by Jordana Urman | Impressionist

The economy still has not recovered completely, but you are starting a career in fashion. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in one of its Occupational Outlook Handbooks, “a postsecondary degree may speed advancement into management because employers view it as a sign of motivation and maturity–qualities deemed important for promotion to more responsible positions.” Will extended schooling enhance your chances of scoring your dream job or will it just delay your entrance into the world of fashion? Graduate school is a must for many industries. However, the fashion industry always has been different. Experience may be more highly valued than an additional one or two years of school. With the current costs of a graduate degree and the possible delay in the start for your career, is graduate school worth it? Let’s hear what the experts have to say.

For someone who did not go to a fashion related college, or even have a fashion related major, graduate school may be intriguing. You may feel as though you will not be as competitive as job candidates that went to Parsons, or FIT. However, according to Melanie Andersen, CEO of The Melanie Andersen Agency, experience trumps all. The Melanie Andersen Agency is a search consultancy that helps “entrepreneurial companies identify great talent.” When asked her view on fashion graduate school, Ms. Andersen said: “A college education is a critical requirement for any job. However, I don’t believe a master’s degree is essential in every industry. The fashion industry is a good example. A resume boasting an impressive GPA and graduate degree from a top ten school is great, however, it offers little insight into a candidate’s ability to succeed in a role”. She went on to say “I have never had to reject a candidate on the basis of not having a graduate degree. Our fashion and retail clients look for candidates with specific skill sets and solid work experience in the industry, rather than a masters or MBA”.

Much like Andersen, Alexandra Abel, Assistant Editor at Seventeen Magazine, concludes, “In the magazine industry, internships count WAY more than graduate school”. She explains that for someone with little to no internship experience, graduate school “could help you gain opportunities and connections that you wouldn’t have otherwise had. But, if you are able to get internships in college and take advantage of opportunities, then you do not need to spend your money on graduate school.” “I barely look at the school info. I like to see where they have experience.” “I have a friend who did not do any magazine internships in college but later realized this was her dream. She went to graduate school for journalism and the school had a program where you could intern over the summer. Because of that, she was able to get an internship at a major magazine and is now editorial assistant there!” The graduate school was important because of the internship program, not the classroom study. “It works differently for every person, but overall I would say experience and internships are a way better place to put your time and energy” says Abel.

The counter argument is based on the fact that the future of the fashion industry is evolving. As more and more people are attending college, a graduate degree can separate you from the rest. Paul Mucciarone, Associate Director of Graduate Admissions at LIM College, stands firm that graduate school can only benefit you. LIM is a fashion industry specific college located in Manhattan, with focus on the business of the fashion industry. It currently is one of the only graduate schools in The City to offer a masters degree in fashion marketing. When asked the question Mucciarone explained “the fashion industry is in need of people who possess a high level of business acumen but also understand the peculiarities of managing a fashion operation. Developing a career in fashion with our highly specialized graduate programs means that you develop business management skills and the expertise of understanding the intricacies of the fashion industry”. He added, “The fashion industry is not all about creativity. It is becoming increasingly competitive. Retailers and designers need people who know how to grow the business, target new customers, and enhance the brand’s appeal.”

In an industry where experience, such as internships, is vital to your success, where can more schooling fit in? The time that is spent in class could be time spent at work. I have been told that graduate school may not be a necessity, but could never hurt. With the business of the industry becoming more sophisticated, especially as institutional investors become more involved, there are positions that are strictly business. Running a successful fashion company these days takes just as much business knowledge as running Morgan Stanley. As a result, a business degree in your field could make you a more viable candidate. When time is money, how you spend it can make all the difference.

Images: DSquared2 Fall 2012 ad campaign | Photographer: Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott

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