From College to Couture: Can You Pursue Fashion School After Graduation?

Considering attending fashion school after college but unsure of the requirements and benefits?

We explore what fashion school is, the necessary skills and experience needed, the types of fashion schools available, and the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing further education in the fashion industry.

Whether you’re looking to gain specialized knowledge, build a network, or increase job opportunities, we cover everything you need to know to prepare for fashion school after college.

Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways:

  • Attending fashion school after college can provide specialized skills and knowledge that can increase job opportunities in the fashion industry.
  • Building a strong network in the industry through fashion school can help open doors for future career opportunities.
  • While there are benefits to attending fashion school after college, it is important to carefully consider the cost, time commitment, and competition in the industry before making a decision.
  • What is Fashion School?

    Fashion school refers to accredited educational institutions that focus on teaching the craft of clothing and accessories design, creation, marketing, and sales. They can be independent design colleges or design departments within larger universities. Fashion schools often specialize in design, which focuses on conceptualization of clothing and accessory styles, construction techniques, and fabric properties. They most often grant Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in fashion design. Aspiring designers working towards this degree will spend hundreds of hours at a drafting table and on a sewing machine building their skills.

    The business of fashion is a separate, but related track of study often found in broader liberal arts colleges with multiple departments. Fashion business majors will gain skills in merchandising, business analytics, marketing, and trend forecasting that are critical to selling fashion. Masters in business of fashion (MBA) degrees are available hours from institutions like Harvard and others who offer specialty programs in the luxury goods industry.

    What are the Requirements to Attend Fashion School?

    • There is no age limit for enrolling in an undergraduate or bachelor’s program in fashion design, merchandising, or business. You can attend fashion school no matter what your age.
    • Undergraduate degrees do not have entrance exams in most universities.
    • Vocational fashion schools may give their own entrance exams and ask for experience portfolios.
    • Entry requirements may include specific high school GPA scores and proof of at least high school competency in mathematics, English, foreign languages, and visual or performing arts. This means that a high school diploma or approved substitute (like a GED) is typically required.

    Students may also need to pass core subject tests such as English Language Arts, Math, and Science. Concerning SAT and ACT scores, most undergraduate programs will have requirements in the 1000 to 1300 score range which is considered to be representative of a range of average or higher-performing systems. DASH, a design high school in Chicago notes that students applying for its prestigious program need to have a high school grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

    Do You Need a Bachelor’s Degree?

    According to the US National Center for Education Statistics, most fashion design schools require a minimum of 60 college credit hours in any subject or an associate’s degree for acceptance into their bachelor’s degree program. Purely vocational courses in the fashion industry may require only a high school diploma or equivalent.

    If you are graduating from college and did not study fashion but wish to, you are eligible for a post-baccalaureate degree in fashion areas. For individuals who were not able to obtain a bachelor’s degree, a post-bachelor professional certificate in a discipline such as fashion styling or PR, is available. So if you did not study fashion but earned a bachelor’s degree in another field, you can build on that knowledge and find new ways to leverage it in the industry since fashion programs may value a diverse background and set of skills.

    What are the Required Skills and Experience?

    The required skills and experience for acceptable candidates to fashion schools such as Parsons, FIT, ESSEC, and so forth vary by program, but the following mix of coursework, extracurricular activities, and work experience are the norm. A high school diploma or equivalent is the minimum educational entry point to fashion programs provided by these schools. Along with relevant coursework in the arts, sciences, social studies, and English, Parsons School of Design requires a minimum of four years of high school mathematics.

    Some degree programs, such as the Bachelor of Science in Innovation and Transformation at ESSEC Business School, do not require specific majors or backgrounds. While overachieving high schoolers often succeed in gaining entry to these schools, many applicants do not secure places until they are of college age. Many established schools share their expectations of the types of skills, academic achievements, and work experience they want to see in successful candidates. Parson’s Early College Academy and the MFA Designer as Author Program offer examples.

    Outstanding undergraduate academic backgrounds, extracurricular achievements, and training in relevant topics are required pre-entry experiences for many higher degree programs. Fashion schools in France and internationally frequently list these expectations. The ESSEC program in innovation looks for experience such as internships, volunteer work, club memberships, and cultural activities in addition to high GPAs and high scores in GMAT, GRE, TAGE MAGE, CAT, CFA levels 1,2,3.

