It usually takes six months to design apparel from sketches to finished products, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's why fashion designers research fashion trends that appeal to their core customers well in advance of the key spring and fall fashion seasons. Whether you plan to design women's sportswear, men's suits or children's apparel, you'll likely need an associate or bachelor's degree to get your first job. In return, you can expect to earn a salary averaging more than $70,000 annually.
Salary and Qualifications
The average annual salary of a fashion designer was $72,620 as of May 2012, according to the BLS. The top 10 percent made more than $126,290 per year. Talent is the most important factor in getting a job in this field, so you need a strong portfolio showcasing your design skills. Plan on training as an apprentice or working as an assistant fashion designer when starting your career, as employers may prefer hiring someone with one or more years of industry experience. Other important qualifications are creativity, artistic ability, dexterity, and communication, decision-making and computer skills.
Salary by Industry
A fashion designer can earn more in certain industries. In 2012, they earned some of the highest salaries of $81,640 working in the movie and video industries, according to the BLS. Those in the footwear manufacturing industry also made relatively high salaries of $74,190 per year. If you worked for a cut and sew apparel manufacturer or specialized design service company as a fashion designer, you'd earn $73,140 and $73,030, respectively. In the apparel accessories industries -- footwear, scarves and gloves, for example -- you'd make considerably less, at $53,320 annually.
Salary by State
Fashion designers earned the highest salaries, $82,280, in Maine, based on 2012 BLS data. They earned the second and third highest salaries in New York and Ohio, at $79,270 and $73,100 per year, respectively. If you worked as a fashion designer in Missouri or California, your salary would be somewhat lower -- $70,990 or $70,490, respectively. You'd earn even less in New Jersey or Oregon, at $61,160 or $58,420, respectively.
The BLS predicts little or no growth in jobs for fashion designers from 2010 to 2020, which is much slower than the 14 percent growth rate for all jobs. Your best chances of finding a job in this field lie with specialized design firms. You may also find your own niche by starting your own company. Demand should also be strong for those who create comfortable clothing at affordable prices. Jobs will actually decline for fashion designers who work for apparel manufacturers, although the BLS doesn't indicate by how much.