Retail management bachelors degree programs provide the knowledge and skills necessary to work as a leader in the world of retail. Retail is the buying and selling of a product. The most traditional form of retail is a physical store, but there are many ways to buy and sell products, from small online boutiques to large wholesale supply chains. Whether they are selling clothing, groceries, or building materials, retailers purchase or create their own products and then sell them to customers for a profit. Students in retail management programs will learn about every aspect of retail, from big-picture ideas, like the theory of trade and profit and the concepts of brand marketing, to day-to-day business skills, like keeping accounting books, doing inventory, analyzing price points, and managing employees. By the end of a retail management bachelor’s program, students should be ready to work directly with a retailer in a management position.
Why a Bachelor’s Degree?
It’s possible to get a job in retail without a degree. Working as a sales assistant at a clothing store, for instance, does not typically require a college degree, and sometimes sales assistants are even in high school. This is why a bachelor’s degree in retail management marks a major difference in responsibility, scope, and leadership than that of a retail salesperson or low-level manager. A bachelor’s in retail management would provide the opportunity to move directly into a management role, most likely overseeing an entire store. Also, the potential to move up within a large retail chain would be higher, possibly resulting in opportunities to manage multiple stores, manage a flagship store, or ascend to the corporate level. You can get a retail management position without a degree, but it could take some time to move up the ladder, and higher-level promotions after that point may be less available. The bachelor’s degree route is for those who are serious about business and retail management and aspire to a long career in retail.
Getting into a Bachelor’s Degree Program
The admission requirements for retail management bachelor’s degree programs vary based on the schools you apply to. However, there are some things most colleges and universities will want to see, including:
- A high school diploma or equivalent.
- SAT or ACT scores that meet the minimum enrollment requirements.
- A high school GPA that meets the minimum requirements.
Inside a Bachelor’s Degree Program
An online degree in retail management at the bachelor’s level will be broken down into four academic years. Sometimes online students can move at a faster pace, but the basic structure will remain the same. Students start out taking basic courses to meet core requirements and prepare themselves for the rest of the degree program. Coursework will include areas such as marketing research, buying, sales, merchandising and design, business fundamentals, accounting, E-commerce, human resource management, consumer behavior, and advertising. Students may be required to complete special projects, such as creating specs for a store opening or designing merchandising plans.
Online students will have a much more flexible course schedule than those attending a traditional university, but the coursework and mode of completion will follow generally the same format. Students will receive course materials, such as books, manuals, and notes. They will be required to read and prepare for each class. Class will be administered in real time, or it will be accessible online at any time via slideshows, lecture notes, or videos. Assignments and projects are submitted online, and course discussion takes place online, usually within the same online learning platform.
Although there is little to no face-to-face time with classmates and professors, students often create online profiles and interact with other students, setting up discussion groups, helping each other with assignments, and breaking down material to study together. Enrolled students are also provided with contact information for their professors, they have access to academic counselors, and they can call for tech support if they have issues with any programs or software.
What’s Next for Retail Management Bachelor’s Degree Holders?
After graduation, you can use your degree to find work as a manager at a retail store, open your own store, work for a retail chain as an analyst, supervise regional sales areas, or serve as a consultant to store owners or corporate executives. Students often apply for mid-level management positions with retailers directly out of college or during school to get a foot in the door and get some experience while working toward their ultimate management or consulting goals.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), first-line supervisors of retail sales workers make an average salary of $40,910, but this will vary depending on your employer, your location, your industry, and the amount of responsibility required of the position. After that, salary should increase with experience and/or if you move into more upper-level positions. Those who freelance, consult, or run their own stores will have less guaranteed income, but they will also have the opportunity to define their own salaries. It’s a good idea to make connections and start building career experience while you’re in school. The BLS does not report job growth in the retail management sector as of May 2011, so competition in the industry may be high.