Our 2016 rankings of the top 10 fashion merchandising schools in the South.
We define the South as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas.
For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.
1. Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama
Established in 1856, Auburn University is home to a population of 27,287 enrolled in more than 140 degree options across 13 colleges and schools. The College of Human Sciences is home to the Department of Consumer & Design Sciences (CADS), which offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers.
Programs include a BS in Apparel Merchandising, Design and Production Management (BS-APDP) with an Apparel Merchandising option, an MS in Consumer and Design Sciences – Apparel and Interiors (MS-CAHS), and a PhD in Consumer Design Sciences (PhD – CADS). An accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s with a Merchandising option is also on the menu. The accelerated BS and MS programs may be completed in four terms.
Focus areas for the MS-CAHS and the PhD – CADS program include Consumer Behavior Interior Design, Functional and Creative Apparel Design, Retail Management, Product Development, Sustainability, Creativity, Forecasting and Trend Analysis, Emerging Technologies, and Multicultural and Global Markets.
All students have the opportunity to intern at local retailers and design houses as well as study in New York (IQLA New York Study Tour) or abroad. Study abroad locations may include Italy, London, Fiji, Jordan, Peru, South Africa, and more.
2. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Founded in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is home to more than 12,000 students enrolled in 40 areas of study and 70-plus minors and certificate programs. With campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, and Hong Kong, SCAD offers a variety of programs suitable for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Options include a BFA in Fashion Marketing and Management (Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah), a Minor in Fashion Marketing and Management, and MA (all campuses + eLearning) and MFA (Atlanta, Hong Kong, Savannah) degrees in Luxury and Fashion Management.
According to the school, “SCAD is the first art and design university to receive the Instructional Technology Council’s award for Outstanding Distance Education Program and the rank of Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Teaching and Learning from the Sloan Consortium.”
Besides the opportunity to earn the MA online, students may participate in the Annual SCAD Fashion Show, and internships and study opportunities are plentiful at local, national, and international fashion companies.
3. University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
In 1785, Georgia became the first state in the U.S. to charter a state-supported university—the University of Georgia (UGA). The school is home to 35,197 students enrolled in 170 majors and academic programs across 17 colleges and schools. The College of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) is home the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors. The Department offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Offerings include Fashion Merchandising (BS FCS), an MS in Merchandising & International Trade, and a PhD with an Emphasis in International Merchandising. A Fashion Merchandising Minor is also on the menu.
Program highlights include the London Study Abroad Program and opportunities to study in places such as China, Tokyo, and Ghana, optional membership in the student organizations such as the Student Merchandising Association or the Fashion Design Student Association, and possible internship opportunities at Macy’s, Nicole Miller, Nordstrom, Nieman Marcus, Escada, Marc Jacobs, Armani Exchange, Target and many others. Students may also participate in the annual UGA Fashion Week.
Graduates of the Merchandising programs at UGA have been hired by companies such as Atlanta Apparel Mart, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales, Boxercraft Inc., Diane Von Furstenberg, DDI Magazine, Macy's, Oxford Industries, Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom, Warby Parker, and WWD & W Magazines.
4. University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina
Established in 1891, the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG) is home to more than 19,000 students enrolled in 79 undergraduate, 65 masters, and 30 doctoral programs across eight undergraduate colleges and schools, and The Graduate School. The Bryan School of Business and Economics is home to the Department of Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies (CARS), which offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers.
Options include a BS in CARS with Concentrations in Retail & Consumer Studies, and Global Apparel & Related industries, an MS in CARS with MS Thesis and Global Apparel Management (online) Concentrations, and a PhD in CARS.
All CARS students have access to an Historic Costume Collection with garments and artifacts dating from 1776-2003, internship opportunities at major companies such as Anna Sui, Anne Klein, Barney’s, Bloomingdale’s, Calvin Klein, Polo/Ralph Lauren, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Tommy Hilfiger, and a Global Experience program which offers the opportunity to study in fashion capitals such as Paris and London. Fashion students also have the opportunity to participate in the Annual THREADS Fashion Show.
5. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State University (NC State) has been in existence since 1887. The school is home to 24,015 students enrolled in more than 300 degree programs across 12 colleges and 65 academic departments. The College of Textiles houses the Department of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management (TATM), which offers one program for aspiring fashion merchandisers—a BS in Fashion and Textile Management with Concentrations in Textile Brand Management and Marketing and Fashion Development and Product Management.
Besides Merchandising, the program features study in the areas of Retail Buying, Consumer Trends and Behavior, Product Trends, Global Marketplace Dynamics, and Branding Strategies. Other program highlights include TATM’s “study abroad-friendly” semester in France, the Czech Republic, Australia, India or other location, and participation in a variety of fashion show events and showcases such as Threads Senior Collection, the Annual AATS Fashion Exposé, and FTD: Emerging Designers Showcase.
6. Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
Founded in 1851, Florida State University (FSU) is home to 40,000 students enrolled in more than 275 academic programs through 16 colleges. Established in 1905 and home to nearly 3,000 students, the College of Human Sciences houses the Retail, Merchandising and Product Development Department (RMPD)—one of the largest programs of its kind in the U.S. The Department offers nearly 800 majors, including several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Options include a BS in Retail Merchandising and Product Development, an MS in Clothing, Textiles and Merchandising with a major in Global Merchandising and Product Development, and a Graduate Certificate in Retail Merchandising.
The BS in Retail Merchandising and Product Development “integrates an understanding of design, textiles, and retail merchandising,” while the MS program prepares graduates to “serve in management positions in production, distribution and consumption areas.” The Certificate program “provides graduate level competency in retail store management and buying for academically talented students who are completing an undergraduate degree in merchandising.”
Other RMPD highlights include internship opportunities with more than 250 companies such as American Eagle, Macy’s, Burberry, and Escada, study opportunities in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, New York City, Orlando, Miami, or London, and participation in the Annual Fashion Show.
7. University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina
Founded in 1801 as South Carolina College, the University of South Carolina is home to just over 32,000 students enrolled in more than 250 academic degree programs through 16 colleges and schools. The College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management (HRSM) offers serval programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Offerings include a BS in Fashion Retailing with a Concentration in Fashion Merchandising and a Master of Retailing (M.R.). An accelerated Bachelor/Master's Degree in Retailing is also on the menu.
Program highlights include the opportunity to complete two internships, participation in USC Fashion Week, access to organizations such as Retail and Fashion Merchandising Graduate Student Organization (RFMGSO), the National Retail Federation, and Fashion Board at USC. Students have the opportunity to attend Fashion Week in New York City and they have access to a wide variety of study abroad opportunities. For example, the College of HRSM has a global exchange program with the University of Aruba (UA), which allows students to study at UA for an entire semester. Other study abroad opportunities include Paris, Italy, London, Macao-China, Punta Cana-Dominican Republic, China, Switzerland, and Germany.
8. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Louisiana State University (LSU) opened its doors in 1860. The school is home to more than 31,500 students enrolled in over 200 programs across 11 colleges and schools. The College of Agriculture, Department of Textiles, Apparel Design, and Merchandising (TAM) offers several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Offerings include a BS in Textiles, Apparel Design, and Merchandising (BS TAM) with a Concentration in Merchandising, and MS and PhD Degrees in Human Ecology with a Concentration in Merchandising.
Program highlights include optional membership in the Fashion Association at LSU (FALSU), access to state-of-the art facilities such as an apparel production lab, textiles testing and processing lab, and body scanning lab, and access to the LSU Textile & Costume Museum and Historic & Archaeological Textile and Apparel Research Laboratory. Students also have the opportunity to complete an internship and participate in the Annual Fashion Show.
9. Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi
Established on February 28, 1878 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of the State of Mississippi, Mississippi State University (MSU) is home to 20,873 students enrolled in more than 175 programs across 12 colleges and schools. The School of Human Sciences houses the Fashion Design & Merchandising program. Students in the BS program concentrate in one of two areas—Merchandising or Apparel Production & Design.
According to the School, “merchandising combines an overview of the fashion industry, consumer behavior, product development, planning, buying business operations and entrepreneurship.” Other program highlights include study abroad experiences, internship opportunities at local companies or overseas, and the opportunity to participate in a variety of fashion show events and showcases. Students also have the option to choose a minor such as Fine Arts, Marketing, Theater, or Journalism to enhance their degree.
10. University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky
Founded in 1865, the University of Kentucky (UK) is home to more than 30,000 students enrolled in 200-plus academic programs through 16 colleges and professional schools. The College of Agriculture, Food and Environment houses the School of Human Environmental Sciences which offers six undergraduate degree programs, four master’s degree programs, and a PhD in Family Sciences.
Programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers are available through the School’s Department of Retailing and Tourism Management. Offerings include BS and MS degrees in Merchandising, Apparel, and Textiles. Program highlights for BS students include the New York Study Tour, study abroad opportunities to places such as Paris, China, and the UK, and internship opportunities. Students also have the opportunity to participate in the Annual Fashion Show and the Target Project. The Target Project allows students to conduct research on the company’s retailing needs.
Program highlights for MS students include the option to choose a thesis or non-thesis track, access to assistantship and travel opportunities, and the opportunity to submit articles for presentations at the ITAA yearly conference. Graduate students also have the opportunity to study abroad.