Fashion Merchandising Associate Degree Program Details

Penn Foster College’s Fashion Merchandising program consists of four semesters, covering topics to help you gain the skills and knowledge relevant to the industry such as color theory, marketing, consumer behavior, merchandising planning and buying, and more.

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

The Fashion Merchandising Associate's Degree program prepares students for an entry-level position in the field of fashion merchandising and can also be used to prepare for future studies.

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to...

  • Demonstrate effective written and interpersonal communication skills
  • Demonstrate a high level of inquiry, analytical, and problem-solving skills
  • Demonstrate effective quantitative skills
  • Demonstrate computer and information literacy
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the liberal arts, natural sciences, and social sciences
  • Discuss how the business of fashion works from concept to the consumer
  • Apply knowledge of fabrics, embellishments, colors, and style for each garment or accessory to the fashion decision process
  • Describe the processes and factors involved in fashion designing, production of textile materials, and purchasing materials from suppliers
  • Discuss the importance and methods of marketing and promotion in the fashion industry
  • Demonstrate understanding and the use of company financial reports and reports associated with planning, buying and selling fashion merchandise
  • Describe the operations of retail stores that sell fashion merchandise

Semester 1

Basic Skills Assessment

All degree applicants are required to complete two Basic Skills Assessments, one in reading and one in math, to determine their level of readiness for beginning their selected program. Additional studies may be required.

Get better at finding and using information!


  • Search the Internet more effectively.
  • Get tips about search engines and reliable websites.
  • Learn how to search libraries and other information centers for important, useful information.

This course will allow you to build your computer skills through a combination of reading and hands-on practice. You will navigate popular software tools such as Windows® and Microsoft® Office.


  • Create, edit, and illustrate Microsoft® Word™ documents.
  • Apply formulas and functions to large data sets in Microsoft® Excel.®
  • Incorporate useful charts and graphs to summarize date.
  • Add, delete, sort, and lay out table data.
  • Create presentations in Microsoft® PowerPoint® using advanced tools, tables, and charts.
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SCI120-Introduction to Biology

This course will allow you to explore the origin of life and the relationships among all living things.


  • Explain how organisms are structured and how they work.
  • Discuss the various forms of life and their processes.

Textbook: Essentials of Biology


This course will allow you to develop a healthier lifestyle by making smarter nutritional decisions.


  • Explain the various components of nutrition as a science.
  • Describe nutrition from a global viewpoint.
  • Understand the importance of water and exercise.
  • Identify the basics of human growth and aging.
  • Discuss food safety procedures.

Textbook: Personal Nutrition

SCI110-Earth Science

This course will allow you to learn about planet Earth and the various aspects of the environment.


  • Describe specific characteristics of Earth.
  • Describe different types of rocks and minerals.
  • Discuss the various components of our solar system.
  • Explain the components of weather and climates.

Textbook: Earth Science

Study the relationship between biology and behavior.


  • Identify major psychological theories.
  • Learn about consciousness, memory, thought and language.
  • Define intelligence, personality, and stress.
  • Examine the concept of gender and its role in psychology.
  • Get the basics on how community influences behavior.

Textbook: Psychology and Your Life

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HUM102-Art Appreciation

In this course, you will gain an understanding of artistic media, historical periods and artistic movements, the roles of the artist and the viewer, and the principles of art criticism.


  • Define the language, visual elements, and principles of design of art
  • Identify two-dimensional media
  • Identify three-dimensional media
  • Explain the evolution of art from ancient Mediterranean cultures through eighteenth century Europe
  • Identify features and popular examples of art throughout the history of African, Asian, Pacific, and American cultures
  • Compare the genres of the Modern and Postmodern eras of art from around the world

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Living with Art, 11th Edition

HUM104-Music Appreciation

In this course, you'll understand how to appreciate music by learning about the roles of the composer and the listener, the principles of music theory and instrumentation, musically significant historical periods, and varying styles of music.


