The Surprising Truth About Which Fashion Industry Jobs Pay the Best - Courses & Free Tutorials on Adobe Illustrator, Tech Packs & Freelancing for Fashion Designers
Which Fashion Industry Jobs Pay the Best

The Surprising Truth About Which Fashion Industry Jobs Pay the Best

Natalie Points of Measure

This guest post is written by Natalie from Points of Measure. I’m so excited to share her content and feature her on the SFD blog! Thanks Natalie for contributing.

For more on this topic, you can read my other post on how much money you can make in the fashion industry and check out my cash calculator to discover your earning potential.


One of the most common questions I have seen over my 10+ years as a professional in the fashion industry is:

“Which job is the most valuable (or will pay the best)? What fashion industry job is right for me?”

Today I’m here to walk you through all of the different opportunities and pay ranges available to you as a Fashion Professional and break them down so that you can make the right decision for yourself.

What Are Common Jobs in the Fashion Industry?

Here’s a list of 15 popular positions in fashion:

  1. Patternmaker
  2. Technical Designer
  3. Product Developer
  4. Fashion Illustrator
  5. Coach / Educator / Mentor
  6. University / College Professor
  7. Fashion Merchandiser
  8. Sample Maker / Seamstress
  9. Fashion Designer
  10. Stylist
  11. Production Manager
  12. Fit Model
  13. Fashion Model
  14. Buyer / Retail Buyer
  15. Textile Designer

But there are other positions too, like these:

  • Graphic Designer specifically for fashion (packaging, branding, social media, etc.)
  • Fashion Agent / Liaison / Middleman (connect brands to factories and suppliers)
  • Design Tool Supplier (physical or digital design tools for designers)
  • QC / Quality Assurance (responsible for ensuring the garments are up to standard through their product life)
  • Visual Merchandiser (responsible for displays in stores and windows)
  • + More! There are so many opportunities to become a part of the industry. If you don’t see something that interests you here, do some research and think outside the box – you’ll be surprised at what you can find!

Let’s explore some of the most popular fashion positions and how much they pay in a little more depth. Before we begin, keep in mind that job pay, availability, and opportunities depend on several factors. You will see variation in these based on where you live/work, what company/brand you work for, your personal skill level, and years of experience.

The following information is mainly aggregated from Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter which averages data from Fashion Professionals who provide information about their location, job, and salary. Please note that the following data is specific to the USA. Salary information will change over time so please keep in mind that this information is based on the time of writing this article (2022).


*Note from Heidi: Earning potential varies between freelancer and employee status. In my experience and from the 500+ students in my Freelance Accelerator program, you have the opportunity to learn A LOT more as a freelancer than employee. (And I’m talking about true remote freelancing where you work with a variety of brands you choose, not “temp job” permalancing.)


Here are some of the most common jobs in the fashion industry ranked by earnings and average salary ranges.

Spoiler alert: the surprising truth is that a “fashion designer” doesn’t make the most money. More specialized technical roles pay the best.

Let’s compare the top 15 most popular jobs in the Fashion Industry. The jobs have been organized by salary potential (highest to lowest).


*Note from Heidi: Glassdoor claims that a $58k fashion designer can earn an additional $43k in the form of “bonuses / profit sharing.” I was skeptical, so I surveyed my 25k+ emails subscribers. Only 27% reported having received additional cash compensation of some sort (most common was a holiday bonus), and the amounts were closer to $500-$2000 (if profits were met)! Be mindful of data from large career sites and employer claims. Bonus structures can be strategically designed to be impossible to meet. Like Natalie says, follow your heart, not the dollah billz. (If you do want unlimited earning potential while also doing the work you love on your own terms, freelancing is how you get there.)


#1 Fashion University / College Professor


What does a Fashion Professor do?

Teach college-level courses in a University or College Fashion Program

What is a Fashion Professor’s average yearly salary?

Between $89,347 and $91,748

On average, how much does a Fashion Professor make per hour?

Between $42.81 and $43.96

What is the overall yearly salary range that a Fashion Professor can make?

Depending on cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing, a fashion professor’s salary can vary between $36,000 – $211,000 (according to Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter between the 25th-75th percentile). Salary will vary depending on skill level, location, and years of experience.


#2 Product Developer / Sourcing Agent

What does a Product Developer do?

Works with the suppliers and factory to coordinate which fabrics, trims, and other findings will be needed to create the garment. Typically is the “point person” for communication with the factory and maintaining the product development timeline.

What is a Product Developer’s average yearly salary?

Between $65,468 and $71,327

On average, how much does a Product Developer make per hour?

Between $31.37 and $34.18

What is the overall yearly salary range that a Product Developer can make?

Depending on cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing, a product developer’s salary can vary between $31,000 – $200,000 (according to Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter between the 25th-75th percentile). Salary will vary depending on skill level, location, and years of experience.


