What are the best careers in fashion? Should you be a fashion designer, or merchandiser, or maybe a buyer? Obviously it’s a super subjective decision. But in my personal opinion, the most underrated option is being a technical designer (or garment technologist).
The truth is, there are a lot more fashion career options than you might realize.
(Beyond starting your own brand. I tried it once; let’s just say I hated it.)
In this guide, we’ll explore the BEST careers in fashion – technical roles, creative positions, and even management related jobs in the fashion industry, all with high demand and less competition.
I’ll break down each of these fashion careers, discuss the expected salary, and give you a guide on how you can land your dream fashion career.
(If you’re interested, I have a guide exclusively about which fashion careers pay best.)
Let’s dive right in!
Why am I qualified to write about this stuff? In my 15 years of experience in the fashion industry, I’ve journeyed from being an in-house designer, starting my own brand (yep!), to growing my freelance career to $100,000+. Now, with all the knowledge I’ve learned along the way, I want to help fashion designers (and PDs, TDs, etc.) like you make it in the industry.
Fashion designers conceptualize and create fashion collections including clothing, accessories, and footwear. Designers sketch their ideas, select fabrics, and oversee the design process. Their role is to anticipate trends, understand market demands, and translate design concepts into wearable garments.
Fashion designers can work in-house for fashion brands, launch their own label, or work freelance. Independent fashion designers may also explore collaborations, runway shows, or even design costumes for films and theater productions.
There is always demand for fashion designers, but it’s also one of the most competitive fashion careers. According to Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter, the potential salary as a fashion designer is between $51,174 and $59,558 a year.
If you’re interested in this fashion career and working freelance, follow my free guide on how to become a freelance fashion designer.
Technical designers, also known as garment technologists, bridge the gap between design and production. They work closely with both designers and manufacturers, sharing their technical skills and expertise in garment construction, fit, fabric properties, and production processes.
To do this, their work includes evaluating garment samples, making necessary adjustments, and providing guidance to manufacturers, ensuring that the designs come to life precisely as the design team envisioned.
Technical designers can work in-house for fashion companies, manufacturers, or even offer product development consultations. Freelancing is also common, allowing them to collaborate with multiple brands simultaneously.
You’d be surprised at how high demand is for this role, yet competition remains low. It’s a less glamorous role but highly critical, and you can expect an average salary around $57,916 to $65,817 per year in this fashion career.
Pro Tip: If I got the chance to do my fashion career over, I’d be a technical designer. This underrated role still gets to be involved in the whole design and development process, and requires a tremendous amount of creativity and critical thinking. Plus, it’s way more in demand and less competitive than many other roles.
Pattern makers develop templates based on designers’ sketches. These templates, known as patterns, serve as the foundation for garment construction. Pattern makers meticulously create patterns for different sizes, ensuring the proper fit and comfort of the final product. Their expertise guarantees that garments drape well and align with the designer’s vision, making them indispensable in the production process.
Pattern makers can work in-house for fashion companies or manufacturers, operate their own studios, or work freelance. Skilled pattern makers might also find career opportunities in specialized fields such as custom tailoring or costume design.
In terms of earnings, those working in pattern making in the USA can expect an average salary of $63,735 to $72,259 annually.
You can read more about what it takes to be a pattern maker and how you can become one here .
Textile designers create fabrics and patterns used in fashion. They experiment with different materials, colors, and techniques to produce new textile designs.
Textile designers can work for textile companies, fashion brands, or as freelancers. They can also work in industries beyond fashion, such as home decor or automotive design.
With the constant need for new textiles due to trends, technological advancements, and consumer needs – the demand for skilled textile designers has remained steady. And as a textile designer, you can expect an average salary of $57,055 to $70,496 yearly.
If you’re interested in this role, then you’re in luck as I have a full step-by-step guide on how you can become a textile designer.
Taking a break from design related fashion jobs, fashion production managers (or production coordinators) focus on logistics – ensuring everything runs smoothly on time and within budget. Their job is to make sure each piece makes it from conception through production without hiccups.
To do this, they oversee the entire production cycle, manage schedules, resources, and finances. Production managers strategize production workflows, optimize resources, and address any challenges that arise during manufacturing.
