Beyond the Cash Register: 5 Careers in Retail Worth Checking Out

Careers in Retail

Did you know that in 2014, the retail trade industry employed over 15 million US workers? With employment numbers like these, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve spent some time in your life working in a retail setting.

It may be easy to think of retail jobs as just the cashiers you see at the check-out or the people helping customers with questions throughout the store, but that’s only a fraction of the story. Every day, thousands of Americans work in a variety of retail careers that keep this massive sector of the economy churning.

Whether you’re looking to move your way up from a cashier position or are just curious about what’s out there, this article will help by providing you a big picture view of five retail-related careers worth checking out.

5 careers in retail that go beyond the cash register

Take a moment to learn about these five careers in retail and what you’ll need in order to thrive in these roles.

1. Buyer

As you might expect, a retail buyer is the person responsible for purchasing wholesale merchandise for retailers to sell in stores or online. These retail professionals track inventory and sales trends, as well as negotiate with suppliers to maximize profit margins.

“A buyer must select items that are consistent with the brand while thoughtfully considering the demographic of their customer base,” says Charisa Hanson, Visual Merchandiser and Floor Manager at Candlefish.

Skills and abilities needed:

  • Analytical ability – Buyers are tasked with evaluating trends and determining which suppliers offer the best value. This can get complex and requires careful evaluation of multiple factors.
  • Negotiation – Buyers work to purchase goods at the lowest cost possible and regularly negotiate with suppliers.
  • Mathematics – Buyers need to be comfortable spotting sales trends and adjusting their purchases as needed.
  • Research – Buyers need to keep up on industry trends and stay aware of consumer demand for new products and offerings.

Education requirements: Our analysis of minimum education requirements for retail buyer job postings shows 76 percent require a Bachelor’s degree.*

2. Merchandiser

Retail merchandisers often work closely with buyers to develop layout plans that will highlight select items within a retail store in order to maximize profits. In some ways, they’re the “art” to a buyer’s “science”—to be successful, they need to display priority products in a way that is visually appealing to customers. 

“This role works closely with the buyer to ensure products arrive quarterly and are processed and received into inventory,” says Hanson.  “A retail merchandiser is responsible for managing the sales of the product, outstanding negative inventory and cycle counts.”

Skills and abilities needed:

  • Creativity – Merchandiser’s don’t need to be Picasso, but creativity is a plus since they need to build displays or showcase products in innovative ways.
  • Planning - Retail spaces can cover a lot of ground, so the ability to formulate plans on how to best display products is key.
  • Communication – Merchandisers need to effectively communicate with buyers, store managers and operations staff to ensure plans are adhered to in a way that works for all involved.   

Education requirements: Our analysis of minimum education requirements for merchandiser job postings show 87% require high school or vocational training.*

3. Manager

If you’ve been in any kind of traditional work environment, you’ve probably had a manager and know the basics of what the role entails. In retail settings, managers have a variety of tasks and roles that are vital to the success of the store’s operation. Managers oftentimes handle the scheduling of employees, work to motivate the team, hold employees accountable, offer encouragement when needed and keep the store looking clean. Many are also tasked with the hiring and firing of employees.

“Managers need to see a bigger picture and instruct from their understanding of the bigger picture,” says Elisabeth Wolfgram, Assistant Store Manager at Fabletics. “Someone who is encouraging and direct would thrive in this position.”

Skills and abilities needed:

  • Organization – Retail store managers deal with a lot of moving parts under their watch. Setting employee schedules, store layout changes and inventory tracking require strong organizational skills to keep everything straight.
  • Communication - A retail manager is responsible for delegating tasks, motivating employees and assisting customers who may be upset. The best are able to clearly and diplomatically communicate their message.
  • Training and development – Often managers are tasked with training and instructing new employees.

Education requirements: Our analysis of minimum educational requirements for first-line supervisors of retail sales workers shows that 64% percent of job postings require high school or vocational training, while 30 percent of job postings require a Bachelor’s degree.*

4. Logisticians

In simple terms, logistics professionals are the people who ensure a retailer’s products make their way from suppliers to storefronts—or in the case of online retail, your front door—as quickly and inexpensively as possible. This means they spend a fair amount of time negotiating with suppliers and shipping companies for better deals or searching for alternative options when dealing with supply chain disruptions.

Skills and abilities needed:

  • Negotiation – Logistics professionals need to be comfortable negotiating for better rates with suppliers and shipping companies.
  • Poise – Logistics can get stressful, particularly when things go wrong. Delayed or missed shipments can lead to huge losses in sales revenue, so you’ll need a calm demeanor when under pressure.
  • Organization – Keeping on top of the activities that impact a supply chain takes great organizational skill; you need to know where things are and what your alternative options may be.

Education requirements: Our analysis of minimum education requirements for logistics analyst job postings show 76 percent require a Bachelor’s degree.*

5. Marketing professionals

Marketing has always played a large role in the retail industry, and that hasn’t changed even as more and more retailers move online. There’s a wide variety of marketing roles within retail, but they all fundamentally revolve around the 4 P’s of Marketing—promoting the right product at the right price in the right place.

Skills and abilities needed:

  • Creativity – Marketers, particularly those focused on promoting a product, are always looking for creative ways to have their message stand out.
  • Research – Market research skills are an important part of the job; retail marketing professionals need to understand their shoppers and what drives them to make a purchase.
  • Analytical ability – Marketers need to know how to evaluate the effectiveness of their promotional tactics as well as discern what consumers liked or didn’t like about their efforts in order to inform future promotional campaigns.

Education requirements: Our analysis of minimum education requirements for marketing specialist job postings show 89 percent require a Bachelor’s degree.*

Your guide to finding the right business degree

Now that you’ve checked out some of these careers in retail, your next step is to discover which business degree can help prepare you for the role you’re seeking. Learn more about the educational options that can help move you from cashier to career in our article, “Beginner’s Guide to Different Types of Business Degrees”.


* (analysis of retail job postings, June 01, 2016 – May 31, 2017).

About the author

Megan Ruesink

Megan is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen University. She hopes to engage and intrigue current and potential students.


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