    What are the Types of Fashion Schools?

    • Undergraduate: 4-year bachelor’s degrees. Bachelor degrees focus on the sciences, arts, and industry of fashion, associates degrees are usually two-year programs focused on the application of fashion.
    • Postgraduate and Graduate: 1-2 year Master’s degrees. Masters degree programs are usually related to one of three areas – academic, executive, or another university postgraduate degree. A few PhDs are available.
    • Academic: for those seeking a career in research, teaching, or management, requiring 6-12 credits of coursework.
    • Executive: for senior professional executives looking to expand their knowledge and needing 12-18 credits of coursework.
    • Bachelor: Graduate certificate programs focusing on specialized fields of interest for people holding at least a Bachelor’s degree.
    • Short Courses: These are geared more towards practical skills and future career growth than equivalent degrees.

    Traditional Fashion Schools

    Traditional fashion schools are designed as 4-year undergraduate programs where students take required courses in addition to electives in general education subjects. If you have a degree from another field but want a full fashion education, starting from the beginning is the way to go.

    Very few traditional design schools have graduate fashion programs, meaning you need a bachelor’s at minimum to apply and attend school in preparation for future fashion jobs. Select schools within the FIDM network and CCS offer graduate fashion design programs. Parson’s pre-college program is a good pathway for those already in school. A large percentage of students at Parsons started in their pre-college programs ranging from middle school programs to a pre-college portfolio development program.

    Online Fashion Schools

    Online fashion school courses and degree programs are available from renowned fashion schools as well as dedicated online schools. These allow students to secure their future in fashion regardless of their location, financial constraints, or of whether they have completed a college degree.

    According to the 2015 report Certificate Market Growth from the FAA Student Certification System, Defining, Predicting, and Improving Success in Aeronautical Training, certificates accounted for 40 percent of postsecondary awards above the sub-baccalaureate level. In practice this means there are more sub-degree certificate programs available today that cater to aspiring fashion-students.

    With its founding in all-women’s university Brenau CollegeX in 1916, Brenau University began as an institution for lucid and lifelong scholarship commitments. In 2002, the university launched the Women’s College, to continue the community-building, strategic vision that Ms. Pearce and her fellow travelers envisioned. The Women’s College dedicates itself to providing both undergraduate and graduate degree programs as well as a Masters in Interior Design. These changes have made it a top-ranked university and offers a diverse and committed approach to enrollment.

    Specialized Fashion Schools

    Specialized Fashion Schools offer an in-depth education in specific areas of the fashion industry such as design, fashion merchandising and distribution, production sewn product manufacturing (graduate) and textiles, thermals, lab dips or trims. Generally, they do not offer bachelor’s degrees but are more focused, technical programs. A student will already have earned a bachelor’s degree before attending. There are some specialized schools that offer undergraduate degrees although they are often more focused on short certificates to prepare you for a job as quickly as possible.

    The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), Polimoda, and NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti Milano) do provide graduate degrees in the focus area of the fashion industry.

    What are the Benefits of Attending Fashion School After College?

    The benefits of attending fashion school after college include expanding knowledge in business and industrial contexts, improving employment prospects, enhancing personal creativity, and deepening cultural understanding.

    Business and industrial capability: At fashion school, you can improve your presentation skills as well as skills in accounting and marketing.

    Job Prospects: MBAs usually have a higher salary due to their broader skill sets.

    Personal creativity: Focusing your time on personal projects in school such as a thesis may allow for greater creative exploration.

    Culture: Fashion schools facilitate networking opportunities and collaborative group projects with students from different countries and backgrounds.

    Negative aspects of attending after college: Careers evolve and it may no longer be beneficial to go back to school; however, in many countries, classes are offered part-time.

    Gain Specialized Skills and Knowledge

    Going to fashion school provides you with a grounding in the specialized skills and knowledge associated with the world of clothing design and fashion merchandising. These skills include but are not limited to the following:

    • Textile Technology and Science
    • Fashion Illustration and Presentation
    • Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
    • Product Development
    • Fashion Industry Business Knowledge
    • Change Management in the Fashion Industry

    Fashion and clothing have a rich history associated with the art and design fields, and education from veteran fashion designers and clothing industry specialists at sotheby’s art institute, AAS at Parsons School of Design, and even community colleges provides a solid foundation for a better understanding of the current fashion industry. This specialized knowledge helps you plan effective strategies for growth and stay competitive in the fashion industry.

