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Sales Associate: Job Description, Requirements and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a sales associate. Get a quick view of the requirements and details about schooling, job duties and training necessary to find out if this is the career for you.

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  • 0:00 Essential Information
  • 0:35 Job Description
  • 1:42 Job Requirements
  • 2:16 Education Requirements
  • 2:58 Career Information

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Essential Information

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent; college degree for advancement
Degree Field(s) Business or related field
Licensure/Certification None
Experience On-the-job training provided
Key Skills Communications and customer service skills; ability to handle financial transactions
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 7% growth
Median Annual Salary (2015) $22,040 (for retail sales associates)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Sales associates work in numerous businesses like grocery stores, electronics stores and clothing stores to assist customers in purchasing merchandise. A high school diploma or GED and on-the-job training are generally required for sales associates. This position requires excellent communication abilities, superb customer service skills and the ability to count, read and write different documents. Additional specialized training may be needed for some positions.

Job Description

Sales associates may work in retail or wholesale, selling items, services and products offered by their employers. These workers should possess an excellent familiarity with the products sold in their store and offer assistance to customers as needed. In addition to selling products, a sales associate may be required to package bought items or handle financial transactions, such as receiving payment and making any necessary change.

If opening or closing a shift, a sales associate may be required to count the contents of a cash register. Opening a shift involves documenting the initial money provided for the register and ensuring that enough currency is available to make change for customers. The closing process involves separating coupons from money, then adding up the currency and depositing it into a safe or other determined location set by the employer. Sale associates may need to stock and replace shelves from the store's stockroom. In the event of theft or burglary, a sales associate needs to contact store security or call the police in order for the situation to be properly handled.

Job Requirements

This position requires workers to stand for long periods of time, so a sales associate needs to possess the endurance to do so. The work schedule for sales associates can change each week, and they often have to work weekends, nights and holidays. Overtime work may be required during promotional or holiday sale events.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), communication skills are necessary to be a successful sales associate. Courteous professional interaction with customers, co-workers and managers is important to maintaining this position.

Education Requirements

The minimum education preferred by employers for a sales associate position is a high school diploma or GED. Acquiring a management position may require a college degree in business management or the completion of a training program offered by the employer. Sales associates usually acquire the necessary skills for this occupation through on-the-job training. These training programs cover topics like operating the cash register, interacting with customers, understanding security measures and implementing store policies. Depending on the department a sales associate works in, he or she may also receive additional training in specific products like electronics or cosmetics.

Career Information

According to the BLS, overall employment of retail sales associates was expected to grow 7% from 2014-2024. The BLS reported that sales associates in book and media stores will likely see the most significant decrease, due to online sales, but car dealers and retail store employment gains will remain strong. Retail salespersons earned a median yearly salary of $22,040 in 2015.

Remember, sales associates sell items, services and products in retail or wholesale settings. They typically need a high school diploma or GED and on-the-job training, though a college degree might be needed for management positions.

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