What Is the Best Degree Path to Becoming a Sales Representative?

If you have an aptitude for science but the interpersonal skills of a natural salesperson, you can turn a sales representative job into a high-paying career. Sales positions in the wholesale and manufacturing industries – and particularly those in that require selling scientific or technical equipment –pay well, offer opportunities for advancement and even be personally fulfilling roles. To land a sales job in wholesale, manufacturing or science and technical services, you should pursue a formal college education.

Sales in the Wholesale and Manufacturing Industries

In the wholesale and manufacturing industry, sales representatives are involved in the sales process from start to finish. They identify potential customers and initiate contact. They point out product features and benefits to encourage leads buy. Sales representatives negotiate the terms of the sale and prepare sales contracts between the customer and the company.

Why You Need a Degree for a Sales Job

Not all sales reps need a college degree to find work. Many sales positions in various industries are available to candidates who have only a high school degree. However, these jobs don’t have the serious earning potential that more lucrative sales roles in technical, science and wholesale and manufacturing have. Cashiers and retail sales workers, for example, often earn salaries below the national median wage for all occupations.

If you want to earn salaries well above the median, then you will need to find work in the right industry. Industries that pay sales representatives the most include computer systems design and footwear manufacturing, according to U.S. News & World Report. Other sales roles that require higher qualifications – in exchange for a higher pay rate – include industrial equipment, medical instruments and pharmaceuticals, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.

Sales representative need to be able to understand the merchandise they sell, so candidates interested in selling technical or scientific merchandise should earn a degree in a relevant field. Depending on which area interests you, this might mean earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering, biology or chemistry. Courses that help you improve your sales skills and techniques, like those in business, marketing, communication and economics are also beneficial. After completing a college degree program, you should expect to spend some time – often, a year or more – in your employer’s formal training program.

Sales representatives in the wholesale and manufacturing industries earn a median salary of $54,230 per year, the BLS reported. When the wages of sales representatives in science and technology are included, the median annual pay jumps up to $74,970. Earning structure varies from one company to another, but generally, sales representatives can earn money through salary or hourly wages, commission and bonuses. With experience, ambitious sales reps that make the extra effort to set themselves apart can advance into high-level sales manager jobs, where the median annual salary is six-figures. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked sales representative 15th on its list of the best business jobs and 61st on its 100 Best Jobs list.

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