Sales is a massive career field, accounting for 11,855,800 jobs, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Despite a slower than average overall rate of growth, the BLS expects another 458,700 job opportunities to emerge over a decade. While many sales jobs don’t require a college education at all, these occupations are also the lowest paying. If you choose to earn a degree for your career in sales, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in business could be a wise choice. Some sales careers involve selling specialized products for which you may need a degree in that field or industry. If you hope to be promoted to a sales manager position eventually, you should plan to earn at least a bachelor’s degree and may even consider going to graduate school.

What Degree Do People Who Work in Sales Have?

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Associate Degrees for Sales Jobs

Associate’s degrees can give you an edge over the competition without derailing your attention from your career for an extended time. You can earn these undergraduate degrees from a community college or junior college in two years if you study full-time. While many of the entry-level jobs you can get with an associate’s degree are the same jobs you are eligible for with just a high school diploma, having a college education under your belt increases your opportunities for advancement to roles like assistant manager, store manager, sales supervisor and executive assistant. An associate’s degree can be a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree, which can expand your career opportunities even more. Starting out your career with an associate’s degree and work experience, rather than a bachelor’s degree but no experience, can be especially valuable when seeking a job with an employer that heavily values real-world knowledge.

An associate’s degree in business management or business administration is a versatile option that offers great potential for sales workers. Students take classes like Introduction to Business, Principles of Management and Introduction to Project Management. They also complete core business coursework in subjects like accounting, finance, human resources and business analytics.

Marketing is another program of study that fits well into work in sales. With an associate’s degree in marketing, a number of sales and marketing jobs will be open to you, including retail sales manager and market research assistant. The curriculum of an associate’s degree in marketing program may include classes like Introduction to Marketing, Social Media Marketing and Integrated Marketing Communications, along with core business courses.

Tuition at the community colleges and junior colleges that typically award associate’s degrees is often more affordable than that at four-year universities. Students can also complete an associate’s degree online for a more convenient education option.

Bachelor’s Degrees in Business

If you don’t mind investing some more time and effort into your education, earning your bachelor’s degree in business is your best option. Having a bachelor’s degree is unlikely to harm your ability to attain other entry-level business roles and can even boost your income potential in these roles. The degree can also help you move up the ladder into higher-ranking sales roles. In particular, if you would like to work as a securities, commodities and financial services sales agent, you will likely need a bachelor’s degree and may even wish to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree eventually. This occupation includes brokers and investment bankers.

A bachelor’s degree in business administration draws from all areas of business to provide students with a well-rounded education. The curriculum is likely to include studies in business law, the foundations of marketing, organizational and strategic management, business analytics, finance and accounting. The coursework you will find in a bachelor’s degree program in business is more advanced than that of an associate’s degree program.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in business is especially valuable if you want to become a sales manager, a career with a six-figure median salary, according to the BLS. As many as 65 percent of sales managers have a bachelor’s degree, and some have a graduate education.

Specialized Industry Degrees

When you’re asking what degree you need to work in sales, it helps to think about what products or services you want to sell. Sales engineer, the most lucrative non-managerial role in sales, involves the selling of highly technical products and services.

To become a sales engineer, you may need a bachelor’s degree in a subject related to the industry – if not engineering, then chemistry or another relevant field of science, the BLS reported. You may also need specialized knowledge for some roles in the sale of medical or pharmaceutical products. Although your major may not require business coursework, it may be a good idea to pursue a business minor or other sequence of business courses if you want to work in a specialized sales role after graduation.

Sales engineers enjoy a median annual salary of $101,420, according to the BLS.

Additional Resources

What Degree Do Sales Managers Have?

How Advanced Does My Degree in Business Need to Be to Get a Good Job?

What Degree Do I Need to Become a Sales Engineer?