#3 Patternmaker

What does a Patternmaker do?

Creates and adjusts the pattern for the garment to be cut and sewn by an independent seamstress or factory.

What is a Patternmaker’s average yearly salary?

Between $63,735 and $72,259

On average, how much does a Patternmaker make per hour?

Between $30.54 and $34.62

What is the overall yearly salary range that a Patternmaker can make?

Depending on cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing it can vary between $50,500 – $213,000 (according to Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter between the 25th-75th percentile). Salary will vary depending on skill level, location, and years of experience.


#4 Fashion Buyer / Retail Buyer

What does a Fashion Buyer do?

Chooses the assortment of merchandise that will be sold for the brand/store. They are responsible for researching trends, market demand, price, quality, and curating a collection that speaks directly to the unique customer of the brand.

What is a Fashion Buyer’s average yearly salary?

Between $58,296 and $66,956

On average, how much does a Fashion Buyer make per hour?

Between $27.93 and $32.08

What is the overall yearly salary range that a Fashion Buyer can make?

Depending on cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing it can vary between $31,000 – $231,000 (according to Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter between the 25th-75th percentile). Salary will vary depending on skill level, location, and years of experience.


#5 Technical Designer / Garment Technologist

What does a Technical Designer do?

Responsible for all of the technical elements that go into creating a garment, most importantly, the Tech Pack (or blueprint) that will be sent to the factory for development.

What is a Technical Designer’s average yearly salary?

Between $57,916 and $65,817

On average, how much does a Technical Designer make per hour?

Between $27.75 and $31.54

What is the overall yearly salary range that a Technical Designer can make?

Depending on cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing it can vary between $49,000 – $192,000 (according to Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter between the 25th-75th percentile). Salary will vary depending on skill level, location, and years of experience.


#6 Fit Model

What does a Fit Model do?

Models specifically for checking fit, sizing, and function of the garment. Typically does not fit a standard “model” body type and instead represents the base size or extended sizing for the brand.

What is a Fit Model’s average yearly salary?

Between $57,499 and $59,696

On average, how much does a Fit Model make per hour?

Between $27.55 and $28.60

What is the overall yearly salary range that a Fit Model can make?

Depending on cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing it can vary between $32,000 – $165,000 (according to Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter between the 25th-75th percentile). Salary will vary depending on skill level, location, and years of experience.


#7 Textile Designer

What does a Textile Designer do?

Illustrate designs that will be woven or printed on fabric.

What is a Textile Designer’s average yearly salary?

Between $57,055 and $70,496

On average, how much does a Textile Designer make per hour?

Between $27.34 and $33.78

What is the overall yearly salary range that a Textile Designer can make?

Depending on cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing it can vary between $42,500 – $256,000 (according to Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter between the 25th-75th percentile). Salary will vary depending on skill level, location, and years of experience.


HOW MUCH $$$ CAN YOU MAKE? CLICK TO FIND OUT.


#8 Fashion Coach / Educator / Mentor

What does a Fashion Coach do?

Work with students or new graduates to educate them about the industry and help them get industry experience on a myriad of topics.

What is a Fashion Coach’s average yearly salary?

Between $52,690 and $55,131

On average, how much does a Fashion Coach make per hour?

Between $25.25 and $26.42

What is the overall yearly salary range that a Fashion Coach can make?

Depending on cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing it can vary between $32,000 – $67,000 (according to Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter between the 25th-75th percentile). Salary will vary depending on skill level, location, and years of experience.


#9 Fashion Model

What does a Fashion Model do?

Models for advertising campaigns, fashion shows, and in other ways to market the clothing of the brand.

What is a Fashion Model’s average yearly salary?

Between $51,436 and $58,065

On average, how much does a Fashion Model make per hour?

Between $24.65 and $27.82

What is the overall yearly salary range that a Fashion Model can make?

Depending on cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing it can vary between $35,500 – $167,000 (according to Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter between the 25th-75th percentile). Salary will vary depending on skill level, location, and years of experience.


#10 Fashion Designer

What does a Fashion Designer do?

Works with Merchandising or the brand owner to research, develop, and design the collection based on the theme for the season, seasonal trends, or the overall aesthetic of the brand. Designs are then handed off to Technical Design to work through how the garment will be constructed.

What is a Fashion Designer’s average yearly salary?

Between $51,174 and $59,558

On average, how much does a Fashion Designer make per hour?

Between $24.52 and $28.54

What is the overall yearly salary range that a Fashion Designer can make?

Depending on cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing it can vary between $34,500 – $208,000 (according to Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter between the 25th-75th percentile). Salary will vary depending on skill level, location, and years of experience.


#11 Production Manager

What does a Production Manager do?

Oversees the conceptualization, design, construction, selling and distribution of the brand’s products.

What is a Production Manager’s average yearly salary?

