Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design

Department

Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design

First Advisor

Sheng Lu

Abstract

The rising cost of college in the last decade has had a profound impact on the number of students requiring financial assistance for their college expenses, particularly through student loans. This is a serious issue for college programs as they try to recruit students and maintain high retention rates, but also for graduates of fashion degrees that face a challenging job market in today’s complex and competitive fashion industry. To incur further expenses with a graduate degree, this study intended to estimate the value of a master’s degree in fashion merchandising (MFM) from both a financial and career development perspective.

An online survey was distributed to MFM graduates who completed their degree from 2010 to 2014 through a convenience sampling technique. The questionnaire measured the costs and benefits from a financial perspective, as well as the inputs and outcomes from a career development perspective. These perspectives examined the various costs associated with investing in a MFM, the job market and career development opportunities facing MFM graduates, and areas of improvement for MFM programs to increase the value of the degree. A descriptive analysis was performed, two ANOVA tests were conducted measuring stress levels for paying back student loans, and a Pearson’s Chi-square test was conducted to measure whether current employment status in the fashion industry was related to fashion experience. Only the Pearson’s Chi-square test showed a significant result

Findings of this study showed that participants spent at least two years in pursuit of the MFM. This sample of MFM graduates primarily relied on student loans, or spent additional time seeking other financial assistance. For those who borrowed student loans, some developed stress levels for repayment of loans; however, debt levels were much lower than the average graduate student loan debt. The majority of participants secured full-time positions; however, less than half of these held positions in the fashion industry. Salary earnings were also much lower than the average master’s degree holder. Many of these graduates agreed that their MFM will lead to a higher-level position but indicated that networking opportunities in MFM programs could be improved. The relevancy of MFM skills varied between those working in the fashion industry and those who were not; but fashion merchandising knowledge and soft skills were the most useful for jobs in the fashion industry. Most MFM graduates in this study were happy with their decision to pursue the degree and saw it as a valuable investment.

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