For most young adults, a job as a sales associate is a great place to start developing soft skills that will benefit them throughout their future careers, regardless of what field they choose to enter. However, a career as a sales associate has the potential to be lucrative for older adults as well, depending on the industry. Within industries that account for commissions, a talented sales associate may see a salary thousands of dollars greater than industries without commission-based salaries.
Excellent Customer Service
Sales associates are responsible for nearly every factor of a customer’s experience while shopping at a store. At many stores, sales associates assist with setting up displays of items for sale, providing excellent customer service, handling money and working with intricate computer point of sales systems, and much more. By learning each of these tasks and working diligently, a sales associate becomes more valuable to a company and therefore may be rewarded with raises or promotions.
Given the tasks that sales associates perform, most training for this position is completed on the job. For most sales positions, a high school diploma is enough education to advance within a store because these are skills that many people are able to pick up as needed, particularly if they are motivated.
Trainings or Management Seminars
If sales associates are looking to advance quickly, they may want to be proactive and undertake trainings that will make them more competitive in their field, such as safety trainings or management seminars.
There are many factors that can affect the salary of a sales associate. The length of time you work within the industry has some effect on salary, but the skills you attain and the career track you decide on will sway the average pay too. Finally, a major influence on the pay of a sales associate is location. Many states in the United States have differing minimum wages. Location will not only influence your starting pay, but it will also impact your long-term wages in the field.
Average Associate Salary
For sales associates, pay can range from the lowest minimum wage, $7.25 per hour, to a competitive rate for the highest minimum wage in the United States, $15 per hour. With these variations, the average pay is typically $9.75 per hour, though the median wage is $9.91 per hour.
As discussed above, there are a variety of factors that affect the actual salary for a sales associate. However, there are steps people in this industry can take to positively influence salary growth for themselves, including developing specific skills and maintaining an excellent record of employment within the company.
Associate Salary Factors and Influences
Like other professions, sales associates can expect their salaries to vary greatly depending on a wide array of factors. In fact, so many factors affect this position that the annual take-home pay of this job ranges from $16,767 - $46,974. The national average for annual take-home pay is roughly $22,000.
If someone employed in this field also makes tips, in addition to their hourly wage, they can expect to take home extra money from $0.09 to $4.93 per hour. In the case of overtime pay, the standard addition is one-and-a-half times the standard hourly wage, ranging from $8.92 to $24.07 per hour.
Yet other factors may affect the average wages for sales associates even more. An annual bonus could add up to $15,000 to a sales associate salary, while commission-based pay can help a sales person make up to $30,000 more per year. One more factor that could lead to extra pay is profit sharing by the company, which may lead to an additional $100 or an extra $6,000.
Salary Compared to Other Fields
There are a few fields of work that are similar to that of a sales associate. These positions tend to make slightly more than a sales job due to the additional responsibilities that these employees must take on to complete their every day tasks. Take a look at some of these other roles.
The Average Salary:
- Administrative Assistant: $38,756
- Customer Service Representative: $36,535
- Retail Store Assistant Manager: $42,789
For each of these three positions, serving a few years as a sales associate will benefit a job seeker. An employee will learn many of the skills necessary for these other roles, such as interpersonal communications, leadership skills, and operations management, along with several others.
For many people who have a job in the retail field, starting as a sales associate is very typical. Many retail stores hire from within for jobs like Assistant Store Manager or even for corporate positions within a larger retail chain. Plus, this is a great position to be able to fall back on if someone ever needs. When you already have the experience necessary to perform these tasks, you will be an excellent hire for almost any company.
Salary By State
The national average sales associate salary hovers around $22,000 per year. One of the main differences among the sales associate salary is location. Depending on where someone lives, they could be making a drastically different wage in the same role, simply due to a different minimum wage.
- national salary: $22,000
- Washington: $33,270, average hourly wage $16.00
- Georgia: $24,560, average hourly wage $11.81
- Minnesota: $27,710, average hourly wage $13.32
As you can see, the difference in average hourly wage corresponds unsurprisingly to average salary. Making over four dollars more per hour results in almost $9,000 more annually for the average retail sales associate salary.
Skills That Increase Salaries for Sales Associates
There are many skills that will increase the salary for sales associates, but some have a greater effect than others. While knowing computer programs such as Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Office will give you a moderate boost in salary (2-8%), other skills bring much more lucrative salary boosts.
Learning a skill like account sales or field sales has the greatest impact on salary based on skills. These two skills increase sales associate salaries by 47% and 49%, respectively. Other skills that have a positive impact on this salary, raising wages above the national average, include customer relationship management, sales management, and inside sales.
There are some skills in this field, however, that do not provide a steady boost in wages. You may want to leave skills like customer relations or customer service off your resume because those skills do not seem to increase the salary of sales associates above the national average of $22,000.
History of the Sales Career
Sales have been part of the human economy for centuries, dating back to merchants in guilds since at least the Middle Ages. It is no surprise that sales roles have changed drastically since then, but they have even changed a lot in just the last century.
As department stores became important to our economies, sales roles became less about working one general store and more about serving customers within a set niche of products. Before there was Macy’s, there were small, independent stores with smaller workforces.
Different Roles of a Sales Associate
Nowadays, a sales role may seem to change even more quickly. These roles are no longer viewed as necessary to all sales – instead, sales associates have different roles within stores, changing even in the last decade. As digital facets of shopping have grown, we see more tech in stores from the computer-based point of sale systems to handheld tools that help associates with sorting out stock. There are even apps that store employees can use to help customers find their exact size, maybe at another of that brand’s store.
Outlook for Sales Careers
While many people tend to believe that digital stores will triumph over traditional, physical stores – meaning sales associates will be out of work and unnecessary – that is likely untrue. Many customers still prefer to go into stores and interact with someone to find the perfect fit of a suit or the right technology to suit their needs.
It is much more likely that as shopping evolves, this role will as well. Stores will begin to find it necessary for associates to carry mobile devices that help employees assist customers in the most convenient and efficient manner possible. This will include immediate access to available stock in store, the ability to order an unavailable item for a customer right away, and more efficient customer-centric activities.
Personal Touch for In-store Interactions
No technology will ever be able to replace the effect that a personal touch can have on in-store interactions. Now, more than ever, retail store managers are recognizing the necessity of their associates while customers are shopping because there are some actions, like providing fit opinions or helping customers find items, that no computer could ever do the same as a person.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for retail sales associates is relatively good. The occupation is expected to experience 2% growth over the next ten years. While this is slower than average growth, it does not indicate that the career of sales associate is going anywhere soon.