  • Identify the building blocks of music a composer can use to create a piece, such as rhythm, melody, harmony, texture, form, and timbre
  • Explain the evolution of Western music through history, from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century
  • Differentiate between the music of the baroque era and the musical styles of previous time periods
  • Recognize the major characteristics of classical music, including form, melody, and instrumentation
  • Discuss the musical trends and innovations that occurred during the romantic era
  • Trace the evolution of American popular music in the twentieth century
  • Recognize the influence of world music on modern Western composition

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Experience Music, Fourth Edition

Get the skills and techniques you need to develop, draft, and revise college-level essays.


  • Identify your purpose and audience. Read actively and critically.
  • Edit for standard written conventions.
  • Submit three essays (process analysis, classification and division, and argumentation) and a course journal.

Additional Course Material
Textbook: Successful College Writing

Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 2

This course traces the development of fashion and the fashion industry; shows how consumer demand affects fashion marketing; explains fashion change and consumer acceptance; covers market research and analysis; traces the development, production, and marketing of raw materials; covers international fashion centers as well as retailing, merchandising, and marketing.


  • Identify fashions role in society
  • Describe how fashion impacts and satisfies consumers
  • Explain how garments are designed, manufactured, and distributed
  • Summarize different fashion retail and business methods, strategies, and procedures
  • Explain successful promotion techniques and future trends in fashion
  • Plan the lifecycle of a garment from concept to customer

Textbook: Fashion Marketing and Merchandising

In this course, you’ll learn about the relationships among colors and how you can use these relationships to your advantage. You’ll develop knowledge of the different factors you should think about before starting your next project or design, along with an understanding of how you can use color to communicate to your viewers.


  • Categorize the different components and principles in the color studies
  • Point out the elements of color interaction, application of color principles, and color harmony
  • Analyze the various components of color research, experience, and computer application in the color studies

Textbook: Color: A Workshop for Artists and Designers

Learn the theories on the origins of fashion.


  • Examine the themes and details of time-period specific costumes for men and women.
  • Explore the role and influence of fashion in the context of society.
  • Discover the geographic and ecological factors that affect clothing choice.
  • Review how the ideals of human beauty change with time.
  • Compare and contrast the costumes of each Western civilization.
  • Analyze the value of costume preferences by specific civilizations.

Textbook: Survey of Historic Costume

This course will provide an overview of macroeconomics and the modern market economy. Law of supply and demand, the cost of living, monetary systems, international factors, and short-run economic fluctuations will be examined and discussed.


  • Explain the economic systems and the economic perspective
  • Identify the key factors in macroeconomics and how economists study the economy as a whole
  • Explain the macroeconomic models and fiscal policies
  • Explain money, banking, and financial policy
  • Explain extending analysis of aggregate supply, current issues in theory and policy, and international economics
  • Analyze foreign exchange and investment and the effects each nation’s economy has on another nation’s economy

Textbook: Macroeconomics

Study basic algebraic concepts. Review the systems of equations, polynomials, and radicals. Learn how to factor polynomial expressions and simplify rational expressions.


  • Explain basic algebraic concepts
  • Solve and graph linear equations and inequalities
  • Analyze relations, functionality, and systems of linear equations
  • Prepare algebraic operations on polynomial and rational expressions and equations
  • Solve problems involving radicals and complex numbers

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Intermediate Algebra

Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 3

This course meets the needs of students who need to understand accounting language but aren't planning on becoming accountants. Students will learn what accounting information is, what it means, and how it’s used. Topics covered include financial statements, return on investment, bookkeeping process, cost accounting, and report systems.


  • Define accounting and identify and describe its different classifications.
  • Analyze transactions that affect current assets, including applications of valuation and matching.
  • Interpret financial statements and describe how listed factors impact net income and cash flow.
  • Analyze cost-volume-profit relationships and apply cost accounting principles to financial decision-making.

