Online Retail Management Degree Programs

Retail businesses sell everything from food to clothing and medicine. There are numerous jobs within the retail industry, from stocking and floor sales to district, regional, and company-wide management. Retail management degree programs can be a good preparation to move up in responsibility within a retail company.

Although online shopping is here to stay, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that “brick and mortar” stores are likely to increase their focus on delivering excellent customer service in order to compete with online retailers. Good sales managers and sales people are required to achieve this end.

According to the BLS individuals who are good communicators, customer-focused and are not easily discouraged can be good candidates for this field. The flexibility offered by an online retail management program can work well for individuals who are seeking a higher education but have work, family or other commitments.

Retail managers may work in a number of different industries. Your duties can vary depending on your position and the industry you work in. According to the BLS, those in the retail industry can expect to work during peak sales times, including weekends and holidays. Though many sales associates work part-time, managers can expect to work the standard 40-hour workweek and longer hours during peak sales times.

A couple of job roles and their associated duties are described below.

Sales Managers

  • Planning the focus of sales efforts by analyzing customer preferences
  • Developing plans to acquire new customers through different sales techniques
  • Resolving customer complaints regarding sales and service
  • Managing sales staff by assigning duties, setting sales goals and coordinating training

Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

  • Evaluating and choosing suppliers on the basis of the price, quality, and speed of delivery of their products
  • Negotiating contracts with vendors and suppliers
  • Maintaining records of items bought, their costs, deliveries, sales and evaluating their performance
  • Keeping up with the trends in the industry by attending meetings, trade shows, and conferences
Retailers that enable shoppers to build and customize products are set to prosper.

Choose a Degree That Can Help You Meet Your Career Goals

An entry-level job in retail generally doesn’t require formal education, and many turn to retail sales for their first jobs while still in high school. However, those who move on to retail management often have a college degree and several years of work experience. Certificate and associate degree programs can work well for individuals who want to explore the retail management field and are looking to advance their careers.

The BLS reports that sales managers are often required to hold a bachelor’s degree. An online master’s degree in retail management can allow you to enter the corporate side of retail and though doctoral degree programs are rare, they can allow you to enter the fields of research and academia.

As the retail business goes high-tech, those who are proficient with computers might find an edge in the hiring process.

What can I expect to learn in an online certificate program?

Online retail management certificate programs can help you get an overview of the field. You can get an introduction to the different aspects of managing a retail firm including the business and finance methodologies behind it.

Typical duration: Up to one year of part-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Retail management courses online can help you learn how different products are marketed, merchandize sourced and the basics of how the fashion industry works. Topics you may study include:

  • Introduction to business organization
  • Principles of professional selling
  • Business math
  • Principles of marketing

Possible electives: Fashion basics; advertising; internet marketing

What can I do after earning a certificate?

A certificate in retail management can get you off the shop floor and allow you to work in positions that require more responsibility like:

  • Cashier
  • Clerk
  • First-line supervisor of retail sales workers

What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?

Online retail management associate degree programs build on the curricula of certificate programs to include introductions to more advanced topics like human resource management, merchandising and understanding consumer behavior.

Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: The curriculum is usually designed to give you the basic skills needed to manage the daily operations of a retail business. Some courses you may take include:

  • Retail organization fundamentals
  • Customer relations
  • Marketing research
  • Retail inventory management

Possible electives: Risk management; retail shipping and receiving; retail transportation

What can I do after earning an associate degree?

As an associate degree program can give you the opportunity to build more skills than a certificate program; you may be eligible for supervisory positions in larger retail firms or higher positions in smaller stores. Some potential job titles include:

  • First-line supervisors of retail sales workers
  • Demonstrators and product promoters
  • Store or sales manager

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor’s degree program?

Online bachelor’s degree programs in retail management typically combine business administration topics and retail management. You can learn to build the finance, merchandising, marketing and logistical skills needed for a successful retail business.

Typical duration: Up to four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Topics can give you a more in-depth look at the various aspects of retail management than those in an associate degree program. Apart from general education coursework, required core courses may include:

  • Leading organizations
  • Food retailing
  • Strategic market pricing
  • Consumer behavior
  • Business law and ethics for managers

You may also have to complete an internship as a part of your bachelor’s degree program.

Possible electives: Electives may vary from fashion to business management depending on your school and degree program allowing you to choose electives that align with your interests.

