Career Options in Retail

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in retail. Read on to learn more about career options along with education requirements and salary information. Schools offering Retail Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Do Careers in Retail Entail?

Retail offers a variety of career options and opportunities for advancement. Entry-level jobs for positions such as sales assistants and cashiers can lead to careers in management, purchasing and marketing through consistent job performance and experience. Knowledge of products and the ability to understand and satisfy customers is the foundation of a career in retail. Your customer service skills need to be impeccable, along with generally strong communication abilities. As you enter into management positions within retail, you will be required to have an all-round understanding of how a store runs and be able to address problems with ease. You will also be responsible for hiring new employees and ensuring that they are adequately representing the company while on the shop floor.

The following chart gives you an overview of several different career paths in retail.

Salesperson Retail Sales Supervisor Retail Buyer
Education Required High school diploma High School diploma Bachelor's degree preferred
Training Required Short-term on-the-job training Several years of sales experience Extended on-the-job training
Key Skills Customer service, communication, interpersonal Leadership, management, communication Inventory, decision making, budgeting and math
Average Salary (2015) $26,340*$42,900* $59,270*
Job Growth (2014-2024) 7%* 4%* 2%*

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Options for a Career in Retail?

Retail sales take place in various settings, such as flea markets, Internet stores or brick-and-mortar businesses. You can select a retail career based on your passion for a specific product, such as computers or fashion, or choose a more general approach working with a range of products. As with many careers, retail sales opportunities include entry-level and managerial positions, so you have several options when seeking a career in retail.

Entry-Level Positions

You may obtain an entry-level position as a salesperson or cashier. Retail salespersons perform a number of tasks depending on the requirements of the retailer. For example, in some retail positions, you will provide customers with basic information about products, retrieve the requested products and assist consumers with trying on or testing products. You might also process transactions. In other establishments, you will need specialized product knowledge, such as in positions that involve selling technology products or automobiles.

Upper-Level Positions

You could also serve in a managerial position, such as purchasing or sales management. Purchasing managers, or buyers, oversee the process of selecting and purchasing retail products. In this position, you will make sure your company receives the best bargains for merchandise. You can expect to identify wholesale vendors, negotiate the price for each product and establish a purchasing cycle to meet consumer demand. Sales managers, on the other hand, oversee the functions of a retail store and its employees, which may entail motivating salespersons to improve sales and maintaining inventory.

What Education Should I Pursue?

Entry-level positions in retail sales typically entail only a high school diploma. Most positions provide on-the-job training; however, some positions require you to have specialized knowledge of specific products and experience selling these products. Purchasing and managerial positions may require a bachelor's degree at minimum. You might choose to earn a degree in business, economics or another applicable major.

What Can I Expect to Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that retail salespersons earned on average $26,340 annually in 2015. In the same year, first-line retail sales supervisors earned took home an average of $42,900 a year while retail buyers had average incomes of $59,270.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

The skills practiced in retail are highly applicable to a great deal of other jobs. If you are looking for an entry-level position that does not require a bachelor's degree, consider becoming a customer service representative and answering consumers questions about a product or service. Another option without formal education requirements is to become an insurance sales agent and sell and explain insurance plans to potential customers. If you have studied to the bachelor's degree level, you may be interested in working as a marketing or advertising agent for a company. These professionals plan and execute promotional campaigns for products and services, requiring them to have strong communication skills and an excellent understanding of the retail industry relevant to their campaign.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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