Beginning Salary for Fashion Designers

Young fashion designers earn low salaries, but after a few years, they are paid well.
Young fashion designers earn low salaries, but after a few years, they are paid well. (Image: Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Aspiring fashion designers or designers just launching a career often learn quickly that fashion design is a challenging job that often does not pay very much at the beginning. Many young fashion designers work as assistants or interns to learn the ropes of the industry. Fashion designers should be creative, have basic computer skills, know how to use design software, and have knowledge of fabrics and fashion trends.

Starting Salary

According to PayScale, the median salary for designers with less than one year of experience is $34,620 in 2011. The Fashion Designer Salary Data website indicates an even lower number of $30,000 or less for beginning designers. However, after just a few years, fashion designers can begin earning more. According to PayScale, the average salary for designers with one to four years of experience is $40,070.

Competitive Nature of the Career

The starting salary for fashion designers is low because of the competitive nature of the fashion industry, according to the Fashion Designer Salary Data website. Many young designers, eager for work and experience, jump at the chance to work for an established firm or alongside a successful designer despite the low pay.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for aspiring fashion designers is not very good. The BLS predicts just a 1 percent increase in jobs between 2008 and 2018. The competitive nature of the industry and the small increase in available jobs will likely keep starting salaries low. Designers who hold degrees from the top design schools, as well as those with experience through internships, have the best chances of landing entry-level fashion design jobs.

General Salary Information

Young fashion designers who are able to find jobs and stick through the first few years can expect good news as their careers progress. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for fashion designers in 2008 was $61,160, almost twice as much as the average starting salary. The Fashion Designer Salary Data website indicates that most salaries for fashion designers fall between $50,000 and $80,000 a year. PayScale indicates that designers with 10 to 19 years of experience earn $78,253 a year, and those with more than 20 years of experience earn $87,675.

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