What Fashion Qualifications, Courses Should I study? by Collette Costello – Fashion Courses & Short On-line Tutorials Series

As a Fashion Lecturer I have spent much of my career working on college and university level Fashion courses.  If you are thinking about studying Fashion you maybe a little confused about all the Fashion qualifications on offer, what the different levels mean and what you can do with them, so I am here to offer some advice.  If you want to learn more about Fashion Courses, check out the rest of my blog series.


Fashion & Textiles GCSE’s

If you are creative, love drawing, making things, you may already have an ambition to become a Fashion Designer, then you can choose to study a Fashion & Textiles GCSE or a Art & Design GCSE for your options.  These courses along with four others minimum at (A-C) will normally get you onto a BTEC Level 3 Fashion & Textiles course or “A” Levels.  I used to interview school pupils in their last year all the time for a college place on Fashion Courses.  I wanted to see some GCSE work, such as good drawing, painting and if they studied Fashion, Textiles, some sewing work they had done or some creative Textile pieces.  I liked pupils that knew why they wanted to study Fashion and were able to talk about a piece of work or project they had enjoyed doing.

Fashion & Textiles “A” Levels

Many school pupils go onto do “A” Levels once they leave school for two years, if you are progressing to sixth form sometimes this is all they offer.  Three “A” Levels convert into UCAS points and you will be able to study different courses based on your “A” Levels.  If you want to study Fashion at university, only just can you now do a Fashion “A” Level and again a lot of college don’t offer them.  The other option is to study Art & Design “A” Level and focus your work on Textiles and Fashion.  Usually “A” Level students would then go onto do a Level 4 Foundation Art before university, as they usually need more Fashion and Textiles work for their portfolio to show at university interviews.

Fashion & Textiles Level 2

Level 2 BTEC Art & Design is for one year and you usually need 2 or more GCSE’s at grade D or above, adults maybe taken with no qualifications.  On Level 2 usually you will do a taster, Photography, Graphic, Fashion, Textiles, Fine Art, then students can specialise in their chosen area.  Once you have Level 2 you can go on to Level 3 and many of my students did this, in the end going onto to do degree level Fashion and Textiles.

BTEC Fashion and Textiles Level 3

I have taught mainly on BTEC Fashion and Textile courses in my career, mostly level 3.  Level 3 BTEC courses are taught mainly at Further Education colleges, you usually need to be 16+ to get on these courses and they take adult students (if you are over 19 you will have to pay course fees).  The course is full-time, two years and other then extra English and Maths if you don’t have these subjects (A-C) at GCSE you will only study Fashion and Textiles.  To get on the course usually you need four GCSE’s (A-C) or a Level 2 BTEC qualification.

The course is only project work with no, that is right no, exams and you will get graded at Pass, Merit or if you are extra amazing Distinction.  The grades become UCAS points, people like to say the course is equal to 3 “A” Levels and you can progress onto Level 4 Foundation Art to build your skills or go straight onto a Fashion or Textiles Degrees at university.  Many of my students got onto Buying & Merchandising, Fashion Design, Fashion Promotions, Textiles degrees at universities such as Manchester Metropolitan University and Salford University.

Level 4

Level 4 Art & Design Foundation diploma is for one year and for students that want more time to spend on work for their portfolio to show at university interviews or maybe need to do work to help them decide which creative area they want to specialise in.  The courses usually cover a bit of everything, Photography, Graphic, Fashion, Textiles, Fine Art, then students can specialise in their chosen area before applying for university courses.  To get onto the course usually you would need a BTEC Level 3 or 3 “A” Levels, some courses however will take adult learners with no qualifications if they come with good work and enthusiasm about their subject.

Studying Fashion Degrees

Most Fashion students ambition is to go to university and most choose this route.  A fashion related degree should be enough to get a job in industry or onto a graduate training scheme, internship.  Types of Fashion Degrees are massively different so make sure you study one that will get you into the career that you want, they include Buying, Merchandising, Business Management, Fashion Promotion, Pattern Cutting, Fashion Design, Textiles, Commercial Textiles and Fashion Retail.  Check out my series “Surviving a Career in Fashion” for advice on what qualifications you need for different fashion jobs.  To get on a degree they would expect you to have three “A” levels or a BTEC level 3 or Level 4 with English and Maths GCSE (A-C).

Fashion & Textiles Apprenticeships

Going to college and university full-time is not for everyone, you can do Fashion apprenticeships that will gain you qualification in the subject. Government ones are for 14 – 19 year olds, they offer work place training and educational sessions for part of the week sometimes in a college.  Fashion apprenticeships can include Fashion Retail and Clothing Manufacture, learning how to sew clothes together up to a factory standard.  You will get paid a wage to do government level apprenticeships, they are different to private internships where often you don’t get paid.  Going to university now could mean debts of £50,000, so they could be the alternative route for you.  To make sure you get on the right training scheme, search for apprenticeships at local colleges, on Find an Apprenticeship or Not Going to Uni web-site.

On-line Fashion Short Courses

If you search on-line for Fashion Courses loads will come up from private companies or even sometimes for established colleges, universities.  Beware very often you will have to pay big fee and the courses do not actually count as a qualification, if this is what you are after.  So always check you will have a certificate at the end of it from a exam board, not just an attendance certificate like many give out, exam boards include UAL, Pearsons, and AQA.

If you have any questions about fashion qualifications and courses I am always here to help, contact me via Twitter @kikugirls.

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