How to Become a Specialized Merchandiser

How do you become a specialized merchandiser? Explore career options and degree programs in specialized merchandising.

portrait of Whitney Sandoval
by Whitney Sandoval

Published August 17, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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How to Become a Specialized Merchandiser
Image Credit: Maskot / Maskot / Getty Images


Do you ever wonder who is in charge of bright and colorful displays in your favorite store or who chooses the outfits the mannequins wear? A specialized merchandiser is often the person responsible. Specialized merchandisers use their knowledge and experience to strategize ways to entice shoppers and boost sales.

Along with making creative displays, specialized merchandisers may collaborate on marketing projects, monitor and interpret sales data, and track new business prospects. Specialized merchandisers need to be creative, collaborative, and analytical.

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Ready to start your journey?

No specific degree is required to become a specialized merchandiser. However, having a degree in business or a related field can help make you a competitive applicant for top jobs and set you up for a higher salary.

What Does a Specialized Merchandiser Do?

Specialized merchandisers work in any industry where specific products or services are being sold. Common careers for these professionals include fashion merchandising and tourism, but specialized merchandisers can also be found in auctioneering, hospitality and recreation, and the automobile industry.

Although no specific degree is needed to become a specialized merchandiser, earning certain degrees or certifications could help you stand out when applying for jobs. Completing various degree programs can also help you change careers within the industry.

According to Payscale, the average salary for specialized merchandisers as of July 2022 was $55,000, but if you obtain a degree and move into marketing, you could potentially triple that salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual salary of advertising managers was $133,380 as of May 2021.

With the increase in online shopping and the decrease in physical storefronts, the demand for specialized merchandisers may decrease. Having a related degree in business, fashion, or marketing can help professionals adapt to a more digitized industry or lead to a natural transition to a related career in the field.

Specialized Merchandiser Responsibilities

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What Are the Steps to Become a Specialized Merchandiser?

You can become a specialized merchandiser with a high school diploma, however, obtaining a college degree could help you market yourself when applying for jobs. Because no specific degree is needed, there are many ways to become a specialized merchandiser.

Below are the recommended processes to become a specialized merchandiser.

Step 1: Earn an Associate Degree

Earning an associate degree in a field related to specialized merchandising can help you gain a deeper understanding of the industry and provide you with the skills necessary to feel confident in a role. Many degree programs cover advertising, retail purchasing, and sales. Associate degree programs can also prepare you with the necessary soft skills to thrive in a professional environment.

When choosing an area of study, prospective specialized merchandisers have several options, including fashion merchandising, marketing, or business. Picking the best degree program for you depends on your future career goals. You can meet with an advisor for career advice when choosing a course of study.

Step 2: Get an Entry-Level Specialized Merchandising Job

Landing a job after college can be intimidating, but many resources exist to help recent college graduates find jobs. Check with your college's career department. They may offer resume help or offer job placement programs. Another option is to make connections through an internship experience.

You can gain experience by working in entry-level positions. If you cannot obtain an entry-level specialized merchandising job, try seeking employment in related fields like marketing, advertising, or sales. For instance, if you want to work in fashion merchandising, you could work in sales for a clothing store and build your professional network.

Step 3: Earn Your Bachelor's Degree

Earning an advanced degree can improve your career outlook and earning potential. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), those ages 25-34 with a bachelor's degree earned a median salary of $59,600 in 2020, while those in that same age bracket with only an associate degree earned a median salary of $44,100.

Although earning a bachelor's degree is not required for specialized merchandising, completing a degree program in specialized merchandising or a similar field can allow you to advance into other related careers that frequently pay higher salaries. Related majors include business administration, advertising, and marketing.

Step 4: Get a Job as a Specialized Merchandiser

Those who obtain a bachelor's degree in specialized merchandising or a related field can seek high-level positions in management like supervising specialized merchandiser. Along with management roles, completing a bachelor's program can lead to employment in advanced positions in marketing or advertising.

Because these jobs are not entry-level positions, you can earn a higher annual salary. For instance, the BLS reports that the median annual salary for purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents was $75,410 in 2021. The same year, market research analysts earned a median salary of $63,920.

Potential careers can include:

Step 5: Consider Continuing Education or Specialization

Although continuing education is not a professional requirement for specialized merchandisers, certificate programs are available for those interested in pursuing specialized training. You can also complete a master's in merchandising to qualify for top-paying jobs in the industry. Areas of specialized study include:

Completing continuing education or pursuing advanced degrees can provide the experience and knowledge to apply for more advanced jobs, help keep you current with trends and make you more marketable to employers.

What to Know Before Becoming a Specialized Merchandiser

Accreditation

When choosing a program, research each college's accreditation. Third-party entities review colleges and their programs to ensure the school provides a quality education. Accredited universities have met the educational and professional standards set forth by their accrediting agency.

Cost

Because you can become a specialized merchandiser with a high school diploma, it is possible to pursue this career at no cost. According to NCES data from 2020-2021, students pay an average of $9,400 in tuition and fees at public four-year institutions and $3,900 at public two-year institutions.

Keep in mind that true program costs depend on many factors including location, housing, and financial aid. Students can also save money by choosing a school where they receive in-state tuition or choosing an online program. Learners should also consider the many hidden college costs including for books, transportation, and food.

Salary

Salary depends on several factors including your specific title, years of experience, and location. Specialized merchandisers earned an average salary of $55,000 in 2022, per Payscale data. Completing a degree program can help you obtain positions beyond entry-level jobs.

Management roles typically pay higher salaries. For instance, the BLS reports that purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents earned a median annual salary of $75,410 in 2021. Advertising managers, who often must have a bachelor's or master's degree, earned a median annual salary of $133,380 that same year.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Specialized Merchandiser

What qualifications do you need to become a specialized merchandiser?

Currently, no set qualifications exist to become a specialized merchandiser. You can become a specialized merchandiser with a high school diploma. However, some employers may prefer candidates who have earned a college degree or experience in the field.

Degree programs are offered in specialized merchandising, as well as other related fields. You can also complete certificate programs in specialty areas to further your education and set yourself apart while job hunting.

Where do specialized merchandisers work?

Specialized merchandisers can work for any job sector that sells merchandise. Depending on the company, you may work in an office setting or out of a storefront. In some instances, you might do work in both locations. If you work for a larger company, you may travel between multiple store locations.

How do I become a specialized merchandiser without a degree?

Because a degree is not required to become a specialized merchandiser, there are many ways to enter the field without attending college. Experience in the field or with the company could help you pivot to specialized merchandising. For example, working in retail sales can provide you with merchandising experience.

Working in the field can provide opportunities to network or make connections for future specialized merchandiser roles. Another option is to complete certifications in specialized merchandising to gain more knowledge without the commitment of a full degree program.

Can I become a specialized merchandiser with an online degree?

You can earn a degree in specialized merchandising or a related field of study at various online colleges. You can also obtain an online associate degree or certificate in specialized merchandising. Colleges may offer online bachelor's degrees or even graduate degrees in majors related to specialized merchandising.

How much money can I make as a specialized merchandiser?

The amount of money you can earn as a specialized merchandiser depends on many factors including your work experience, location, and completed education. The average salary for specialized merchandisers, according to Payscale, is $55,000.

Completing a degree program could increase your annual salary. Those who work as an advertising manager, which typically requires a bachelor's degree, earned a median annual salary of $133,380 in 2021.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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