What is the Right Career Option: Merchandising or Production (Industrial Engineering)?

I have been asked this question many times by my juniors and by OCS readers. I thought it would be a great discussion if you share your thought on 'what to choose as a career option- apparel merchandising or Garment production?'.

I am happy to share that when I was studying in a fashion institute, I also asked this question to my seniors and to our faculties.

I would not write too much today. Just I will share one of the responses that I wrote to one of my fans. I would like to hear from you and share your views with newcomers to help them choosing right career option.

Question: "Actually I am a student of garment technology and I am very much confused to select the area of jobs from Merchandising & Industrial Engineering (IE). Please suggest me which one is the best option from Merchandising and IE"

My reply was: 
To me, both are the best. If you ask me to answer in one line my answer for you is - being a garment technology student you should choose Industrial Engineering job as your career. The reason behind it - you have gained in-depth knowledge on production areas rather than merchandising.

Though a course does not matter much when you have your dream job in your mind. If your dream is to become a merchandiser then you can work in merchandising too.

I would say, selecting 'the best option' totally depends on you. What do you want to be? What are your key skills that are required in career growth in the apparel industry? Following are the important Key skills one need to be considered.
- Negotiation skill
- Logical thinking
- Communication skill
- Convincing power
- Managerial skill
- Team leading skill
- Communication skill both in written and verbal

If one does not have some of the above skills can be learned.

Here I would just show you the real facts of these two job profiles according to my point of views. You have to choose one out of two based on your interest and competency. In a moment I will share 4 key points that you need to look into before you select your career option.

1. Job challenges and work profile

When I look into these two profiles from the business point of view, merchandising job is more challenging compared to an IE.

Being an IE you need to interact with people within your company (factory). You will have a small team. Most of the time interact with the production team. You will be involved in improving factory performance, reducing labor cost continuously, setting internal systems etc.

On the other hand being a merchandiser, you have to deal with buyers, buying office, testing labs, production team, sampling, sourcing, subcontracting jobs and many uncertain jobs for the business. To be an expert you have to acquire knowledge of wider fields.

For those who are interested in core production: When it comes core production, you need to work under a lot of work pressure and have to manage a big team. Longer working hours in a day.

If you have not already read please check job responsibilities of an export house merchant and industrial engineers.

2. Career growth

In merchandising you will have a wide range of job opportunities. Like - export houses, buying houses, buyers, retailing etc. This is considered as more sophisticated job profile (when you are in higher rank) than an IE.

For an IE the job profile is limited to garment production. But Industrial Engineering is one of the growing fields in the garment industry. IE are in demand now. Overseas job opportunities are also there for IEs.

Also read: Career opportunities in the Apparel Industry

3. Job satisfaction

Job satisfaction is there in both kinds of works. Individual job satisfaction again depends on various factors. Like, who is your boss, your expectation from the company, work culture in the company and HR policies, yearly growth etc.

If you work in production you have to work longer hours in a day.

4. Pay packages

As a fresher, you will get similar pay package in both job profiles. In long term, if you can grab a good position in a company you can pocket good salary in both jobs.

In garment factories, there are no performance incentives for merchandisers as well as IEs. Merchandisers who work in buying offices or as a buyer may get good incentives by achieving the target. (But this may not true for all).

So, what do you want to be? It is up to you to select right path for your career.

I missed sharing that I was a Fashion Technology (Garment Technology) student. I selected garment production field as my career option. And till date, I am mostly involved in garment production (Industrial Engineering).

This is what I had to say to all those are struggling in choosing one out of these two job opportunities and newcomers who are still thinking to change his/her job and want to shift to other.

Now it is your turn to add some valuable notes for future professionals of the garment industry.

Prasanta Sarkar

Prasanta Sarkar is a textile engineer and a postgraduate in fashion technology from NIFT, New Delhi, India. He has authored 6 books in the field of garment manufacturing technology, garment business setup, and industrial engineering. He loves writing how-to guide articles in the fashion industry niche. He has been working in the apparel manufacturing industry since 2006. He has visited garment factories in many countries and implemented process improvement projects in numerous garment units in different continents including Asia, Europe, and South Africa. He is the founder and editor of the Online Clothing Study Blog.

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