A US$1.5 trillion industry, the global fashion sector is constantly evolving and expanding, and fashion careers include some of the most glamorous, creative and competitive around. Whether you’re dreaming of becoming the next Coco Chanel, want to put your keen eye for style to use as a fashion buyer, or see yourself crafting a career in fashion journalism, a Masters in Fashion (MA Fashion) could be your perfect next step.
Read on to find out about common entry requirements for MA Fashion degrees, popular specializations, and the wide range of fashion careers you could go on to pursue.
Key skills gained from an MA Fashion include:
A Masters in Fashion is a chance to explore the fashion sector in detail, including the economic, social, ethical, ecological and cultural aspects. The level and type of specialization involved will vary depending on the program you choose and the course modules you select. However, the majority of MA Fashion degrees have a strong focus on preparing students for future fashion careers, often including opportunities to complete practical projects and gain professional experience.
As well as traditional teaching methods such as lectures and seminars, MA Fashion courses are likely to include a range of other learning approaches, from team workshops to study visits. This is particularly likely to be the case in if you’re specializing in a field such as fashion design, fashion photography or fashion styling. Here, the practical nature of the subject means you will apply knowledge acquired in lectures and classes right from the start of your course, working to a set brief (often with a specific theme) and then presenting your work.
This may seem daunting at first, but you will soon learn and develop your skills and confidence with lots of support from experienced professionals as well as your peers. And the challenges involved will be the perfect preparation for future fast-paced and demanding careers in fashion.
As you continue your Masters in Fashion, you will be given advice on how to network with fashion professionals to enhance your career prospects once you graduate. Depending on the university or school, you may be given some personal coaching. You should also benefit from opportunities to receive critical feedback from your classmates, and to provide analysis of others’ ideas and work in turn.
For your final assessment, you will likely be required to complete a portfolio, dissertation or research project with a particular focus and/or brief. This is a chance to bring together and display all the knowledge and skills developed during the course, and provides you with a useful piece of work to share with potential employers.
Universities and fashion schools may also hold their own fashion shows, usually towards the end of the course, allowing students to showcase their work and perhaps even get noticed by a talent scout.
A relevant undergraduate degree will usually be required, and relevant professional experience is also likely to be an asset. You will probably be asked to submit a personal statement and portfolio of work to support your application. Specific entry requirements will vary depending on the university or fashion school, and also on the course type. If applying to study an MA Fashion in a particular specialization (such as photography), you’ll be expected to show evidence of your interest in and aptitude for this field.
As with other degrees, Masters in Fashion degrees are available to study either full-time or part-time. Some universities also offer a combined undergraduate and master’s degree, offering the chance to condense your studies and potentially progress more quickly.
If you’ve already gained several years’ professional experience in the fashion sector, you may also want to consider a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) with a fashion specialization.
When choosing a specialization, it is a good idea to keep in mind what fashion careers you’re aspiring towards after you graduate. For example, if you would like a career in the business side of fashion, you’re likely to be looking for a Masters in Fashion Management. Similarly, if you’re interested in fashion careers as a buyer or merchandiser, an MA in Fashion Retail Management or Fashion Merchandising could be for you.
If you love flicking through the pages of fashion magazines and have dreams of turning your personal blog into an international trend-setter, a specialization in Fashion Journalism, Fashion PR, or Fashion Marketing could all be good options.
Other specializations include textiles, footwear, costume design, photography, entrepreneurship and media production. And there are also opportunities to combine a fashion specialization with a wide range of other subjects. For instance, the University of Milan offer a Masters in Fashion and Law, while the London College of Fashion offers two ‘world first’ options for those keen to study fashion through the lens of psychology – available as either a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MSc).
On the other hand, if you haven’t yet got a specific career path in mind, a more general, multidisciplinary program would be a good option. A general MA Fashion should allow you to take modules in a variety of topics, gaining an overview of the sector and the range of fashion careers available.
The fashion industry is notoriously competitive, and you will need to work your way up in the industry, so dedication and passion is crucial. Try to get as much work experience as you can (some fashion degrees will incorporate this) and consider starting a blog or website to raise your online profile. It’s also recommended to build up a professional presence on social media, particularly on image-focused platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest, particularly if you are a budding fashion designer or journalist.
Many fashion careers have the potential to work as a freelancer, meaning flexible hours and varied projects. However, generally it takes time to build up a network of contacts and gain a steady flow of commissions, so most graduates will start out by gaining experience within a fashion agency or related business.
Below are some key areas of careers in fashion which you may consider – all promising work in a fast-paced and high-pressure environment, but full of rewards and creativity. Be ready to rise to each challenge!
Fashion buyers are responsible for choosing products to be sold in stores. This could mean choosing items from a full spectrum of fashion products, or you may specialize in a particular area such as footwear, menswear or lingerie. To become a fashion buyer, you will need to have a knack for identifying emerging trends that will appeal to your company’s clients and customers.
If you have an eye for business as well as style, then fashion careers in merchandising could be for you. This role involves tasks such as predicting consumer spending patterns, and ensuring all the right products are stocked in the right stores at the right time, and in the right quantities. Fashion merchandisers work closely with buyers to decide on budget allocations and strategies for various product lines. In smaller businesses, the same person might be in charge of both buying and merchandising.
This is another very popular area, with a range of employment possibilities. You could work for a dedicated fashion magazine or website, or create content for a range of related companies, from e-commerce sites to news outlets. Here, strong writing skills and an eye for a story are paramount, and complementary skills such as photography or video production may also be assets. As is the case for all fashion careers, hands-on experience gained through internships or personal projects (such as your own fashion blog) will help gain employers’ attention. Roles at specialized fashion magazines are often especially competitive, so you may need to gain experience elsewhere first.
If you are passionate, creative and enjoy drawing and making things, a career in fashion design could be for you. This encompasses a range of different roles, including working in a team creating a fashion line; as a pattern designer within a textiles company; or as a designer/assistant within a large or small fashion label. If you feel ambitious and dedicated enough, you could even start your own fashion design business. This should not be taken on lightly, and many graduates choose to first gain experience within a team, before launching their own venture. To boost your chances of finding a relevant role, start networking during your degree and secure a fashion design internship to add experience to your portfolio.
Fashion advertising, marketing or PR
Other sectors offering relevant opportunities for MA Fashion graduates include advertising, PR and marketing. Fashion labels and related companies all need talented graduates to spread the word about their latest products, and help extend the reach of their brand among existing and new markets. These roles require a good understanding of the fashion sector, alongside a combination of strong research, analytical, strategic and communication skills.