Visual merchandisers work with store displays and marketing operations. On-the-job training is the minimum educational requirement for visual merchandisers, but 2-year and 4-year programs are available as well. Those interested in the field might find work as assistants, designers, managers, or consultants.
Visual merchandisers are in charge of displays used in stores for marketing and selling purposes. This career can have multiple levels, such as assistants, who help put the displays up, and managers, who may be in charge of the look of an entire store. Visual merchandisers do not need to have formal education, but undergraduate degree programs in the field are available. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes all levels of visual merchandisers, including both associates and managers, under the job category of merchandise displayers and window trimmers.
|Required Education||On-the-job training at minimum; undergraduate degree programs available|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||3% for merchandise displayers and window trimmers|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$26,870 for merchandise displayers and window trimmers|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Educational Requirements for Visual Merchandising
Some colleges, universities and independent commercial art schools offer majors in visual merchandising. Students interested in this field may choose a 2-year program leading to a degree, such as Associate of Science in Visual Merchandising or a 4-year program leading to a Bachelor of Business Administration in Visual Merchandising. Alternatively, students may major in visual communications if their particular school does not offer a merchandising concentration.
Associate's degrees are geared toward those who want to complete their education and enter the workforce quickly, pursuing jobs such as visual-merchandising assistant. Higher-level jobs in this field, such as management and consulting, may require 4-year degrees.
Associate's degree programs tend to provide a hands-on approach rather than an academically-focused degree plan. Students may learn to create and light a window display, dress a mannequin, apply fundamentals of color and graphic design to retailing problems, conduct market research and analyze the cost of creating a display.
Typical courses in a 4-year visual merchandising program may include color theory, design fundamentals, drawing, display graphics, marketing, branding, contemporary fashion and clothing history. Business-oriented courses may include buying, statistics, economics, accounting and strategic planning. In addition, courses may cover the history of American retailing, various types of stores and the kinds of displays that are appropriate for each type.
A variety of jobs are available to trained visual merchandisers. Assistants may execute the designs created by those working in supervisory positions. Display designers concentrate on creating interior and window displays, as well as coordinating fixtures. Visual merchandising managers coordinate a store's total look, and directors often concentrate on branding, or developing an image, for a group of stores. Consultants in this field may come up with new ways to present a store's visual image.
While on-the-job training is the only requirement for entry-level work in the visual merchandising field, completion of a post-secondary degree program can help boost job prospects and guide career trajectory. Specifically, management and consulting positions might only be available to those with a 4-year degree, while those with a 2-year degree or lower may have to start as assistants.