The retail sector employs almost 16 million workers in many different types of positions. The pay isn’t always great, and you’ll need a flexible schedule for many jobs working in retail. However, not all roles require a formal education, and there are opportunities to grow with a company and move up the career ladder.
Automation, like that at those checkout kiosks being placed in many retail stores, has limited growth in many unskilled retail jobs. Online merchandising has also impacted brick-and-mortar operations while opening up opportunities through online outlets.
Types of Retail Job Opportunities
When reviewing job options, it's important to consider positions that are the best fit for your qualifications, interests, and where you're at in your career.
The best job for one person may not be the right fit for someone else.
It depends on your skills and interests and what you want to get out of your work. For example, cashier positions are often low-paying but may allow you to work a flexible schedule around school or other responsibilities. Retail sales associates can earn more, especially when there is an opportunity to get paid a commission, but you’ll need strong interpersonal skills and the ability to close a sale.
Because of the large number of employees in the field and the scope the retail industry covers, there are plenty of opportunities for career advancement. Once you’ve moved up from an entry-level job, there are opportunities for decent-paying department store and district management positions, especially with the larger national chains. You’ll also likely find IT, security, and administrative positions at the major retailers.
For college graduates interested in making retail a career, many leading retailers have management training programs, and they actively recruit students and recent graduates. You’ll find the details in the career section of the company’s website.
20 of the Top Jobs in Retail
Here’s an overview of some of the top retail jobs, including what the job entails, the median earnings, and job outlook when available.
1. Beauty Consultant
Beauty consultants interface with customers at cosmetic counters within retail establishments or beauty salons. Some may work independently. They interview customers to uncover their concerns regarding physical appearance and recommend products that will address any issues.
Beauty consultants apply sample products and demonstrate appropriate uses. PayScale estimates that beauty consultants earn a median hourly wage of $13.05.
Beauty consultants working independently or receiving commissions can make considerably more.
Butchers in retail food markets cut and trim meat and fish, and display and price products for sale. They maintain inventory and process orders. Butchers answer questions from shoppers and recommend merchandise.
The median hourly wage, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2018 was $15.18 and projected growth of 3% through 2028.
Buyers and purchasing agents buy the products sold in retail stores. They are responsible for evaluating vendors, negotiating prices, ordering inventory, and arranging delivery schedules.
One of the perks is getting to attend trade shows to check out what’s new. At large retailers, buyers work out of corporate headquarters. Smaller organizations may have an in-house buyer. The median pay, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May of 2018, was $49,380 per year. The BLS expects employment to decline by 6% through 2028.
A cashier doesn't have the best-paying retail job, but it’s one where there are no formal educational requirements for new hires. You can apply online at most major retailers, and on-the-job training is provided. Opportunities are available at department stores, grocery stores, gas stations, and other retail establishments.
Positions are plentiful, with 3.65 million people employed as cashiers in 2018. Many jobs are part-time, though some employers offer benefits. The median pay for cashiers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May of 2018, was $10.78 per hour. The BLS expects employment to decline by 4% through 2028.
5. Customer Service Representative
There are many different customer service roles in retail. The job could be working at the customer service desk, handling returns and payments, providing product information and pricing to customers, or responding to inquiries about availability and delivery.
The median pay, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May of 2018, was $$12.93 per hour. The BLS expects employment to decline by 2% through 2028.
6. District Manager
District managers supervise operations at a group of stores, usually within a geographic territory. They mentor, train, and evaluate store managers and troubleshoot problems within their region. PayScale reports a median income of $73,901 for retail district managers.
7. First-Line Supervisor
First-line supervisors and department managers are responsible for one section of a retail store. For example, grocery stores have managers for produce, frozen food, meat and seafood, and dairy. This job could be a promotion from a stock or associate position, or the employer could recruit candidates with experience in that department. The BLS estimated the median annual salary for first-line supervisors to be about $39,630 in May 2017.
