Associate's degree programs that cover retail merchandising are designed to teach effective marketing and sales techniques. Students also learn about the buying process and business administration topics, like finance and ethics. Applicants to these programs will need a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Once enrolled in the program, students may be required to participate in an internship in addition to the coursework.
Following program completion, degree holders can pursue this field of study at the graduate level. Certification options are also available for professionals who want to specialize in a certain aspect of retail merchandising.
Associate's Degree in Retail Merchandising
In addition to extensive coursework in the selling and purchasing process, students also learn about customer service principles and aesthetics. Some required courses outside the core curriculum may include computer skills, business math and communications. Core course topics could include:
- Distribution principles
- Supervision principles
- Business law
- Buying methods
- Selling techniques
Popular Career Options
Retail merchandisers play an active part in selecting the products and designing the marketing strategies for retail establishments. These individuals have good promotional, organizational and design skills. They may have managerial responsibilities or evaluate potential deals.
It may be possible for retail merchandisers to pursue work in both the public and private sectors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that these individuals could work for government organizations, hospitals, farming companies and manufacturing industries. Many opportunities are with larger companies who contract outside services. Some popular career options include:
- Purchasing agent
- Procurement specialists
- Purchasing manager
- Wholesale buyer
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
From 2014 to 2024, retail and wholesale buyers, other than those who deal with farm products, could expect somewhat slower-than-average employment growth of 6%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected. These buyers earned an annual median salary of $52,940 in 2015, according to the BLS.
Continuing Education Information
There are voluntary professional certifications retail merchandisers can pursue that may lead to benefits like higher salaries. Certifications are offered for specific concentrations or industries within retail merchandising. The Institute for Supply Management offers the Certified Professional in Supply Management credential. The American Purchasing Society has the Certified Purchasing Professional and Certified Professional Purchasing Manager designations.
Most of these certifications have minimum education or experience requirements. Applicants who meet these requirements often have to pass a certifying exam. Once certified, individuals have to maintain continuing education standards to remain eligible. The BLS indicates that some employers prefer individuals with a bachelor's degree and that a master's degree may be needed for management positions.
Students interested in retail merchandising can pursue an associate's degree to study the business side of the buying and selling process. Graduates can earn professional certification and work in the public and private sectors as retail and wholesale buyers and more.