Between $48,356 and $50,070

On average, how much does a Production Manager make per hour?

Between $23.17 and $23.99

What is the overall yearly salary range that a Production Manager can make?

Depending on cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing it can vary between $33,000 – $92,000 (according to Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter between the 25th-75th percentile). Salary will vary depending on skill level, location, and years of experience.


#12 Fashion Merchandiser

What does a Fashion Merchandiser do?

Researches current trends and makes predictions, attends fashion shows, creates advertising/marketing campaigns and sometimes will also work with other teams or departments such as Buyers, Designers, and Photographers.

What is a Fashion Merchandiser’s average yearly salary?

Between $45,662 and $53,200

On average, how much does a Fashion Merchandiser make per hour?

Between $21.88 and $25.49

What is the overall yearly salary range that a Fashion Merchandiser can make?

Depending on cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing it can vary between $33,000 – $202,000 (according to Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter between the 25th-75th percentile). Salary will vary depending on skill level, location, and years of experience.


#13 Fashion Illustrator

What does a Fashion Illustrator do?

Traditional fashion illustrations for the purpose of art or presentation, Technical Flats (CAD), schematics for a fashion garment or accessory (how to use and/or features), or other product illustrations.

What is a Fashion Illustrator’s average yearly salary?

Between $45,284 and $50,242

On average, how much does a Fashion Illustrator make per hour?

Between $21.70 and $24.07

What is the overall yearly salary range that a Fashion Illustrator can make?

Depending on cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing it can vary between $32,500 – $136,000 (according to Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter between the 25th-75th percentile). Salary will vary depending on skill level, location, and years of experience.


#14 Fashion Stylist

What does a Fashion Stylist do?

Works with photographers and private clients to curate the wardrobe for special events and photoshoots.

What is a Fashion Stylist’s average yearly salary?

Between $38,421 and $47,167

On average, how much does a Fashion Stylist make per hour?

Between $18.41 and $22.60

What is the overall yearly salary range that a Fashion Stylist can make?

Depending on cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing it can vary between $26,500 – $203,000 (according to Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter between the 25th-75th percentile). Salary will vary depending on skill level, location, and years of experience.


#15 Sample Maker / Seamstress

What does a Sample Maker do?

Receives the pattern from the Patternmaker and sews the “prototype” (or sample) of the garment to be evaluated by the Technical Design team.

What is a Sample Maker’s average yearly salary?

Between $36,000 and $44,752

On average, how much does a Sample Maker make per hour?

Between $17.25 and $21.44

What is the overall yearly salary range that a Sample Maker can make?

Depending on cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing it can vary between $25,500 – $166,000 (according to Glassdoor and Zip Recruiter between the 25th-75th percentile). Salary will vary depending on skill level, location, and years of experience.


And here’s a quick reference chart of which fashion jobs pay the best, from highest to lowest.

JOB TITLEAVERAGE YEARLY SALARYAVERAGE HOURLY SALARY
University / College Professor$89,347$42.81
Product Developer$65,468$31.37
Patternmaker$63,735$30.54
Fashion Buyer / Retail Buyer$58,296$27.93
Technical Designer$57,916$27.75
Fit Model$57,499$27.55
Textile Designer$57,055$27.34
Coach / Educator / Mentor$55,131$26.42
Fashion Model$51,436$24.65
Fashion Designer$51,174$24.52
Production Manager$48,356$23.17
Fashion Merchandiser$45,662$21.88
Fashion Illustrator$45,284$21.70
Fashion Stylist$38,421$18.41
Sample Maker / Seamstress$36,000$17.25

There are so many different opportunities to find your unique place in the fashion industry. If being a part of the fashion industry is important to you then I highly encourage you to explore mentorship and internship opportunities. The industry may seem big at first, but once you start networking you’ll see there are so many opportunities to get connected to your “dream” brand (whether as a freelancer or employee)!

It’s all about putting yourself out there and putting your time in. So many of the wonderful opportunities I have personally had are because I was willing to put myself out there. It is very hard at first, but I promise those small gestures will open up big doors you never thought were possible!

Wishing you all the best of luck in your search for the perfect job for you! My inbox is always open if you need help or just want to chat – don’t hesitate to introduce yourself (who knows what doors it might open!).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hey there, I’m Natalie! I spent over $200k+ on a traditional fashion education so that you don’t have to. What I found was that I learned more on the job than I ever did at University.

Over the past 10+ years I’ve spent countless hours pouring over textbooks, summarizing my practical experience, and testing various methods to bring you the correct information all in one easy-to-find place.

I’m here to help you level up your fashion knowledge! Whether you’re a seasoned professional, or someone just starting out, I promise there’s something here that can help to propel your fashion career forward. Check out Points of Measure for everything we offer from FREE Fashion Education to specialized Design Tools for your next project (and everything in-between).

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