Fashion designers are the creative minds behind the clothing, footwear and accessories hanging from racks and lining shelves in America's apparel stores. Though a postsecondary education isn't required to become a fashion designer, college courses in pattern-making, textiles, and computer-aided design expand a student's skill set and strengthen their credentials. Students attending a top-rated school often have the opportunity to connect with leaders in the fashion world, some of whom may be alumni.

Parsons, The New School for Design

Founded in 1896 and located in New York City's hip, avant-garde Greenwich Village neighborhood, Parsons offers a two-year associate degree in applied science and a four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in fashion design. About one-fourth of Parson's students are fashion design majors. Parsons emphasizes technology skills and encourages students to think in global perspectives. Notable Parsons graduates include Donna Karan (who often holds student workshops), Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang.

Academy of Art University

The Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California, is the largest private school of art and design in the nation. Though located on the opposite coast, the university is the only fashion school whose students show an annual collection at New York City's Fashion Week. In addition to a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in fashion design, degree programs are available in knitwear design and textile design. The school allows online enrollment for most of its programs and has a 100 percent acceptance rate.

Fashion Institute of Technology

The Fashion Institute of Technology is, as its name implies, a school dedicated to the study of fashion. Located in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, the school offers 40 degree programs including fashion design, fashion marketing and merchandising, and visual arts. Students begin their academic career by completing a two-year associate degree in applied science. Students may then apply to one of the school's bachelor's programs. FIT boasts an impressive alumni roster that includes Calvin Klein, Nanette Lepore, Michael Kors and Caroline Herrera.

Rhode Island School of Design

Founded in 1877, the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence offers bachelor's degree programs in apparel design, textiles, and jewelry/metalsmithing. Students do not declare a major until completing a year of intensive foundations studies to encourage what the school calls "big picture thinking". RISD has partnered with neighboring Brown University, an Ivy League school, and students can cross-register for classes at Brown or pursue a dual degree program. Women's apparel designer Nicole Miller is a RISD graduate.