

As students explore merchandising as a field and discipline, they might learn about:

  • How to merchandise a product to a customer
    • How to develop products
    • How to promote products
    • How to manage retail
  • How to be a manager in merchandising and retail
  • How to handle business components of merchandising and retail such as finance and marketing

Whether students balance their studies through all of these areas or delve deeper into one or two of them depends on the degree. 

What Are Some Specific Subjects I Might Study?

Consider the vastness of the fields of business, fashion, and retail. For example:

  • Business includes everything from management to marketing to finance to human resources. 
  • Fashion includes everything from fashion design to textiles to sewing to fashion shows and trend-setting.  
  • Retail includes everything from management to consumer behavior to branding to visual merchandising.

Then merchandising blends business, fashion, and retail together. In such a field, the number of subjects up for study is immense! Diving in takes time, focus, and guidance. As such, an online masters in fashion merchandising will likely include coursework steeped in researched theory and practice and delivered by skilled instructors with well-developed knowledge real-world experience in the field.

Here is some of what you might study as you earn your advanced degree:

In the Area of Fashion, Materials, and Products:

  • Advanced fashion merchandising
  • Consumer behavior in fashion
  • Fashion marketing, branding, and promoting
  • Textiles and raw materials
  • Product development in fashion from concept to consumer
  • Apparel and textile development
  • Consumers in the apparel and textile market
  • Product sourcing
  • Assortment planning
  • Strategic economic analysis of apparel and textile industries
  • Theory and practice of apparel and textile marketing and distribution
  • Product design, development, and evaluation

In the Area of Merchandising:

  • Promotional strategies in merchandising
  • Contemporary issues and trends in merchandising
  • Financial merchandising implications
  • Strategic merchandising
  • International merchandise management

In the Area of Retailing:

  • Global fashion retailing
  • Digital retailing
  • Retail merchandise management
  • International retail expansion

In the Area of Management:

  • Technology in fashion merchandising and management
  • Retail management and operations
  • Strategic planning for the merchandising executive
  • Fashion retail management

In the Area of Business:

  • Influencing organizations
  • Consumer behavior
  • Sociological, psychological, and economic aspects of consumer behavior
  • Professional advancement
  • Strategic planning
  • Promotional strategies
  • Trend analysis and product development
  • Cross cultural understanding
  • Business studies
  • Decision sciences
  • Decision technology
  • Finance
  • Information technology
  • Supply chain management
  • Marketing
  • Organizational behavior

In the Area of Fashion and Merchandising as a Discipline:

  • History of fashion
  • Retail theory and current practice
  • Theories and principles of visual merchandising
  • Historical and contemporary issues in trade
  • Research methods
  • Statistic methods

As you can imagine, diving into any one of these subjects through advanced coursework could allow for a fascinating experience. You might develop your abilities to think creatively, plan logically, and take meaningful and decisive action. And, diving into one or two of these subjects in greater depth offers ample opportunity to cultivate specialized knowledge. Having specialized knowledge could help you enhance your career.

What Types of Fashion Merchandising Masters Degrees Are Available Online?

Given the possibilities for learning so much, how do you decide where to focus your knowledge? Start by considering the different types of online masters in fashion merchandising degrees available. Here are some options: 

  • The Master of Science (M.S.)
  • The Master of Art (M.A.)
  • The Master of Professional Studies (M.P.S.)
  • The Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.)
  • The Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)

Beyond these general designations, you’ll see you have many options, the collective of which is as diverse as what you’ll study. For example, you might earn an M.S., M.A., M.P.S., or one of the degrees above in:

  • Merchandising
  • Fashion marketing and brand management
  • Fashion merchandising and management
  • Fashion product development
  • Fashion merchandising and retail management
  • Design, housing, and merchandising
  • Retail merchandising and leadership
  • Textiles, merchandising, and fashion design

As you can guess, each of these degree types focuses on slightly different subjects. To give different degrees some context, consider that:

  • Some focus on economic aspects of merchandising
  • Some focus on management in merchandising
  • Some focus on design and merchandising
  • Some focus on other aspects of fashion, retail, and merchandising

While different degrees might offer distinct emphases, all of them blend business, design, and retail to produce a degree in merchandising.  

Another option for pursuing an online masters in fashion merchandising degree is to pursue a dual degree. For example, students might earn a dual Master of Science in hospitality management and merchandising. In a program like this one, students might learn about the field of hospitality management and how to merchandise hospitality specifically. After all, these two fields intermingle but are also distinct enough to warrant a “dual” degree. If you pursue a dual degree in other subjects, your courses may be equally divided between two disciplines.  

