If you are interested in fashion and design, have an aptitude for business, and would like to work in a fast-paced industry, the Merchandising B.S. degree may be a good fit for you. Opportunities abound for students to pursue their passion, whether in areas of creativity, technology, finance, helping others, sports and games, or social events and marketing.
When pursuing a major in Merchandising, you work with faculty who are experts in the field. They offer a comprehensive array of academic, historical, creative and practical learning experiences related to the merchandising of products. You will learn about everything from fibers, weaves, and finishes to creating a spreadsheet for a six-month business plan.
The Merchandising (MERCH) major is offered as a B.S. degree in the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, part of the College of Arts and Sciences. The Minor in Apparel Merchandising is offered for students majoring in other subjects.
Your starting point with the degree is Apparel Industries (SOAD-M 109) and Pathways: Introduction to Art, Design and Merchandising (SOAD-A 100). Here you learn about the fields of art, design, and merchandising within the contemporary landscape of creating and making, as well as the specifics of the retail cycle-everything from research, design, manufacturing, and merchandising, to the retail selling unit and the end user.
Tracks and concentrations
Merchandising courses are taught with a variety of methods, from lectures to labs to group projects.
All majors take 21 hours of core courses. Your upper level coursework helps prepare you for a job in retail merchandising. You will learn the principles of buying and planning in retail companies. You also will learn about international trade.
In addition to those, you choose at least nine hours of 300-499 level Apparel Merchandising electives, depending on your interests. These include subjects such as global sourcing, product development, apparel entrepreneurship, brand management and advertising, sustainability in product, and many more.
Students generally take the required elective courses in their particular area of interest, whether it's becoming proficient in digital merchandising, learning how new products are developed, or developing a business plan as an entrepreneur. You may opt to earn one or both concentrations in Digital Merchandising and Product Development. It's even possible to participate in an industry field seminar, meeting with business professionals in New York City or other cities around the world.
Upper level coursework
Your upper level coursework helps prepare you for a job in retail merchandising. You will learn the principles of buying and planning in retail companies. You also will learn about international trade. The Merchandising program offers many electives that span the retail industry, from Omnichannel marketing to visual merchandising to profiling the apparel customer.
Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates
The coursework in the major, including required courses in other departments, represents about one half of the credits needed for the degree. With the help of your academic advisor, you may be able to pursue several areas of interest through additional minors or certificates.
Students pursuing the degree must also complete one of the following: a minor from the Kelley School of Business, the Minor in Fashion Design, a minor from the Media School, or another related minor approved by the SoAAD Director of Undergraduate Studies.
- Enhance your major
Working with faculty
When pursuing a Merchandising B.S. degree, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in many aspects of the field. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of readings and assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.
A limited number of Undergraduate Teaching Intern (UTIN) positions are available for junior or senior students to assist faculty in Merchandising courses. Eligible students are usually those who have excelled in these particular courses. Interested majors must complete an application and be selected by faculty.
High achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.
Undergraduate scholarships and awards
Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design school-specific scholarships and awards are open to high-achieving IUB students majoring in Merchandising, Comprehensive Design, Fashion Design, Interior Design, and Studio Art.
The Fashion Scholarship Fund offers merit-based, competitive $7,500 scholarships.
The College of Arts and Sciences offers additional scholarships and awards.
Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities as early as after their sophomore year, though many employers prefer students who are juniors or seniors.
Many larger and medium-sized companies participate in on-campus recruiting through the Walter Center for Career Achievement. Additionally, quite a few of our alumni alert us to opportunities in their organizations. The four main internship and entry-level positions are assistant buyer, assistant store manager, product development, and merchandise analyst. Previous merchandising students have accepted corporate internships with organizations such as:
- Abercrombie and Fitch
- American Eagle Outfitters
- Bath and Body Works
- Burlington Stores
- Crate and Barrel
- Designer Brands
- Dick's Sporting Goods
- Finish Line
- Gap Inc.
- The Hershey Company
- Kate Spade
- Macy's Inc.
- Ross Stores, Inc.
- Stitch Fix
- Target Corporation
- Under Armour
- Vera Bradley
- Victoria's Secret
- Von Maur
Qualified students who would like to earn academic credit for their internship may be interested in SOAD-X 373 Internship in Professional Practice, available during the summer. Students should consult their academic advisor to learn more about this opportunity.
Foreign language study
In an increasingly globalized world, learning a foreign language can prove beneficial to your career.
The Merchandising major requires either proficiency through the fourth semester of one foreign language, or proficiency through the second semester of one foreign language and a College of Arts and Sciences (CASE) Culture Studies course: Global Civilizations and Cultures (GCC).
As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 80 languages. Learn more about the foreign language requirement for a College of Arts and Sciences degree.
Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington:
- Arabic Flagship Program
- Center for Language Technology
- Chinese Flagship Program
- Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships
- IU Summer Language Workshop
- Language Tables
- Project GO
- Russian Flagship Program
Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in our increasingly interconnected world. Merchandising students often pursue coursework through various overseas study programs.
Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with your academic advisor. The Office of Overseas Study maintains of list of programs organized by majors that you can consult to aid you in this effort: https://overseas.iu.edu/programs/iu/ovst/majors/index.html.
With more than 400 members, the Retail Studies Organization (RSO) is among the largest student organizations at Indiana University. RSO members have access to professional development events, industry field seminars, leadership opportunities, and networking.
Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.
There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The retail organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond, putting your coursework skills to practical use:
Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about other local opportunities and organizations.
The following professional organizations are of particular interest to students pursuing the Merchandising B.S. degree:
Use the Indiana University Library system to search Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, nonprofit organizations.
- Build your skills
Through the major
The Merchandising B.S. degree provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:
- The ability to communicate clearly in written, oral, and visual formats
- A working knowledge of typical business practices within art and design markets, including merchandising through various channels, product development, sourcing, branding, and consumer engagement
- The ability to work productively in teams that include artists and designers
- A thorough understanding of the skills needed to solve both quantitative and qualitative problems within the merchandising industry
- Knowledge of and facility with extant and emergent technologies
- A deep appreciation for the physical, cognitive, cultural, and social factors that influence consumer behavior, particularly within art and design markets
- The ability to respect, understand, and critically evaluate work in a variety of disciplines within art, design, and merchandising
Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree
Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path:
- Question critically
- Think logically
- Communicate clearly
- Act creatively
- Live ethically
These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your working life. Not only are these the skills that employers say they value most in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change.
Skills desired by employers
Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.
The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:
- Problem-solving skills
- Ability to work in a team
- Written and verbal communication skills
- Leadership skills
- Strong work ethic
- Analytical and quantitative skills
- Ability to take Initiative
- Being detail oriented
- Demonstrating adaptability
- Technical skills relevant to the field
- Interpersonal skills
- Computer skills
- Organizational ability
As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic and career advisors about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.
Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.
- Launch your career
Plan your search
A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with a career coach.
The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews.
Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.
As a Merchandising major, you are required to take a career course to help you maximize your career preparation at IU. Students make take either SOAD-M 219 Professional Techniques in the Retail Industry or ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. These courses provides the opportunity for Merchandising students to explore the relationship between their chosen field of study and life after graduation, while developing an academic and career development plan for post-collegiate success.
The job market
The employment outlook is positive for students with the B.S. degree in Merchandising. In addition to opportunities at corporate offices and traditional brick-and-mortar stores, many opportunities are available in electronic retailing (e-retailing), and entrepreneurship.
Merchandising majors take their education in many directions, mostly moving directly into full-time entry level positions.
Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in several job sectors including business and non-profits. Students have also utilized the apparel merchandising degree to transition into careers in finance, journalism, sales, and other related fields.
Students with the degree have gone on to work as assistant buyers, product developers, e-commerce coordinators, store managers, brand managers, stylists, merchandise analysts, associate show planners, and account executives, among other positions.
Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center’s First Destinations survey!
The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.
Talk with faculty, the academic advisor, career coach and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by College of Arts and Sciences graduates with the Merchandising B.S.
Post-graduate short-term experiences
Many retail organizations hire short-term workers to meet consumer-demand during the holiday season. In addition, many national retail corporations, such as Kohl's, host annual job shadow days for current undergraduates to learn more about their company culture. Below are some organizations and search engines that may offer these types of experiences:
Fellowships for post-graduate study
Fellowships are temporary post-graduate opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund graduate school. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profit, and government organizations.
Most Merchandising students go directly into the workforce and do not participate in post-graduate fellowships, however the following organizations may have opportunities available for graduating seniors:
Graduate and professional study
When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.
While a large majority of Merchandising students go directly into the workforce, some students have pursued advanced degrees in law, journalism, and business.
After working in the field for a few years, a number of merchandising graduates have elected to pursue management degrees or Master of Business Administration degrees.
You might consider these Indiana University graduate opportunities
- College + Kelley program
- Kelley School of Business
- Maurer School of Law
- The Media School - Journalism
Around 85 students graduate annually with the Merchandising B.S. degree. Connect with graduates on LinkedIn at the IU Center for Innovative Merchandising.
The IU College of Arts and Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.
Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts and Sciences Alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.
Is it for you?
The Merchandising major attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically possess some of the following qualities:
- Passion for retailing and fashion trends
- Analytical skills that are utilized in retail merchandising
- Aptitude for principles, planning and analysis
- Ability to use spreadsheets and other tools to track money
- Creative skills that can be used in product development, such as the creation of a clothing line
- Interest in product development, digital merchandising, and social media marketing
- Ability to adapt to fast-changing circumstances
- Desire to learn about logistics and supply-chain management
- Interest in store operations and management
- Curiosity about future trends, including sustainability and fair trade
Contact the Merchandising academic advisor and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.
- Department website
- Advisor email address