    Build a Strong Network in the Fashion Industry

    Although you may choose to go right to fashion education after applying if you did not go straight from high school, there is no age cap as an adult for getting a degree or certificate in fashion. A fashion portfolio is essential to getting accepted to a school, especially if you already have a degree. Having worked in the fashion industry before applying will strengthen your application.

    Increase Job Opportunities

    Master’s and postgraduate degrees in fashion gained after going to fashion school such as MFA (Master of Fine Arts), MDes (Master of Design), and PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) are advanced degrees for strong career advancement. Additionally, these titles can function as unique selling points and proof of competence. They also open up the possibility of ascending into managerial and leadership roles in the fashion industry. These degrees show higher-level knowledge, advanced research skills, clear project management, and proposal writing abilities. The critical thinking and high-level communication abilities shown with these degrees are of great benefit as educators and consultants in the fashion field.

    What are the Downsides of Attending Fashion School After College?

    The main downsides of attending fashion school after college are the high financial costs, a weaker network environment compared to younger students, and a relatively less extensive formal education background in the subject. Fashion college often costs more than taking courses post-college, and this cost may be difficult to justify for someone only learning the basics of fashion.

    Cost of Tuition and Materials

    The cost of tuition and materials related to the school schedule and work may make it possible to attend after college. Cutting costs may be easier if you already have school supplies from college as these become more expensive as technology advances.

    Textbook purchasing can be non-existent or extremely high depending on the type of classes taken. Some of the best schools are abroad in places such as Paris or Milan where studying abroad still offers a cheaper avenue, so for those living in the states, they can be a net financial plus if needs line up in the years ahead.

    Time Commitment

    The time commitment to going to fashion school after college depends on the program. Associate degrees are two-year programs, Bachelor’s degrees take four years, and Master’s degrees take two years. If a student has a Bachelor’s degree, they can expect either an Associate degree or a Master’s degree to take two more years.

    A non-degree certificate program at a trade or fashion school would usually take somewhere between one and two years to complete. Diploma programs like the Interior Design, Fashion Business, and Merchandising program at Cazenovia College (n.d.), a two-year program give an applicant an education considered equivalent to an Associate degree. Karen L. Milgram, in The Ultimate Guide to Careers in Fashion, describes Certificate Programs (2006) as similar to vocational school and Associate Degree Programs as similar to community college.

    A Bachelor’s of Arts Degree would be similar to attending college. Degree programs may vary at different schools, but all degrees will require a certain amount of time in class and require you to have several hours a week at the minimum to spend outside of class on homework or in a lab or studio environment. Students will need to prioritize their learning over other activities during their studies to meet their academic requirements, so it is important that they ensure they can consistently spend the necessary time on their education.

    Competition in the Fashion Industry

    Competition in the fashion industry refers to the rivalry economy which exists when two or more companies try to sell the same product, thereby competing with each other. In this context, competition is a central factor in a capitalist economy and it decides the quality, price and innovation of products.

    The US fashion industry has a great deal of competition. IBISWorld’s US Industry Reports on Women’s Clothing Stores and Men’s Clothing Stores show that relevant markets have tens of thousands of players across the United States. Differentiation is difficult in the clothing and online fashion business because companies are most likely to produce similar clothes and accessories that appeal to the same consumer base.

    This is another reason to attend fashion school in college. When looking for a premium job or launching their own business, a person with a college degree has a competitive advantage compared to those who do not.

    The Competition in the Fashion Industry section is considered a reason that students attend school instead of additional benefits because competition is partially a result of some of the benefits i.e., the internet allowing for a cheaper education.

    How Can You Prepare for Fashion School After College?

    You can prepare for fashion school after college by working for a few years, so you have a clearer understanding of how a business works. You should have a solid technical foundation, know how to use Adobe and other design software, understand sustainability in fashion, and have a personal portfolio or blog. For an MBA program, concentrate on studying business and perhaps retail. You may also want to develop emotional intelligence and consider networking with professionals already working in the industry so that you are well-prepared to get in and succeed once you enroll.

