Retail Sales Associate Career Information

Read about the entry-level education requirements and skill sets that can help you qualify for a position as a retail sales associate. Find information about employment and earnings outlook here, before deciding if a career as a retail sales associate is right for you.

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  • 0:00 Retail Sales Associates
  • 0:32 Required Education and Skills
  • 1:24 Employment and…
  • 1:54 Alternate Career Options

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Retail Sales Associates

Retail sales associates work in apparel, sporting goods and other related establishments, where they assist customers in selecting and purchasing merchandise. In addition to helping customers, retail sales associates stock items, take inventory, clean their work area and handle the cash register. They also create window and store displays and help keep the store presentable for customers. Many retail salespeople are employed on a part-time basis while going to school or working a second job.

Education A high school diploma or GED credential are often preferred
Job Skills Customer service skills, good memory, persuasive, well-spoken
Average Salary (2015)* $26,340 (for full-time retail sales workers)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 7% growth (retail sales workers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education and Skills

Although no formal education is required for becoming a retail sales associate, most employers prefer workers who have at least a high school diploma or a General Equivalency Development (GED) credential. Those with an associate or a bachelor's degree are more likely to advance to a supervisory position, such as store manager. Courses that prepare individuals for a career in retail sales include math, economics, English and public speaking. Many companies also provide on-the-job training to new hires.

Retail sales associates should enjoy interacting with shoppers and be skilled at appeasing frustrated customers. A good memory can be helpful when referring customers to merchandise locations. Many stores expect retail sales associates to push certain products, so associates should also be persuasive and well-spoken.

Employment and Earnings Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average yearly pay of a full-time retail salesperson was $26,340, as of May 2015. Nationwide, retail sales positions are projected to grow at an average rate of 7% between 2014 and 2024, due to the high turnover of employees. Part-time and temporary positions may be more prevalent during the main shopping seasons.

Alternate Career Options

If being a retail sales associate doesn't sound quite right, consider one of the following careers instead:

Insurance sales agents who are employed by single-company or multi-company brokerages make cold calls and try to interest potential customers in casualty, health, life and property insurance. While a bachelor's degree may help candidates stand out in the job market, aspiring insurance agents can get started in the field with a high school diploma and on-the-job training. Employment prospects for agents are expected to increase by a faster-than-average rate nationwide through 2024. Independent insurance agents work on a commission-only basis. Those who were employed on staff in May 2015 earned an average yearly salary of $64,790.

Sales representatives who work for manufacturers and wholesalers sell products to companies and government agencies, and job duties may include making cold calls and traveling to meet with customers. Sales representatives who specialize in industrial, medical or pharmaceutical products may have a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry or engineering. High school graduates may be able to obtain jobs selling nontechnical products. Openings for wholesale and manufacturing representatives are projected to be average from 2014-2024. As of May 2015, representatives in general earned average yearly salaries of $66,790.

Retail sales associates work full or part-time to sell products to customers and help keep their stores presentable. Usually a high school-level education or on-the-job training is all that is necessary to enter this field.

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