Learn the laws and regulations for the textile industry.


  • Evaluate fibers, yarn formation, and fabric structure.
  • Explore the impact of coloration and finishes on final products.
  • Identify performance characteristics for different textiles.
  • Discover how to select textile products based on end use and care.
  • Analyze the relationship among production processes, selection criteria, cost, and consumer satisfaction.

Textbook: Textiles: Concepts and Principles

Marketing is fundamental to the success of any business.


  • Analyze the concept of marketing in a societal and global sense.
  • Learn the four areas of strategy in marketing.
  • Identify the principles of product, price, promotion, and distribution by considering interesting examples of real organizations.
  • Explore how environmental factors affect designing strategies for marketing.

Textbook: Marketing

This course provides an introduction to the various methods of organizing material for a professional setting. Students will compose business documents using the ABC method. These include memos, emails, outlines, reports and proposals, descriptions, and organizing materials. Students also work on honing their grammar skills.


  • Describe the basics of the writing process and the ABC method of organizing material for a document
  • Identify the parts of speech in a sentence
  • Demonstrate correct pronoun use
  • Choose proper and effective words for writing documents
  • Identify the elements of a well-written sentence
  • Demonstrate how to use length, directness, emphasis, and variety to craft impactful sentences
  • Explain how to construct a coherent paragraph
  • Describe how to write an effective cover letter and resume
  • Format and write an interoffice memorandum, a routine business letter, and an effective email
  • Identify the different ways to write for blogs, the Internet, and social media
  • Describe how to create an organized formal outline
  • Identify the types of research and methods of documentation used in business and technical writing
  • Explain how to create visual interest and clarity in reports with illustrations, tables, graphs, charts, and overall design
  • Explain the purpose and importance of various types of informal reports
  • Describe the nature of formal reports and identify their components
  • Differentiate among external, internal, informal, and formal proposals
  • Describe an object or a process and prepare a set of instructions
  • Describe the preparation and submission of professional and technical articles and manuals

This course will teach you the principles involved in how and why consumers make decisions. Topics covered include influencing consumer behavior, consumer decision making, effects on research and marketing, factors that affect purchasing behavior, and consumer acceptance of products.


  • Define consumer behavior, segmentation, targeting, and positioning
  • Explain how individual influences, such as perception, memory, attitudes, emotions, lifestyles, and decision-making processes, all influence consumer behavior
  • Describe how different social and cultural groups, roles, and expectations impact consumer behavior

This course deals with a mathematical approach to buying merchandise, stock or inventory for a retailer. The merchandise buyer will use mathematics to determine profits on items. You will learn the effects of merchandising pricing and how profits are calculated and determined for the items bought that will be sold to customers. These mathematical concepts and formulas are necessary for a retailer and also for a buyer or merchandiser to understand profits and plan for future merchandise buying, sales, and to measure inventory.


  • Explain the foundational principles of sales elements and pricing
  • Identify the components of different merchandising decisions
  • Describe planning in retail and merchandising.
Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Semester 4

Explore the methods, practices, and operations conducted to promote and sustain certain categories of commercial activity.


  • Learn the principles and procedures used in planning, selecting, pricing, and selling goods in retail stores.
  • Examine domestic and foreign market purchasing.
  • Learn how to assess product needs. Learn about merchandising systems, assortment plans, and inventory control methods.

Textbook: Retail Buying

Learn the basic concepts and key motivators of electronic commerce.


  • Contrast E-commerce with traditional commerce.
  • Identify major market and enterprise issues that impact electronic commerce.
  • Explore how firms conduct business on the Internet, including their selling and marketing strategies.
  • Examine legal and ethical challenges that are unique to E-commerce.
  • Discover the major steps in implementing an E-commerce venture.

Textbook: Complete B2B Online Marketing

This course is designed to introduce students to retailing in a rapidly changing environment. Topics covered include organization of retail stores, basics of retailing, management of a successful retail business, and merchandising principles.