Fashion production managers can work in-house for fashion manufacturers or fashion brands and even start their own production consulting firms. Freelancing opportunities also exist, allowing them to collaborate with different clients in the industry.
The need for fashion production managers continues to grow with new fashion brands popping up daily. You can expect a salary between $48,356 and $50,070 working in this role.
Sourcing managers specialize in finding and managing suppliers for materials and products used in fashion production. They evaluate supplier capabilities, negotiate contracts, and ensure the timely delivery of materials.
Fashion sourcing managers work closely with manufacturers, designers, and vendors to source cost-effective and accurate materials. Their expertise in supply chain management, vendor relationships, and quality control is essential in optimizing production processes and ensuring the availability of resources.
Sourcing managers can work in-house for fashion companies, sourcing agencies, or as freelance consultants and earn a salary between $65,468 and $71,327 per year.
Learn more on how you can become a fashion sourcing manager here.
Fashion merchandisers are experts in market analysis and consumer behavior. They curate product assortments, analyze sales data, and identify emerging trends to maximize sales performance and profit margins.
Fashion merchandisers collaborate with designers, buyers, and retailers to create a seamless shopping experience for consumers. By balancing their creative intuition with data, fashion merchandisers ensure that products resonate with consumers, making them essential in driving sales and brand success.
Fashion merchandisers can work in-house for retailers, fashion brands, or marketing agencies. They might also choose to work freelance, offering their services to other fashion businesses. Fashion merchandisers play a key role in retail and fashion marketing and can earn between $45,662 and $53,200a year.
To explore this fashion career further, you can hop onto my guide on what is a fashion merchandiser (and how you can become one).
Fashion buyers (a.k.a. retail buyers) are responsible for selecting and purchasing products to be sold in retail stores. They have a deep understanding of consumer preferences, market trends, and brand positioning.
Fashion buyers carefully curate collections, negotiate with suppliers, and manage inventory levels to meet customer demand. They may often travel to trade shows, meet with suppliers, and conduct market research, allowing them to stay updated on the latest trends.
They can work in-house for retail companies, fashion brands, or as freelance consultants. As they are essential to retail businesses, those working in fashion buying can expect an average salary of $58,296 and $66,956 annually.
Entirely different from production managers (discussed earlier) – fashion product managers oversee the entire lifecycle of fashion products, from concept development to launch. They collaborate with different teams, including designers, marketers, and manufacturers, to make sure that products align with the brand vision and customer expectations.
Fashion product managers conduct market research, define product features, and create strategic plans for product development. They serve as the bridge between creative concepts and practical execution, guiding the product development process from ideation to production.
Product managers can work in-house for fashion companies, marketing agencies, or start their product management firms. As product managers are crucial for product development and marketing strategies and can earn an average salary ranging from $70,000 to $120,000 per year.
Fashion trend forecasters or trend analysts predict upcoming styles and consumer preferences. Through extensive research, trend forecasters identify emerging styles, color palettes, and design themes, helping designers and brands stay ahead of the curve. By understanding evolving market demands, they guide the fashion industry in creating products that resonate with consumers, making them instrumental in shaping the future of fashion.
Trend forecasters can work in-house for retailers, trend forecasting agencies, or as freelancers and consultants. And with the fashion industry’s ever-changing landscape, trend forecasters are indispensable. They earn an average salary of $50,457 per year.
If you want some insider insights in this fashion career, I have a podcast interview with Wendy :, a former WGSN trend analyst with over two decades of experience.
The best careers in fashion aren’t limited to mainstream roles. Whether your skills lean towards creative, technical, or even management careers – there are many opportunities in fashion.
And if you’re tired of office politics or toxic work environments… your fashion career doesn’t have to be an in-house role!
All the fashion careers in this article offer freelancing opportunities, allowing you more control over life while maintaining rewarding career paths in fashion.
You can say goodbye to the nine-to-five grind – as a freelancer, you get to choose the hours and location of your work.
So, take charge and explore a path that is truly YOU.
And hey, if you need some help getting started, you can check out my step-by-step guide to freelancing in fashion here.