What can I do after earning a bachelor’s degree?

Due to the in-depth knowledge gained during a bachelor’s degree program, there may be more (and varied) job opportunities available for individuals with a bachelor’s degree. Some opportunities may include:

  • Sales manager
  • Supply chain manager
  • Customer service manager
  • Food service manager
  • Operations specialist
  • Purchasing or buying manager
  • Wholesale representative
Traditional store formats may be on the decline, but innovative stores — ones that offer great shopping experiences — continue to emerge.

What can I expect to learn in an online master’s degree program?

Online retail management master’s degree programs can prepare you to understand the retail industry using a long-term perspective by understanding how consumer behavior changes and the ever-evolving role of technology in the marketplace.

Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree

Typical coursework: Topics can help you develop the critical thinking and problem solving skills needed to make strategic decisions in a crowded marketplace. Courses you may take include:

  • Brand management and intellectual property
  • Merchandising technologies
  • Retail analysis and economic structures
  • Retail futures
  • Selling techniques and strategies

You may also have to complete a master’s thesis as a part of your program.

Possible electives: Global fashion retailing; digital retailing; promotional strategies

What can I do after earning a master’s degree?

A master’s degree can qualify you for management roles in the retail industry. Some potential opportunities can include:

  • General merchandise manager
  • Manufacturer sales representative
  • Merchandise buyer
  • Regional retail operations manager
  • Retail corporate executive

Doctoral degree programs in retail management may be available as a concentration as a part of an online business degree program.


Accreditation is an important criterion to look out for while choosing an online retail management program. Attending an accredited program demonstrates that the education you have received meets the high quality standards required by the industry today. Schools may be accredited by regional or national accrediting bodies. Retail management programs offered as a part of a business program may be accredited by professional bodies like:

Additionally, attending an accredited program can be an important prerequisite while applying for federal funding and scholarship programs. Accreditation can also be important for transferring credits.

While professional certifications may not be mandatory, they can serve to demonstrate your expertise in the field. Obtaining professional certifications can also show potential employers that you take your career seriously and are looking for opportunities to grow within the field. Some certifications include:

There are quite a few scholarships and financial aid programs available for eligible students interested in earning a retail management degree program online. Scholarships may be offered by professional bodies, businesses, educational foundations or colleges and universities. It can be a good idea to check with your school’s financial aid department to see if you are eligible for anything they offer. Some scholarships to help you get started include:

Professional Resources for those in Retail Management

Retail stores might focus on a particular type of item, such as electronics or food, or they might be a large department store that focuses on a wide variety of products. Depending on the size of the store, there may be a need for district and regional managers, in addition to store and department managers which makes advancement in the industry a possibility.

The table below describes some of the occupations related to this field along with associated wages, job outlook and job openings for 2019 to 2029.

Employment Statistics

Sales Managers

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Lessors of Nonfinancial Intangible Assets (except Copyrighted Works)
  • Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents and Brokers
  • Professional and Commercial Equipment and Supplies Merchant Wholesalers
  • Merchant Wholesalers, Nondurable Goods (4242 and 4246 only)
  • Automobile Dealers
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • Texas
  • Illinois
  • Florida
  • New York
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
  • Trenton, NJ
  • Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO
  • Merced, CA

Purchasing Managers

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises
  • Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, Control Instruments Manufacturing
  • Oil and Gas Extraction
  • Communications Equipment Manufacturing
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • Texas
  • Illinois
  • New York
  • Massachusetts
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
  • Morgantown, WV
  • Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
  • Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA

Source: 2020 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics,



  • Associate of Arts in Retail Management, American Public University, , accessed January 2019
  • Master of Science in Merchandising, University of North Texas, , accessed January 2019
  • Master’s Degree in Retail and Merchandising Online, Drexel University, , accessed January 2019
  • Online Bachelor of Arts in Business (Retail Management), Arizona State University, , accessed January 2019
  • Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, , accessed January 2019
  • Retail Management – Certificate, San Bernardino Valley College, , accessed January 2019
  • Retail Management, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Salem University, , accessed January 2019
  • Retail Management, Penn Foster College, , accessed January 2019
  • Retail Merchandising Certificate, Harper College, , accessed January 2019
  • Retail Sales Workers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, , accessed January 2019
  • Sales Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, , accessed January 2019
  • Vend’s Retail Trends and Predictions for 2018, Vend, , accessed January 2018
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