The overall employment prospects for starting fashion designers are projected to remain flat from 2010 to 2020, with no net additions expected to the approximately 21,500 fashion-design jobs reported as of May 2010. Job growth of as much as 40 percent is expected within specialized design firms, as well as of 17 percent among fashion-design managers, those involved in the performing arts and self-employed designers, but those combined gains will likely be fully offset by declining employment within the apparel-manufacturing industry of minus 58 percent. Prospects are best, however, for those with a formal education in fashion design.
Starting salaries for fashion designers vary widely from employer to employer and between salaried designers and those who are self-employed, but tend to be relatively low overall. Salaries also vary widely from designer to designer depending on level of education, experience and skill. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest 10 percent of full-time fashion design salaries, which includes the salaries of starting designers, averaged less than $32,500 annually as of May 2010, while the upper 10 percent earned more than $130,890 per year, and the median salary was $64,530 per year.
Generally, fashion designers evaluate and anticipate industry trends, define themes for apparel collections, including the selection of fabrics and accessories, compose conceptual sketches for clothing items, use specialized computer programs to create the patterns and construction plans that will guide production of each apparel item, and assist in marketing their designs to apparel retailers and the ultimate consumers.
Education and Experience:
Although no specific education is required of a practicing fashion designer, most successful candidates do obtain formal education in fashion design specifically or in a related field, such as fashion merchandising. Fashion-design coursework generally includes classroom instruction and hands-on laboratories in sewing, textiles, color theory, pattern making, fashion history and computer-aided design programs. Employers often focus on candidates who demonstrate the greatest creativity as demonstrated by their fashion-design portfolios, collections of designs organized to best demonstrate the their unique talents.
As of May 2010, the median salary for all U.S. occupations was $33,840 annually, compared with a median salary for fashion designers of $64,530 annually. The median annual salary generally earned in all “Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations” was $42,870. The median salaries of certain fashion-design specialties was reported in July 2011 to be $72,560 annually for managers, $61,600 per year for apparel wholesalers and $59,650 annually for specialized design services overall.