8. Human Resources Specialist/Training Manager
Human resources specialists are responsible for recruiting, hiring, training, benefits administration, and employee relations. Depending on the retailer, this role could be either a store or a corporate position. The BLS indicates a median annual income of $60,880 in May 2018, with projected growth of 5% through 2028.
9. Information Technology (IT) Coordinator
Retail IT coordinators provide operations and user support for retailers. Responsibilities may include hardware, software, mobile, messaging, and server support. IT coordinators troubleshoot and resolve issues and upgrade and maintain store systems. PayScale indicates a median annual income of $51,463 for IT Coordinators.
10. Loan Officer/Branch Manager
Loan officers at retail banking establishments promote mortgage, auto, and personal loans to customers. They evaluate loan applications, manage staff, and implement bank policies. The BLS indicates a median annual income of $63,040 in May 2018 for loan officers with projected growth of 8% through 2028.
11. Logistics Coordinator
Retail logistics coordinators orchestrate the movement of the right products to the right stores. They keep track of inventory, order stock, allocate merchandise to stores, manage the organization of stock rooms, and ensure timely shipping and delivery to maintain stocked shelves and racks. PayScale estimates that Logistics Coordinators earn a median annual salary of $45,016.
12. Loss Prevention Specialist
Loss prevention specialists are hired to prevent shoplifting. Employees follow the organization’s loss control policies and cash-handling procedures. Responsibilities may include greeting customers, checking bags and tags, and inspecting store alarms and locks. PayScale estimates that loss prevention associates earn a median hourly wage of $13.18.
13. Manager Trainee/Leadership Development Associate
Many retailers have management training programs. Some are designed for college graduates to rotate through different areas of the retail business as an introduction to starting a career with the company. Others are focused on training employees who are being promoted from within. PayScale estimates that management trainees earn a median salary of $43,829.
14. Online Merchandiser
Online merchandisers are responsible for digital merchandising of the products on the company website. They measure customer interest, determine sales strategy, decide on product promotion, and analyze data. Freelancers independently sell or resell products through online sites like eBay. O*Net indicates a median annual income of $70.530 in May 2018, with projected growth of 4-6% through 2028.
The retail preparation and distribution of medicines is a thriving component of the retail landscape, particularly given the aging population. Pharmacists often help to manage drugstores in addition to their role in preparing medications and educating customers. The BLS indicates a median annual income of $126,120 in May 2018 with little or no growth through 2028.
16. Pharmacy Technician
Pharmacy technicians work in drug stores and pharmacies within large retail stores. They receive and process prescriptions. The job involves data entry, printing labels, stocking shelves, and preparing and packaging medications. Strong customer service skills are important for this role. The BLS estimated that the median annual income was $32,700 in May 2018 and projected growth of 7% through 2028.
17. Retail Merchandiser
Merchandise displayers set up and maintain displays, including featured and seasonal products. Some merchandisers work for the store while others work for the product manufacturer. The median hourly pay for merchandisers in May 2018 was $13.68, and O*Net expects growth of 2-3%.
18. Sales Associate
Sales is a high employment occupation, with about 4.7 million retail salespersons employed in the U.S. in 2018. It isn’t a high-paying job when you look at the average hourly rate, but there may be opportunities to earn commissions. Commissions can add up when you’re selling high-ticket items like furniture, appliances, or automobiles.
The BLS estimates that retail sales workers earned an average of $11.70 per hour in 2018. The trend towards higher minimum wages by law in many states is likely to boost the average wage in the coming years. Job growth is expected to be minimal through 2028.
19. Store Manager
The store manager is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the store, including inventory, customer service, productivity, promotions, and profitability. The role may include hiring, scheduling, training, and managing employees. PayScale estimates that the median salary for store managers is about $47,900.
20. Team Leader/Assistant Manager
A retail assistant manager helps the store manager with day-to-day operations. Depending on the size of the store, job responsibilities may include oversight of a specific area of the store or assisting with general management. PayScale estimates that the median hourly wage for a retail assistant manager is about $13.39.