Retail Merchandising Certificates and Diplomas Overview

Retail merchandising certificate and diploma programs prepare individuals for entry-level merchandising opportunities. Find out what kind of courses to expect, as well as career information and continuing education.

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Essential Information

Retail merchandising certificate and diploma programs require less time than associate's or bachelor's programs and require fewer, if any, general education courses and only a high school diploma or GED for enrollment. Students in a retail merchandising certificate or diploma program learn about window display design, showroom merchandising, customer relations and retail management. Internships are typically required in a diploma program.


Certificate in Retail Merchandising

Students enrolled in a retail merchandising program at the certificate level typically take 4-5 classes, which include a combination of required courses and electives. Courses are offered through community and technical colleges. Students strictly focus on field-specific studies; no general education courses are necessary for the certificate. Students learn management principles and retail merchandising standards. Elective internships may be available. Programs may include the following coursework:

  • Basics of visual displays
  • Fabrics and swatches
  • Window dressing
  • Furniture store merchandising
  • Customer service
  • Retail management

Diploma in Retail Merchandising

A diploma program in retail merchandising typically requires 30 credits for completion. Oftentimes, diploma credits can count toward an associate's degree, if a student wishes to continue his or her education. Students not only focus on visual merchandising and retail subjects but also learn about general business principles affecting retail environments. Programs may include the following coursework:

  • Marketing and Sales
  • Accounting
  • Buyer behavior
  • Purchasing
  • Customer service
  • Interior decorating and design

Popular Career Options

An undergraduate certificate in retail merchandising prepares students for entry-level work in retail stores. With experience, individuals may be able to move into management roles. Upon program completion, graduates can often find work as:

  • In-store merchandisers
  • Furniture showroom decorators
  • Window trimmers
  • Customer relations staffers
  • Department leaders

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

From 2014-2024, employment of retail sales workers was expected to increase 7%, noted the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov. This was average growth compared to other national occupations. As of 2015, the average annual salary for retail salespersons was $26,340, indicated the BLS. Merchandise displayers and window trimmers earned a mean annual wage of $29,790 the same year.

Continuing Education

Many certificate or diploma holders may decide to pursue an associate's or a bachelor's degree in retail merchandising or a related field, which may qualify candidates for mid-level management opportunities. Additionally, diploma holders can earn professional certifications from organizations like the National Retail Federation Foundation (www.nrffoundation.com). Interested individuals can take exams, which cover merchandising, operations, management, and other aspects of retail, to earn the Professional Retail Business or National Professional Certification in Retail Management credential.

A retail merchandising certificate or diploma program teaches students about basic merchandising skills to best influence shoppers. While entry-level work is usually available with this level of education, students who want a fast track to higher level management positions generally participate in an undergraduate degree program or earn professional certification.

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