  • Describe the functions retailers perform and the variety of decisions they make to satisfy customer’s needs
  • Describe the different types of food, merchandise, and service retailers; and their ownership structures
  • Examine how retailers use and coordinate multiple selling channels—stores, the Internet, catalogs, and so on to — interact with their customers
  • Discuss the process that consumers go through when choosing retail outlets and buying merchandise and how retailers can affect this buying process
  • Describe the development of retail market strategy
  • Examine the financial strategy associated with the market strategy
  • Describe the types of retail locations available to retailers
  • Identify the factors considered during the site selection process
  • Look at the firm’s organization and human resource strategies
  • Examine systems used to control the flow of information and merchandise
  • Detail approaches that retailers take to manage relationships with their customers
  • Provide an overview of how retailers manage their merchandise inventory
  • Explore how retailers buy merchandise from vendors—their branding options, negotiating processes, and vendor relationship-building activities
  • Address the question of how retailers set and adjust prices for the merchandise and services they offer
  • Look at the approaches that retailers take to build their brand image and communicate with their customers
  • Describe how to improve the ability of workers through efficient recruiting, socializing, and training
  • Explain how retailers can create a more appealing shopping experience by taking into account the store’s layout and design and visual merchandising
  • Identify how retailers can build a competitive advantage through customer service

Textbook: Retailing Management


Examine the process of promotion and the tools available for creating successful campaigns.


  • Explore the changing nature of promotion in a global marketplace.
  • Learn personal and non-personal promotion strategies and techniques.
  • Get an overview of the role and organizational structure of promotion and advertising and the creative elements involved.

Textbook: Promotion in the Merchandising Environment

Explore the four essential conditions that must exist to influence consumer behavior.


  • Learn how to coordinate planning, forecasting, fabricating, developing silhouettes and specifications, pricing, and sourcing.
  • Examine the evolving partnerships among textile suppliers, product developers, manufacturers, and retailers.

Textbook: Beyond Design: The Synergy of Apparel Product Development

Proctored Examination

You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.

Additional Details

Licensing and/or certification requirements for jobs in this field are not the same in every state and may include educational, testing, and/or experiential requirements beyond those offered by your Penn Foster Program. You should contact the state professional licensing board or similar regulatory body in the state(s) where you plan to work to determine their requirements before enrolling in your Program. Please click here for contact information for state licensing/regulatory boards and certain industry licensing information.

Associate Degrees from Penn Foster College are awarded under licensing from the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education.

Penn Foster College Accreditation & Licensing Details

Penn Foster College has been nationally accredited for over 40 years, and has met the high standards of integrity and performance set by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) in Washington, D.C. Penn Foster College has been thoroughly reviewed and has earned several important accreditations and licensing. We also participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements.

Surround Sound Support

A Committed Support System

While you can study independently, you’re not alone! With a dedicated Student Services department, the Student Community, and instructors just a call away, you’ll have access to the support you need.

Progress Tracking and Goal Setting Tools

Our customizable goal-setting tools will help you create a schedule and stick to it. Need some extra time to complete a lesson? Not a problem — you can adjust your study plan at any time to set a pace that works for you.
Progress Tracking and Goal Setting Tools
Penn Foster Student Community

Student Community

Looking to connect with other Penn Foster students? Our Student Community is the perfect place for you to interact with your peers — as well as Penn Foster faculty and staff — to discuss your online learning experience, congratulate fellow students, and share your Penn Foster experience.

Sample Fashion Merchandising Lesson

Penn Foster courses are written in a way that is easy to understand, and materials are broken down into manageable lessons. Take a look at what an interior designer course would look like.
Penn Foster Sample Lesson
Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need access to high-speed internet to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 10® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running macOS® or later, Microsoft® Office 2019 or Microsoft 365®, and an email account to complete this program.
We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Apple, Mac, and macOS are trademarks of Apple, Inc. registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
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