Fashion Merchandising

Associate Degree

Course List

Your program is designed to provide the knowledge and skills you’ll need for your new career. It consists of four semesters (semester one is general education requirement, semesters two through four offer courses in your major field of study). You must successfully complete the general education prerequisite semester in order to enroll in the Fashion Merchandising program of studies.

You will receive credit for previous college work if you meet Penn Foster College standards. If you wish to receive credit for previous coursework, contact the college you attended and ask that your official transcripts be forwarded to Penn Foster College for evaluation. All previous college work must have been completed with a grade of "C" or better, and up to 75% of the required credits may be transferred. We will also credit your tuition for all the courses that are acceptable.

We’ll send your first course materials immediately after your enrollment for the first semester has been accepted. Courses will follow one at a time as you complete your required assignments, so you’ll always have learning materials to work with. As you complete each semester, an enrollment application for the next semester will be sent to you.

Upon completing your online basic skills assessments, your first course will be sent immediately. Other courses will follow as you complete your exams, so that you will always have training materials to work with.

Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 7® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, and an email account to participate in and complete your program.

Online Library and Librarian
Students at Penn Foster College have access to an online library during their college studies. Students can use the library to do the required course research or for general reference and links to valuable resources. The library contains helpful research assistance, articles, databases, books, and Web links. A librarian is available to answer questions on general research-related topics via email and will assist students in research activities.

Here is an overview of what you’ll learn and the order in which you’ll receive your lessons:

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.

Program Outcomes
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.

Information Literacy (1 credit)
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.

Computer Applications (3 credits)
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.

Science Electives (3 credits)
(Choose one...)

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

SSC130 Essentials of Psychology (3 credits)
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

Arts and Humanities Electives (3 credits)
(Choose one...)

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

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

Textbook: Experience Music, Fourth Edition

English Composition (3 credits)
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, causal analysis, and argumentation) and a course journal.

Textbook: Successful College Writing
Supplement: The Little, Brown Essential Handbook

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

Introduction to the Fashion Industry (3 credits)
Fashion trends may come and go, but certain principles underlying the fashion industry change very little over time.


  • Discover the history of fashion and identify historical fashion influences.
  • Review the fashion cycle.
  • Learn how to determine a consumer target market and analyze buyer motivation and acceptance.
  • Examine the production process, from fiber to fabric, and the garment production process.
  • Evaluate design principles and elements.
  • Explore fashion merchandising, marketing, and advertising techniques.

Textbook: Fashion: From Concept to Consumer

Color Theory (3 credits)
Explore the components of light and the importance of color as an aspect of light.


  • Discover different systems for organizing colors.
  • Learn how to incorporate a balanced use of color in your work by understanding the basics of color theory.

Textbook: Color Basics

History of Fashion (3 credits)
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

Economics 1 (3 credits)
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

Intermediate Algebra (3 credits)
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

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

Basic Accounting (3 credits)
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. The course also covers financial statements, return on investment, the bookkeeping process, cost accounting, and report systems.


  • Define accounting and identify and describe its different classifications
  • Discuss and analyze transactions that affect current assets
  • Describe applications of valuation and matching in the case of accounts receivable
  • Discuss the significance of inventories and cost-flow assumptions
  • Explain, integrate, and interpret the basic balance sheet and the impact of those issues on net income and cash flow
  • Describe variable costs, fixed costs, contribution margin, contribution margin ratio, and how to use the cost formula for total cost, operating profit, and break-even points, while applying the simplifying assumptions of linearity and relevant range

Textbook: Accounting: What the Numbers Mean

Introduction to Textiles (3 credits)
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 (3 credits)
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

Business and Technical Writing (3 credits)
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

Consumer Behavior (3 credits)
Explore the four essential conditions that must exist to influence consumer behavior.


  • Examine the consumer decision making process.
  • Analyze individual differences in consumer behavior and explain how these differences affect research and marketing.
  • Discover factors that shape consumer behavior and motivation.
  • Identify the various environmental influences on purchase and consumption decisions.
  • Learn how research has affected retailing and the infusion of innovations in global marketing strategies.

Textbook: Consumer Behavior

Merchandising Math (3 credits)
Learn the concepts of profit and the calculation, interpretation, and analysis of a profit-loss statement.


  • Examine pricing factors used in buying decisions and the calculations used when pricing and/or repricing retail merchandise.
  • Use the calculations of the various types of markup.
  • Learn the procedure of determining the total value of the stock-on-hand and shortages.
  • Explore the planning and control of stocks and purchases, as well as invoice mathematics.

Textbook: Mathematics for Retail Buying

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

Merchandising Planning and Buying (3 credits)
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

Internet Marketing and E-Commerce (3 credits)
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

Retail Management (3 credits)
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

Fashion Promotion (3 credits)
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

Product Development (3 credits)
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.



*At this point in your program, you will take a proctored examination. We make it easy because you pick the location and the person you want to supervise the exam, as long as Penn Foster College's established policy and qualifications are met. Complete information packets with procedures will be provided well in advance.

NOTE: Advanced standing student shipments may vary from the above schedule.

A High School Diploma or GED is required to enroll in this degree program. Although this outline covers all four semesters of the Fashion Merchandising Degree Program, you receive lesson materials for each semester as you enroll.

We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.

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