Retail Sales Associates: Job Duties & Requirements

Apr 14, 2021

Retail sales associates will ideally have a high school diploma or GED. Most learn through on-the-job training; however, those interested in specializing in a particular retail field may consider pursing a postsecondary certificate or taking courses related to their field of interest.

Essential Information

Retail sales associates may assist customers in choosing the right product, keep the shelves stocked and ring up sales, among many other duties. While employers prefer to hire associates with high school diploma or the equivalent, on-the-job training or training seminars are often sufficient preparation for work as a retail sales associate. Retail sales associates may need to pass a background check and should possess good communication skills, as well as proficiency in basic math and technology.

Required Education High school diploma or GED certificate may be required
Other Requirements On-the-job training or training seminars
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* -1%
Mean Salary (2020)* $30,940

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Retail Sales Associates Job Duties

Retail sales associates help customers make purchases by recommending, describing and demonstrating products. They also use cash registers to ring up transactions, which may involve using barcode scanners, calculators and credit card machines. When they're not assisting customers, retail sales associates may arrange product displays, stock shelves and take product inventory, according to the Occupational Information Network.

Requirements for Becoming a Retail Sales Associate

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are no formal education requirements for retail sales associates, although some employers favor those with high school diplomas. Retailers often provide training for sales associates, either on the job or through special seminars. During training, retail sales associates learn about their company's products, policies and sales techniques. Positions that involve selling technical goods tend to entail more extensive product training.


Retail sales associates must have strong communication skills and work well with others, because they often work among a team of retail professionals. They must also be courteous and efficient and maintain a tidy appearance. Additionally, a career in retail sales entails basic math and technology skills. For some positions, retail sales associates may be required to pass a background check.

Retail Sales Associate Outlook and Salary Information

According to the BLS, employment of retail sales workers was projected to have 1% decline between 2019 and 2029. The decline can be attributed to increasing online sales that may limit the number of physical stores that needs these workers.

There were more than four million retail salespersons working across the country in May 2020, earning a mean wage of $14.87 per hour or $30,940 per year, according to the BLS. The top-paid ten percent of workers earned $21.43 per hour, while the bottom-paid ten percent earned just over $9.49 per hour (BLS). The BLS also noted that some of the highest wages in May 2020 were offered in computer systems design and related services and motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and supplies merchant wholesalers.

The job growth expected for retail sales associates from 2019-2029 is expected to decline when compared to all occupations. Applicants typically have a high school diploma or equivalent and learn through on-the-job experience. Completing an internship or taking courses related to the desired field of retail work the applicant is interested may improve their job prospects.

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