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Information on Master’s Degree Programs in Merchandise Management

Majors Overview June 9, 2015

Those interested in merchandise management careers should look into Master of Science (M.S.) degree programs in Merchandising. These programs focus on consumer behavior, supply chain management, and retail practices. Some schools offer Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) dual degree programs to students.

Master’s Programs in Merchandise Management

The focus of the Master of Science (M.S.) in Merchandising program is on the types of consumer products that are in retail outlets based on consumer behavior, demand, and industry trends. Students gain expertise in assessing consumer feedback, anticipating demand, developing brands and creating promotional strategies. Program graduates can seek employment as purchasing managers, wholesale buyers or purchasing agents. Coursework in a joint MS/MBA program in Merchandising also incorporates general business classes such as marketing and accounting.

Admission criteria for the program typically includes a statement outlining the student’s plans to advance his or her career in merchandising management; incoming students are also required to have prior merchandising experience. Students enrolled in the MS program are usually expected to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, including business courses. These programs are usually available in evening or online formats and require 54 credit hours of study.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a 4-year degree, and incoming students often hold a degree focused in an applied science, business or engineering discipline. Employers for some management positions, especially in manufacturer firms, require candidates to hold a graduate degree. Incoming students should spend a few years learning about their employers’ acquisition, production, and distribution processes.


Coursework in an MS in Merchandising program incorporates field experiences to teach students about managing, placing and promoting products in wholesale or retail settings. The focus of these experiences is also on consumer demand, research, and customer service. Students enrolled in a dual MBA degree program complete coursework in marketing, accounting, information technology, supply chain operations, and financial management. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Global retailing
•Merchandise applications
•Merchandising research
•Electronic purchasing
•Consumer behavior

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2010 – 2020 decade, a job growth rate of 7% has been predicted for purchasing management professionals. Retail and wholesale buyers, excluding those of farm products, are expected to see a 9% growth (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In 2010, manufacturing and wholesale trade firms employed about 46% of these professionals working in the United States. In May 2012, purchasing managers brought in an average annual wage of $100,170. During the same year, merchandise professionals who worked as wholesale or retail buyers earned an average annual wage of $51,470.

Continuing Education Choices

Merchandise management professionals seeking to earn higher wages require continued training and certification. The American Purchasing Society offers Certified Professional Purchasing Manager (CPPM) Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP), and Certified Professional Purchasing Consultant (CPPC) credentials.

Students with CPP certification learn about modes of improving existing logistical practices. Merchandise management and purchasing professionals in supervisory positions are likely to benefit from the certification. Merchandising professionals with CPPC certification can provide educational or consulting services.

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