Ask Alexandra: Do I Have to go to School?

Hi Alexandra, I wanted to ask if it’s possible to get an internship and work your way up through fashion without a degree? I’m an American who is currently at a fashion school in London but I am thinking about leaving school since I have become really frustrated with university and it’s really taken a toll. However, I also feel a lot of pressure to continue with university just because everyone else is doing it. Do you have any advice? Thank you!

fashion courses, fashion jobs, university, fashion career advice, Ask Alexandra

Jewelry by fashion student Alexandra Druzhinin.

Dear Nicole,

It’s not impossible to become a fashion industry professional without a post secondary education, but it will be more difficult. Here are three reasons why you should do have kind of degree or diploma before attempting to break into the fashion industry.

fashion courses, fashion jobs, university, fashion career advice, Ask Alexandra

Jewelry by fashion student Alexandra Druzhinin.

1. You are going to learn something. (Duh.) Even if the role you want doesn’t require a great deal of technical skills – or you already have them, you’ll be a hell of a lot better at your job if you know fashion history, the big players, and how the industry works. So I would suggest to anyone wanting to make it in the fashion world, that a degree (or at least a diploma) in a related field is very, very important.

fashion courses, fashion jobs, university, fashion career advice, Ask Alexandra

Jewelry by fashion student Alexandra Druzhinin.

2. A post secondary education is about more than just learning. Sure, you’ll come out knowing what a Watteau back is and that fall winter press days happen in April, but you’ll also have made a lot of connections, and you may have had a change of heart about what you want to do. I’d say about 75% of my students have started a course with a good idea of what they want to be (usually a stylist or buyer) and leave planning to do something else.

fashion courses, fashion jobs, university, fashion career advice, Ask Alexandra

Jewelry by fashion student Alexandra Druzhinin.

3. It gives you an edge on the competition. I’ve said it a million times before, but the fashion industry is very, very competitive and if you’re up against five other people for a job or internship, I can guarantee you that the ones with a fashion education are going to be better positioned to get the job. Having a degree says “I am willing to work hard for four years, I can meet deadlines, I am committed, and I know how to see something through to its completion.” There’s not many other ways that employers can gauge those things (certainly not through a CV or an interview) so a certificate is really quite important to land that dream job. That said, you might become famous without a formal education, if you have a lot of talent and a lot of good luck. But when you look at the successful people in the fashion world today, you’ll see that most of them went to school. Good luck! These amazing jewelry images are from a collection by London College of Fashion student Alexandra Druzhinin.

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  • Nicole

    Hi, thank you for answering my question. I do understand your points, but I no longer want to work in fashion design and I would like to get started interning for stylists/model agencies. I do have a foundation degree though and I have been reading that it’s best to get work experience if you want to get into styling and scouting/casting.

    In regards to connections, I found success finding connections on my own much more than relying on the school. And for internships, yes the fashion industry is a competitive field but I wonder if securing an internship is so hyped up to an extent in order to make it seem like you’ll get a job out of it when you actually won’t. Free labor for fashion companies where they can just recycle their interns every three-six months must be a good money saving business model for them.

    Also, two very successful fashion photographers I know who are working for the top magazines skipped university and started working straight onto industry.

    The problem is that I know so many graduates (they went to the best fashion schools in London) and all of them are unemployed even after 2-3 years after graduation. The degree is no longer a secure way to get a job. Even Fashion156 recently polled hundreds of recent graduates, most of them from LCF and other schools, found that ALL of them are unemployed and working part-time to support themselves.

    I do have a lot of thoughts on this matter because after studying for two years at a top school in London, I’ve become very critical about how much the degree in fashion is actually worth today and whether it should really be something that people pursue rather than going into industry.