    Gain Experience in the Fashion Industry

    Yes, you can go to fashion school after college. If you are still hoping to study fashion at the graduate level, gaining education and experience can be even more important than if you are attempting to earn a BA-level degree. This is because many fashion Master’s programs view prestigious schools and professional experience as positive indicators of a student’s potential success.

    Additionally, industry connections are particularly important at the graduate level, where they can greatly increase your chances of finding a job after program completion. When considering such a diplomal level, it is worth noting that connections may be as important or more important than the quality of the academic program itself. This is according to Tom Severin-Zbikoski, Director at Parsons School of Design in the article “How To Get Into Fashion School“.

    Build a Portfolio

    A portfolio is a collection of the best and most representative work of a student or professional in a given field. You can go to fashion school after college in order to build a portfolio that will help you enter the fashion industry or continue your career in fashion. This is one of the main reasons listed by Catherine Katsari-Samaras of Not Just a Label for enrolling in fashion school. She explains that there is a focus on presenting and discussing your collection, which helps you learn to discuss and display your brand, so when you present it further down the line, you’re not as nervous. She explains that studying in a fashion school means failing many times in a safe environment, learning from mistakes without the pressure of a company and identifying one’s strengths and weaknesses, most importantly in time.

    These portfolios are necessary to applying for a job in fashion, but they are also noted by trend forecasters. Aaccording to Dr. Tijana Stojanovic from the University of Nova Gorica in Slovenia, you can expect a noticeable rise in resistance to traditional salesmanship strategies so we are increasingly seeing ceo’s and business owners wanting to see portfolios. Ideally, to create a portfolio you should attend both undergraduate and graduate programs in fashion design as a minimum. However, you may be able to do so by first getting a degree in a related field like graphic design or communications before going to a fashion school for a shorter period – most schools have a program where you can earn a second degree in a shorter period of time after college if you already hold a degree.

    Research and Choose the Right Fashion School

    Proper research is required to find the right fashion school. There are more than 200 fashion schools in the world according to the British ranking site Top Universities. Fall in. love with the culture and programmatic differences at your unique destination. Know your budget, consider campus location, campus culture, network strength, industry partner strength, past reading performance of alumni, curriculum time frame, faculty quality, and legal status. Fall in. love with fashion and make the argument as to why applying is a good idea.


    Yes. You can go to fashion school after college. You can pursue earning a certificate, typical bachelors and master’s degrees in fashion design, or you can earn an MBA in fashion. Fashion schools after college do not focus on prerequisites like regular colleges may, but an academic background in a relevant field surely doesn’t hurt.

    Many fashion schools that cater to post-college students allow part-time study due to students concurrently working. The fields of study include fashion buying and merchandising, fashion design, fashion law, fashion marketing, fashion/media studies, etc. To go to fashion school after college you need only have an interest in the fashion industry and ideally have some background knowledge or experience that you can build on.

    The process of applying for post-college fashion school is straightforward. First, ensure you meet the school’s general application requirements, and then focus on building a strong portfolio, writing a compelling personal statement, and gaining experience in the field by working in the industry or using connections to eventually secure some practical training.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can You Go to Fashion School After College?

    Yes, it is possible to go to fashion school after college. Many students choose to pursue fashion education after completing their undergraduate degree.

    What are the benefits of going to fashion school after college?

    Going to fashion school allows you to gain specialized knowledge and skills in the fashion industry, which can increase your job prospects and salary potential.

    Do I need a specific major in college to be eligible for fashion school?

    No, you do not need a specific major to apply to fashion school. However, having a background in art, design, or business can be beneficial.

    Is it necessary to have a degree in fashion to work in the fashion industry?

    While having a fashion degree can be helpful, it is not a requirement to work in the fashion industry. Many successful fashion professionals have gained experience and knowledge through internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training.

    Can I attend fashion school while still working a full-time job?

    Yes, there are many fashion schools that offer part-time or online programs to accommodate students who are working full-time. It may take longer to complete the program, but it is possible to balance both commitments.

    Are there any scholarships or financial aid available for fashion school?

    Yes, there are various scholarships and financial aid opportunities available for students pursuing a fashion education. It is important to research and apply for these opportunities to help offset the cost of tuition.

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