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Retail Buyer Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Programs in retail buying and merchandising are offered through both 2-year and 4-year colleges. Read on to learn more about undergraduate and graduate-level educational opportunities in these fields.

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Retail buying, also known as merchandising, involves developing, planning, purchasing, presenting and selling products. Students who are interested in retail buying can find relevant certificates, associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees and master's degrees in the field.

Schools with Retail Buyer Programs

Here are some schools that offer relevant academic options for aspiring retail buyers:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees, In-State (2015-2016)*
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN 4-year, Public Bachelor's Undergraduate: $13,790
City College of San Francisco San Francisco, CA 2-year, Public Certificate Undergraduate: $1,598
University of North Texas Denton, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's Undergraduate: $9,730 Graduate: $7,165
American River College Sacramento, CA 2-year, Public Certificate Undergraduate: $1,104
Pima Community College Tucson, AZ 2-year, Public Associate's Undergraduate: $1,974
Santa Ana College Santa Ana, CA 2-year, Public Certificate Undergraduate: $1,142
Mt San Antonio College Walnut, CA 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's Undergraduate: $1,348
University of South Carolina - Columbia Columbia, SC 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's Undergraduate: $11,482 Graduate: $12,784

Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

Consider the following when looking for retail buyer schools:

  • Students may want to look for schools with majors or concentration options in specialized areas of the retail buying field, such as fashion or visual merchandising.
  • Students should look into the internship opportunities provided by the school to find out if opportunities are available in a professional setting that is consistent with their career goals.
  • Students who are considering certificate or associate's degree programs may want to find out if credits are transferable to higher level degrees in the future.
  • Students who are interested in distance learning may want to look for schools that provide online coursework.

Associate's Degree Programs

Associate's degree programs that cover merchandising or retail buying provide an introduction to business and supply chain management. Merchandising programs that focus specifically on fashion may also cover general trends in the apparel industry. Students must also fulfill general education requirements in order to graduate from one of these two-year programs.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor's degree programs in merchandising and/or retail contain the same basic coursework as associate's degree program, but they also allow students to pursue more advanced electives in topics such as product sourcing, marketing, operations management and consumer behavior. Real-world internships may also be available. These programs take four years to complete, and graduates are awarded either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) degree.

Master's Degree Programs

Master's degree program in merchandising retail programs allow students to pursue more advanced studies and prepare for leadership positions in the retailing field, either in industry or academia. Students may have the chance to conduct research leading to a final master's thesis, but non-thesis options are also available. In some programs, students are required to complete an intensive industry internship.

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs vary depending on the school. Some undergraduate certificates provide basic coursework similar to associate's degree programs, but they don't require students to take general education courses. There are also certificate options in specialized aspects of the retail field, such as visual merchandising, as well as graduate certificate options for experienced professionals who want to take advanced courses in merchandising without committing to a full degree program.

Retail buyer programs cover the merchandising, purchase and sale of various retail products. While some schools offer dedicated retail merchandising programs, many offer retail buying courses within fashion design or business programs.

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