With more than 2.9 million workers, there are many opportunities to get hired in a grocery store. Grocery stores offer flexible schedules and the opportunity to advance, for employees seeking to grow their careers.
On-the-job training is provided for entry-level positions, and most jobs don’t have formal educational requirements; however, some employers may require a high-school diploma or the equivalent.
Learn more about grocery stores, grocery store careers, wages, and more.
What Is a Grocery Store?
A grocery store is a retail establishment that sells food and other household goods. Grocery stores can be independent or part of corporate chains, and they offer a variety of products and services, including prepared foods and culturally specific ingredients. Supermarkets, which are generally chain stores, often have a wider selection of brand-name products and departments; for example, they may have a floral department or pharmacy.
Whether a grocery store is large or small, or independent or part of a corporate chain, it typically has some common features. For example, most grocery stores have departments including the following:
- Grocery (non-refrigerated foods)
- Frozen foods
- Meat and seafood (sometimes separate departments)
- Deli and prepared foods
- Health, beauty, and wellness
- Front end (checkout and bagging)
Depending on state law, a grocery store or supermarket may also have a beer and wine department.
Jobs in a Grocery Store
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the most common grocery store jobs—cashier and stocker—earn an average hourly wage of around $12 or $13, respectively. Grocery store jobs are low-paying, compared with other industries: The hourly wage for grocery store workers averages $14.68, compared with an average hourly wage of $25.72 for all sectors.
If your experience with grocery stores is limited to buying food, you’re already familiar with the front-end jobs of cashier and bagger. You may also have spoken to a customer service representative or noticed stockers replenishing shelves. Behind those immediately visible roles, there are also workers in management, support, human resources, receiving, and IT.
Cashiers are the backbone of any retail establishment, including grocery stores. These workers scan merchandise and process payment. They take coupons, make change, provide receipts, and perform a host of related tasks. They may also perform other customer service tasks like answering questions about merchandise and helping customers sign up for loyalty card programs. Cashiers also open and close cash drawers at the start and end of their shifts.
According to the BLS, 865,150 cashiers worked at grocery stores in 2019.
Skills Needed: Cashiers need top-notch customer service skills, including product knowledge, communication skills, and listening skills. They also need job-specific skills like accounting and money skills, including the ability to make change for cash payments.
Pay: Cashiers in grocery stores earn an average hourly wage of $12.01, according to the BLS.
Stockers refill grocery store shelves, moving products from storage to their appropriate placement in the store. These workers answer customer questions about merchandise, adjust products on shelves so that they’re front-facing and visible, and price items. Stockers typically must be able to lift heavy items and stand for long periods of time.
According to the BLS, 543,790 stockers worked at grocery stores in 2019.
Skills Needed: In addition to being physically strong, stockers must have excellent attention to detail as well as strong customer service skills.
Pay: Stockers and order fillers earn an average hourly wage of $13.33, according to the BLS.
Baggers load merchandise into grocery bags. They may also take bagged groceries out to the parking lot and load them into customers’ cars. Like most front-end jobs in a grocery store, baggers may be called upon to answer questions about products.
According to the BLS, 116,420 baggers (also known as “hand packers" and "packagers”) worked in grocery stores in 2019.
Skills Needed: In addition to developing a knack for packing a grocery bag so that food doesn’t get squashed, baggers need excellent customer service skills.
Pay: Hand packers and packagers earn an average hourly wage of $11.41, according to the BLS.
4. Manager/Assistant Manager
While each grocery store has its own organizational chart, most have a store manager, an assistant manager, and department and assistant managers for each section of the store.
Management jobs in grocery stores pay much more than cashier, bagger, and stocker jobs, but pay varies widely depending on the role. Managerial roles also typically have higher educational requirements than those of other grocery store workers. Although it is still possible to start with a high-school diploma or GED, some employers require a two- or four-year college degree in business or a related field.
According to the BLS, 155,030 first-line supervisors and retail sales workers and 39,670 general and operations managers worked in grocery stores in 2019.
Skills Needed: In addition to customer service skills, managers and assistant managers must have retail management skills, including product selection, vendor management, and inventory control.
Pay: The BLS reports that general and operations managers earn an average hourly wage of $39.17, while supervisors earn an average hourly wage of $21.89.
5. Customer Service Representative
Customer service representatives at grocery stores assist shoppers with questions, sell products that aren’t available in the aisles (for example, baby formula), and address customer complaints. Depending on the store, customer service reps may occasionally work as cashiers, baggers, or stockers, if needed.
According to the BLS, 102,020 customer service representatives worked at grocery stores in 2019.
Pay: Grocery store customer service representatives in 2019 earned an average hourly wage of $13.16, according to the BLS.
6. Food Preparation Worker
Food preparation workers help prepare and package foods in various departments, including the deli section. These workers sanitize food prep surfaces, cut meat and cheese, mix ingredients, and package prepared foods.
According to the BLS, 189,980 food preparation workers were employed at grocery stores in 2019.
Skills Needed: Food preparation workers need strength, speed, and skill, as well as the ability to communicate with the public and handle a high volume of requests.
Pay: Grocery store food preparation workers earn an average hourly wage of $12.72, according to the BLS.
Butchers cut, trim, and package meat and poultry. Typically, butchers will prepare standard cuts of meat for purchase and provide services to order for customers with special requests. Most butchers learn their trade on the job, but it can take more than a year to become skilled.
According to the BLS, 107,960 butchers worked at grocery stores in 2019.
Skills Needed: Physical strength and excellent customer service skills.
Pay: Butchers earn an average hourly wage of $15.82, according to the BLS.
Like other retail businesses, grocery stores will have a variety of other jobs, including HR, marketing, maintenance, and facilities. Large chains will also have C-level executives like a chief executive officer or president.
Grocery Stores and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the grocery business was already booming. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that grocery store sales reached $665.1 billion in 2018; in 2020, sales reached $759.57 billion.
While the pandemic has continued to have an adverse effect on many businesses, grocery stores have endured as essential services. Still, despite significant sales growth and their importance in fulfilling customer needs, certain issues remain prominent, particularly in regard to hazard pay.
Although many retailers instituted hazard pay during the initial stages of the pandemic, those pay raises—typically no more than a few dollars an hour—were mostly temporary. Some workers have united, and campaigns have been launched in support of reinstituting hazard pay.
Challenges Grocery Stores and Workers Face
Grocery store workers have challenging jobs—with or without a pandemic. Some of the issues they face include:
Hard Work for Low Pay
Grocery store jobs can be low-paying and physically demanding. Often, the lower-paying roles offer little to no paid time off, and health insurance options may be expensive and less comprehensive than benefits available to higher-paying roles in other fields.
Retail jobs of all kinds come with scheduling difficulties, including difficulty landing full-time hours, unpredictable schedules, and the expectation of working nights, weekends, and holidays.
In a recent survey from employee training firm Axonify, one-third of grocery store workers said that their employer had not taken sufficient steps to ensure their safety at work during the pandemic. Meanwhile, only 61% said that they felt supported by their manager during the crisis.