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Online Merchandising Degree Program Overviews

Get information about online merchandising degree programs. Read about program requirements and details, course descriptions, as well as career options.

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Essential Information

Several schools offer online degrees in merchandising at the bachelor's and master's levels. Students can access lectures and lessons online and communicate with classmates and teachers through the internet. Most programs can be completed totally online, although some may have a few on-campus requirements.

These merchandising programs cover retailing and marketing and may be known by other names, such as marketing management. Some programs specialize in fashion merchandising or visual merchandising. In a bachelor's program, students gain knowledge in basic skills such as sales and general merchandising. Master's degree students focus more on management, sales strategies, and decision-making. Many master's programs require a final project or a thesis. To be admitted into a master's program, students should have a bachelor's degree, some experience in the field, GRE scores, and fulfill minimum GPA requirements.

Merchandising Bachelor's Degree

An online bachelor's degree program in merchandising trains students in retail business operations, materials, marketing, and careers. Graduates may more quickly advance to managerial positions in the field than those without a degree. Areas of concentration include consumer and public relations, advertising, training and purchasing.

Program Information and Requirements

Online degree programs are designed to offer flexibility in scheduling, and many students hold jobs while completing required coursework. Generally, distance-learning merchandising programs take the same amount of time to complete as traditional programs, which is about four years of study.

Merchandising students completing classes online are expected to have a personal computer with access to the Internet. Knowledge of word-processing, presentation and spreadsheet software is suggested, and certain programs may need to be installed to complete coursework.

List of Common Online Bachelor's-Level Merchandising Courses

Merchandising courses cover areas of marketing, purchasing, sales, and promotion. Business lessons address leadership and management, among other themes. General education requirements in English, math, humanities, social sciences, and reading are also typically part of an online merchandising bachelor's degree program.

General Merchandising

This class touches upon merchandising principles, terminology, procedures and trends. It also covers retail pricing, profit relationships, inventory, invoice math and cost control. Math-oriented portions explore the relationships between retail markup and profit.

Visual Merchandising

Display techniques differ for a store's interior, window displays, mannequins and signage. Students learn to use design elements of line, element, balance, lighting and composition to grab attention in each realm.

Sales Promotion

This course discusses using various types of media and in-house advertising to promote sales. Students also learn how to use Internet advertising, ad copy, direct mail, three-dimensional visual effects, print layout and nontraditional campaigns to target customers and stimulate purchases.

Merchandising Master's Degree

Online merchandising graduate degree programs focus on modern merchandising concepts, resource management, information exchange, and consumer behavior. Sales and customer service are also concentrations. Students learn philosophies and character traits applicable to leadership to prepare for higher-level positions in merchandising. Research, strategic planning, technology, trends, ethics, and social responsibility are also topics of study at the master's degree level.

Program Information and Requirements

Prospective students must possess a bachelor's degree. Requirements may also include experience in the field, a minimum grade point average in previous college coursework,k or successfully passing the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

Students need access to a personal computer and the Internet. Programs can take anywhere from 2-4 years to complete, depending on the student's personal schedule and hours completed each semester. Most online programs allow enrollees to continue taking courses throughout the summer.

List of Common Online Master's-Level Merchandising Courses

At the graduate level, merchandising programs comprise core coursework as well as general education requirements. Some include an optional minor in areas such as marketing or management. Master's degree programs often require completion of a thesis or final project.

Strategic Merchandising Decisions

Strategic merchandising includes a combination of practices, processes, theory and principles. This class covers the effect of consumer-driven markets on sourcing, pricing, styling, assortment and timing of sales.

Consumer Theory and Behavior

Participants analyze psychological, sociological and cultural areas of consumer behavior. They learn to use behavior models to make strategic merchandising decisions that influence consumer spending.

Promotional Merchandising Strategies

This class touches upon advertising, promotions, public relations, sales techniques and marketing communications. It also covers social responsibility, cultural issues, global awareness and ethics as related to making merchandising decisions.


Career Information

The number of retail sales positions is expected to increase by 7% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Within the field of purchasing management, jobs were expected to grow by only 1%. As of 2015, median wages for positions in retail sales were $10.60 per hour, while purchasing managers made $51.98 per hour. Many retailers prefer to hire entry-level managers who have an associate's or bachelor's degree in marketing, merchandising or business (www.bls.gov).

Fully online bachelor's and master's degree programs are offered in merchandising and related fields, like marketing management. Acquiring a job in retail sales may not require an official degree, though students who obtain merchandising degrees will have better odds at being considered for management positions.

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