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Master’s Degree Programs in Merchandising Overview

Majors Overview June 13, 2015

This article talks about master’s degree programs in merchandising and their educational requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Master’s Programs in Merchandising

Students typically have to complete 30-36 credits in merchandising master’s degree programs that are available in both on-campus and online formats. Students enrolled in these graduate programs learn about textile preservation and development, fashion, purchasing and apparel retail. While students learn about purchasing on a wholesale level, coursework also includes an in-depth study of supply and demand procedures, consumer buying habits, consumer behavior, and promotion of goods.

Schools also offer master’s degree programs in merchandising with different concentrations. For example, the focus of fashion merchandising programs is on international apparel, evaluation of textiles, forecasting fashion trends, and the history of fashion and accessories.

Educational Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree and submit a resume, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test scores, and letters of recommendation. Some schools require an essay stating the student’s desire to further his or her education in merchandising. Students with bachelor’s degrees in non-related fields could be required to complete some prerequisite courses before they are allowed to begin with core coursework.


Coursework includes consumer behavior, purchasing, and trends. Non-thesis and thesis options are often available. Core coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Retailing domestically and globally
•Product assessment and creation
•History of merchandising
•International merchandising
•Promotional methods
•Merchandising tactics
•Supply and demand strategies
•Trend forecasting
•Cultural matters relating to merchandising
•Psychology of consumer behaviors

Career Choices

Program graduates may seek occupations in visual merchandising or purchasing, in addition to fashion communications and retail management. They may choose from possible job options such as:

•Product development specialist
•Apparel consultant
•Visual merchandiser
•Retail buyer
•Wholesale sales manager
•Retail manager
•Fashion publicist

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2010 – 2020 decade, a slower-than-average growth rate of 7% has been predicted for purchasing management, buyer and purchasing agent jobs (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2012, wholesale and retail buyers brought in an average annual wage of $57,420, while purchasing managers earned $106,200, on average per annum (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

There are organizations that offer professional certificates in merchandising for graduates who seek additional education in specific areas such as development and design implementation, retail issues and practices, merchandising promotion techniques, and consumer decision-making processes. Schools also offer doctoral degree programs with concentrations in merchandising with an emphasis on areas of study in research and statistics within the field. These programs could lead to careers at the college-level or in consumer behavior research.

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