Entry-level careers in the merchandising field generally require a high school diploma. Merchandisers at this level may be responsible for displays at a single store or displays of a particular product at multiple retail outlets. Though not always required, there are degrees in merchandising available at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's level (master's programs sometimes require a thesis project). Courses in the family and consumer sciences and an undergraduate degree in merchandising or marketing allow students to advance their careers in merchandising management. Retail sales and merchandising experience is preferred for higher-level careers in merchandising.
Associate of Applied Science Programs
Graduates of associate-level programs in merchandising can qualify as candidates for entry-level positions in retail management, sales and visual merchandising. The 2-year programs offer course topics that include:
- Sales presentations
- Trend analysis
- Merchandise allocations
Bachelor's in Merchandising
Baccalaureate programs in merchandising often provide students with the opportunity to focus on a specific area, such as fashion, electronics or home furnishings. Graduates are prepared for more advanced positions, such as a merchandising specialist for an international company or buyer for a retail franchise. Students in undergraduate degree programs take courses that include:
- Brand and product placement
- Market research
- Merchandising technology
Master's in Merchandising
Executives and merchandising department directors often complete a master's degree in merchandising, which covers business and leadership strategies in addition to fundamental merchandising training. Many master's programs are available in distance-learning formats. A thesis is usually required, and students conduct research on a wide range of merchandising topics that include:
- Product conception
- Resource management
- Information exchange technologies
Popular Career Options
Some common job titles for those who get a degree in merchandising include sales representative, seasonal merchandiser, fashion merchandiser, visual merchandiser and retail merchandiser.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the BLS, the employment for retail sales workers is expected to grow 7% from 2014-2024. The BLS reports that as of May 2015, retail salespersons make a median annual wage of $21,780.
Workshops and Seminars
Professional expos and conventions, sponsored by professional organizations, are common for merchandisers at the international, domestic and regional levels. Generally, updates are provided on current economic conditions and new developments. Seminars may focus on e-commerce and its impacts.
Numerous professional organizations provide career development opportunities for merchandising professionals. A wide range of specializations exist in the field, and an organization exists for many of them. Some of the larger entities are the National Association of General Merchandise Representatives, the National Association for Retail Merchandising Services and the International Textile and Apparel Association.
Depending on an individual's career goals, merchandising training can be sought in the form of associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs. Those interested can also pursue training by means of workshops and seminars.