Still other online masters in fashion merchandising degrees emphasize business first and merchandising second. For example, students pursuing an M.B.A. in merchandising might focus primarily on business administration and secondarily on merchandising, retail, or fashion design. The end result might be a student who thoroughly understands how to administrate business (such as finance, human resources, and marketing, for example) in the merchandising, retail, or fashion field. They will be business professionals who focus their talents in a particular industry: merchandising.  

What Is the Structure of a Masters in Fashion Merchandising Online Degree?

Students typically pursue 36 to 42 credits of upper-division coursework to earn an online masters in fashion merchandising. This means that they take 12 to 14 courses, 10 of which provide core credits and two to four of which provide elective credits.

To complete their online masters in fashion merchandising, students might complete a practicum, thesis, or creative project in addition to their coursework. For example:

  • Students might complete a business or design portfolio.
  • Students might do a thesis project by researching, writing, and presenting on a topic.
  • Students might present a merchandising campaign or something similar.
  • Students might do an internship to apply what they’ve learned on the job.

Final projects and requirements like these may be completed on-campus or in students’ home cities depending on the school.

Through the collective of their courses and final projects, students dive deeply into subjects that help them understand fashion, merchandising, and retail as academic disciplines and professional fields. Most students earn their online masters in fashion merchandising over two years of fulltime study. Depending on the school, they might do so entirely online or through a blend of online and on-campus courses.

Why Earn a Masters in Fashion Merchandising Online?

There are lots of great reasons, one of which is that the field of fashion constantly evolves. As fashion firms experiment with new materials and fabrics, expand into new markets, and meet new demands and challenges posed by retailers and consumers, they depend on robust, well-developed advice from skilled, knowledgeable employees. Students with a masters in fashion marketing and management are prepared to approach a company's dynamic needs.

Another great reason to earn a masters degree in fashion marketing, management, or another area is that some jobs in fashion are currently quite competitive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that occupations for fashion designers and purchasing agents, for example, will grow by just threei and twoii percent respectively between 2014 and 2024. Having a masters in fashion management, a fashion MBA, or another fashion merchandising advanced degree could help make you more competitive.

Plus, a relatively small portion of students earned an online masters in fashion merchandising (just 0.2 percent of fashion merchandising students earned a masters degree in 2015). Yet, twenty percent of professionals employed in business held a masters degree in 2015.iii Why not pursue an online masters in fashion merchandising to help enhance your potential in the business and fashion sphere?

Finally, why not earn a masters in fashion merchandising online? If you think logically and creatively and have a passion for business and design, degrees in this area might suit you perfectly. In addition to studying subjects across creative and logical spheres, you can also develop your skills and knowledge in:iii

  • The art of persuasion
  • The art of social perceptiveness
  • The art of negotiation
  • The skill of critical thinking
  • The skill of public speaking
  • The skill of active listening

And these are just some of the many tools covered in a masters in fashion merchandising degree program.

What Can I Do with a Masters in Fashion Merchandising?

In 2015, the most common occupations for professionals with a degree in merchandising were accountant, auditor, manager, financial manager, and chief executive.i According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals in those occupations earned the following:  

  • Accountants and auditors earned a median annual wage of $68,150 in 2016.iv
  • Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers earned a median annual wage of $127,560 in 2016.v
  • Financial managers earned a median annual wage of $121,750 in 2016.vi
  • Chief executives earned a median annual wage of $103,950 in 2016.vii

I’m Ready to Pursue an Online Masters in Fashion Merchandising. How Do I Get Started?

The truth is, you have already started your journey.  

Your next step is to browse the programs we have gathered for you to explore. All of them offer online options, and they offer options across degree types and core subjects. When you find sponsored programs you like, click on them to get more information. On our site, you can find details about accreditation, online options, and more. When you’re ready to take the next step and perhaps even commit to a program, request more information from the school directly from our site.

Good luck on your journey! The power of advanced education in an area you love could serve you well. 


[i] bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/fashion-designers.htm [ii] bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/buyers-and-purchasing-agents.htm [iii] datausa.io/profile/cip/521902/ [iv] bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm [v] bls.gov/ooh/management/advertising-promotions-and-marketing-managers.htm [vi] bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm [vii] bls.gov/ooh/management/top-executives.htm

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