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Apparel Merchandising

ECC fashion student cutting material

ECC’s Apparel Merchandising program will prepare you for a career in the retail and fashion industry. Focusing on behind-the-scenes operations, you’ll learn the importance of production, marketing, advertising, and business administration. You’ll see the big picture and master the hands-on skills to succeed in this exciting industry. Whether you’re interested in management, sales/marketing, visual display, or design, a degree in Apparel Merchandising is the start of an exciting career opportunity.

Students can choose to complete their two-year AAS degree at ECC and move into the work world or transfer their credits to a four-year program to complete a baccalaureate (BA) degree. Both options lead to great possibilities. And program include on-the-job training that has proven to be invaluable to our students for professional networking, building a resume, and getting a foot in the door to make a great impression on a local employer.


Most job opportunities are in metropolitan areas, however jobs exist in many communities that have apparel stores. Persons who have new media and interactive marketing skills will be highly sought-after employees. Possible job titles include fashion designer, fashion buyer, retailer, fashion merchandiser, store manager, product developer, fashion advertising agent, fashion event planner, importing/exporting agent, and visual merchandiser.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, the 2012 median pay for Purchasing Managers, Buyers and Purchasing Agents with a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent experience) was $60,550 per year; the job outlook through 2022 calls for a slight 4% increase in employment. The 2012 median pay for Fashion Designers with a bachelor’s degree was $62,860 per year; that job outlook through 2022 calls for a slight -3% decline in employment.

Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents typically evaluate suppliers based on price, quality, and delivery speed; interview vendors and visit suppliers’ production and distribution centers to examine and learn about products, services, and prices; attend meetings, trade shows, and conferences to learn about new industry trends and make contacts with suppliers; analyze price proposals, financial reports, and other information to determine reasonable prices; negotiate contracts on behalf of their organization; meet with staff and vendors to discuss defective or unacceptable goods or services and determine corrective action; and maintain and review records of items bought, costs, deliveries, product performance, and inventories.

Fashion designers create original clothing, accessories, and footwear. They sketch designs, select fabrics and patterns, and give instructions on how to make the products they designed. They typically study fashion trends and anticipate designs that will appeal to consumers; use computer-aided design programs (CAD) to create designs; visit manufacturers or trade shows to get fabric samples; select fabrics, embellishments, colors, or style for each garment or accessory; work with other designers or team members to create a prototype design; present design ideas to the creative director or showcase them in fashion or trade shows; market designs to clothing retailers or directly to consumers; and oversee the final production of their designs. Larger apparel companies typically employ a team of designers headed by a creative designer. Some fashion designers specialize in clothing, footwear, or accessory design, but others create designs in all three fashion categories.


ECC’s two-year Apparel Merchandising Associate of Applied Science (AAS) transfer degree is designed qualify graduates for immediate employment and/or to meet the requirements of colleges and universities to which students may wish to transfer for completion of baccalaureate (BA or BS) degrees. ECC’s program offers classroom instruction, study tours, and practical work experience to give students a comprehensive education. Classroom instruction consists of a blend of business courses with apparel courses. Study tours are developed through the combined efforts of coordinators and students to provide a firsthand look at many aspects of the fashion industry. Numerous retail stores across Iowa provide opportunities for paid work experience in apparel merchandising.

Admissions Partnership Program with Iowa State, UNI and Iowa

ECC participates in the Admissions Partnership Program with Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Iowa to enable ECC students to transfer credits seamlessly to any of the state universities. Participants are dual-enrolled at ECC and the university with access to academic advising and student services at both institutions. The universities guarantee admission into the desired degree program, provided all requirements are met. Ask the ECC Admissions Office for more information!


  • ECC currently has the 17th highest student success rate (graduation rate + transfer rate) of any community college in the nation.
  • The College offers generous scholarships and financial aid packages, which is why our graduates have one of the lowest average student debt loads of any college in Iowa, public or private, two-year or four year!
  • What students appreciate about ECC is our smaller class sizes, which results in more one-on-one attention from the instructor and greater classroom success.


Janet Siert

Janet Siert