Studying Sales: Degrees at a Glance
An undergraduate program in sales often leads to a sales-based position, but the skills you can learn from this type of program can also lead to a number of related professions in advertising and marketing. Many schools combine training in sales with another subject area, such as marketing, management or merchandising. Common jobs held by graduates of an associate's degree program include retail manager, advertising sales agent and sales representative. Bachelor's degree holders usually find jobs as marketing managers or sales managers in a number of industries, including entertainment, sports, electronics and retail.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs available for advertising sales agents was projected to increase by 13% between 2010 and 2020, which was about as fast as the average of all occupations. Jobs for advertising, promotions and marketing managers were projected to grow by 14% from 2010-2020. The BLS reported that people who have a bachelor's degree and/or experience were expected to have the best job prospects for sales-related positions.
|Who is this degree for?||People interested in advertising entry-level sales, marketing and customer service positions||Individuals looking for mid-level management careers in advertising, promotions, marketing or sales|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate median salary)|| - Advertising sales agent ($45,000)*|
- Wholesale and manufacturing sales representative ($75,000)*
| - Marketing manager ($116,000)*|
- Sales manager ($102,000)*
- Securities, commodities and financial services sales agents ($72,000)*
|Time to Completion||1-2 years, full-time||4-5 years, full-time|
|Common Graduation Requirements|| - Basic business courses|
- About 10 courses covering sales-related principles
- Internship/work experience
| - Core business courses|
- About 7-10 courses directly related to sales
- Internship/capstone experience
|Prerequisites||High school diploma or a GED||High school diploma or a GED|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).
Associate's in Sales
Although there aren't many associate's degree programs that only cover sales, a number of programs focusing on sales in addition to another subject exist. An associate's program can teach you advertising strategies, selling techniques and how to market goods and services. These skills can be applied in a variety of settings, such as corporations, government agencies, independent businesses and nonprofit organizations. Although an associate's degree can prepare you for a number of entry-level jobs, keep in mind that you'll probably need a bachelor's degree if you plan on pursuing management-level positions.
Pros and Cons
- Most of these associate's degree programs are designed to make it easy to continue on to a bachelor's program if you choose
- Can give you an advantage over other applicants who only have a high school diploma
- Skills taught in this program can be useful in a variety of industries and are easily transferrable to other jobs not focused on sales
- Many entry-level sales positions don't require more than a high school diploma, while others may require a bachelor's degree
- The commission-based sales positions you're qualified for may not offer a consistent salary
- Limited number of specialization courses makes it difficult to become an expert in a specific area of sales
Courses and Requirements
Most schools require you to complete a number of foundational business courses, such as economics, statistics and accounting. After you complete these basic courses, you'll cover topics like customer service, building relationships and using computer software. Here are a few courses that you may have the opportunity to take:
- Professional selling
- Sales methods
- Management principles
- Advertising strategies
- Marketing techniques
- Business software programs
- Business law
- Business ethics
At the end of your program, you might be required to complete an internship or gain real work experience.
Online Degree Options
If you're currently employed or can't attend an on-campus program, then an online associate's degree program in sales may be a solid option. Fortunately, there are a number of these programs available for you to choose from. Most of the distance learning coursework is identical to what you'd experience in an on-campus program, but you may not have the opportunity to complete an internship in an online program.
Getting Ahead With This Degree
There are a number of measures you can consider taking to get ahead while earning your associate's degree in sales. You'll probably need to stay abreast of the latest technological developments in sales throughout your career, but you can start while you're pursuing an associate's degree.
Knowledge of automated sales tools and remote dial-up can help you get ahead and may even be required in some instances. Computer literacy and an understanding of software like Microsoft office suite, PowerPoint and Adobe Photoshop could also be useful when seeking employment. You can find out what business software is commonly used in the industry you hope to work in and begin learning about it before you graduate.
Bachelor's in Sales
Sales studies at the bachelor's level are often found as part of a business administration program, although some schools combine sales with another topic, such as marketing or management. A sales program typically covers sales technology, sales management and professional selling. Some programs may prepare you to take certain sales certification exams after you graduate. You could have the opportunity to complete an internship at the bachelor's level, but be aware that some schools may not include one.
Pros and Cons
- A bachelor's degree program in sales or marketing can prepare you to work in a number of different industries
- A bachelor's degree can lead to a career with a six-figure salary (advertising, sales and marketing managers)
- Opens up positions unavailable to people with an associate's degree
- Many sales positions require several years of experience, so a bachelor's degree alone often isn't enough
- It can be time-consuming and cost a lot of money to earn a degree that may not be required for some sales positions
- You may not gain specialized sales expertise since these programs usually cover a variety of topics
Courses and Requirements
Aside from general education coursework, you'll typically be required to complete a set of core business courses, often consisting of accounting and marketing principles. Some of the courses that you could encounter in a bachelor's degree program are:
- Marketing research
- Sales leadership
- Promotion and communication
- Sales technology
- Sales management
- Selling strategies
Programs that also include studies in management or marketing usually include a few courses focused on those subjects, in addition to the courses focused on sales. If your program includes an internship, it's usually towards the end of your program so you can apply what you've learned to a real-life sales situation.
Online Degree Options
As is the case with associate's degree programs in sales, online bachelor's degree programs in the field are available if you'd prefer a distance learning format. Online programs are usually identical to on-campus programs and cover the same concepts. If you already have an associate's degree, you can obtain a bachelor's degree with about two years of online study. When searching for online programs, be sure that the school you choose is accredited by an agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Stand Out With This Degree
It can take some planning to find ways to stand out in the sales job market while working towards your bachelor's degree. Here are a few suggestions that you might find helpful:
- Computer literacy and knowledge of current sales technologies can be very useful when hunting for a job; find out which programs are commonly used in the industry you wish to work in.
- Before pursuing a job in a certain industry, be sure to familiarize yourself with that industry's rules and regulations. For example, if you're applying for a job in the transportation industry, it can help to become familiar with the ins and outs of freight sales.
- Learning a second language like Spanish can open up a world of new job opportunities in sales. This may be especially important in certain geographic locations where large numbers of the population do not use English as their primary language.
There are a number of alternative bachelor's degree programs that you might consider in order to enter a career in sales. For example, a bachelor's degree program in advertising can give you the necessary training to work as an advertising manager or advertising sales agent. These programs tend to combine sales, account supervision and marketing with creativity. A bachelor's degree in marketing may be a better option if you hope to spend less time selling products to customers and more time figuring out what customers want at prices they're willing to pay.