Do You Need a Sales Degree to Be Successful? It Depends…

Sakshi GuptaSakshi Gupta | 8 minute read | May 27, 2022
do you need a sales degree

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Want a job with virtually unlimited earning potential? With a career in sales, you can make that dream a reality. 

Traditionally, sales has been one of the highest paying jobs that doesn’t require a college degree. But in recent years, a college degree has become a requisite for many sales jobs, and some universities have begun offering sales degrees to accommodate this shift. So you may be wondering: Do you really need a sales degree to work in sales? Our answer is: It depends. Keep reading to find out more. 

Do You Need a Sales Degree To Be Successful?

While many sales job listings don’t require a sales degree, these roles aren’t necessarily the most lucrative. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 13 million sales positions in this country, but these roles offer a range of possibilities when it comes to salary. Some of these sales roles, for example, are in retail. Many sales roles with the highest earning potential do require a degree in either sales or the industry at hand.

Do Sales Jobs Even Require a Degree?

A natural sales representative can be successful in sales regardless of their education. However, many hiring managers looking to fill the most lucrative roles will filter out candidates without a degree. 

Sales Jobs That Usually Require a Degree

For many sales positions, potential employers still require a sales degree or a degree in a related field. Some of these include: 

  • SaaS sales: Software as a service (SaaS) is the sales of web-based software applications. Usually, software salespeople don’t just sell a single piece of software. SaaS salespeople also need to upsell their current customers. So having a sales degree will give you the tools to keep on giving excellent customer service. Or, you could choose to get a degree in a software coding direction. This will allow you to better understand the product that you are selling.
  • Tech sales: Tech sales is the selling of tech hardware, software, or tech services. This is another sales job where a degree is often required. While you don’t need to know how to code to work in tech sales, qualified candidates need to be technically inclined. A sales degree will allow you the knowledge and skills to work with people and to market your products correctly. If you do have a degree in computer programming it could also give you an edge, since you will understand the product better. And if you don’t have a degree, a tech sales bootcamp is a great way to get your foot in the door. 
  • Financial sales: If you choose to work in financial sales, you’ll be responsible for helping clients select financial products and services. This can include, but is not limited to, banking services, investment services, and insurance. Whatever service you’re selling, your job is to help your clients use their money to further their financial goals. For a career in financial sales, you will need some knowledge of the financial industry. If you don’t have a sales degree, most companies will require you to have an education in finance or business. 
  • Sales engineer: A sales engineer is a hybrid position, combining the skills of a salesperson and an engineer. These salespeople need technical skills to sell their products, and to explain what makes these products beneficial. To become a sales engineer, you will typically need a bachelor’s degree or higher in an engineering field or a related field. 

Sales Jobs That Might Not Require a Degree

If a degree isn’t feasible, and you want a career in sales, check out some of these career opportunities:

  • Retail sales: Retail sales departments are great places to build a sales career without a degree. Even students and teenagers can start their sales careers here. Since there’s a wide range of retail opportunities, pick one that suits your interests. If you want to stay in retail sales long-term, make sure that you specialize in big-ticket items, like jewelry. These sales are often commission-based and can be quite lucrative.  
  • Car sales: For car sales, you will most likely need to have a high school diploma. Some dealerships will also require a bachelor’s degree in a field such as marketing. But generally, you can start your automotive sales career without any further studies. Many dealerships will provide training programs for their new hires and they will teach you everything that you will need to know about car sales and company details you will need. Having a background in other retail positions will help you land your first position in car sales.
  • Real estate: Real estate sales can include commercial and residential properties. While you don’t need a degree to work in real estate, you will need a real estate license.  But you do need to be knowledgeable about the area that you are working in, and you’ll also need the personal skills to connect customers with the right property.
  • Sales development representative (SDR): An SDR is an entry-level role, and is responsible for outbound prospecting. This entails finding new clients and introducing these clients to your company and their services. While it isn’t an easy job, this is the perfect place to start for those wanting a career in sales.  

The Best Degrees for a Job in Sales

sales degree: The Best Degrees for a Job in Sales

If getting a degree is feasible, and you want to work in sales, then you should ask yourself which degree will be best for your career path. Let’s look at each option and see how they can be beneficial for a career in sales. 

Sales and Marketing

If you want to become a salesperson, and you want to work in sales’ most lucrative fields, a marketing or sales degree is one of the best options. 

A degree in sales will teach you many different tactics for sales, and will also teach you interpersonal strategies that can help you close sales. This degree will also teach you how to approach cold leads and develop new ones. 

Marketing degrees tend to offer a broader education. These degrees will give you a bit of knowledge in creating strong advertisements, communications, public relations, research, and a lot more. And most of those skills directly translate into becoming a successful salesperson. 

Marketing degrees will also teach business principles, including some accounting, finance, and management. With a degree in marketing, you’ll be ready for a career in sales—either working for a company or building your own. 

Finance 

A degree in finance can also help you land a job in sales. Finance majors learn basic economics, entrepreneurship, and some accounting, all of which is transferable to a career in sales. And for obvious reasons, a finance degree is particularly useful if you want to work in financial sales, because knowing the ins and outs of financial products will help you sell these products to potential clients.  

Communications 

Sales is all about connecting with your customers, and so a communications degree—where you’ll learn about mass media, technical communications, advertising, and other ways of communicating—is a great foundation for a career in sales. With this knowledge base, you’ll be great at communicating the ins and outs of your product, which will help customers quickly discern whether or not your product is right for them. 

Business 

A large part of sales is convincing prospective clients to get into business with your company, not just selling them a single product. So a business degree is a great way to help you understand the ins and outs of your own company, so that you can help your clients better understand the value proposition you’re offering. 

A business degree teaches you the basics of accounting, finance, IT, and human resources. In other words, a business degree will teach you everything you need to know to become a successful salesperson. 

Psychology 

By studying psychology, you will learn the science of human behavior and mental processes, and why people act the way they do. You’ll learn about many different subsets of psychology, such as social skills, cognitive behavior, personality type, which would help you understand your clients better, and developmental behavior.

Understanding the psychology of prospective clients is crucial to making sales, so it makes sense that a degree in psychology would be a great way to launch a sales career.  

How To Stand Out if You Don’t Have a Sales Degree

sales degree: How To Stand Out if You Don’t Have a Sales Degree

If a degree isn’t feasible, but you still want to have a career in sales, you’ll need to stand out from the competition. Here’s how to distinguish yourself.

Take a Course

If you don’t have the time or money for a degree, online or in-person courses are a great alternative. They’re shorter, cheaper, and teach many of the same skills that colleges and universities do. Many different courses are faster and less expensive than pursuing a degree in sales. Taking a course is a good middle ground between having no educational background in sales and having a degree. 

A software engineer bootcamp will allow you to learn online while getting the knowledge that you will need for tech sales or even software sales. For some companies, this might even be enough to become a sales engineer. Here you will learn developer fundamentals, many different applications, and a whole lot more. 

You could also take a digital marketing course where you will learn skills that will allow you to become a better salesperson. What you also learn can how to better market the products that you want to sell.

Having a course behind your name will give your sales resume a boost and help you stand out among the rest when you are applying for different positions. Also, it can help you to find better options than when you have no further education. Even if you decide to switch careers later in life these courses will open your world to many different options.

Build Up Your Experience 

If pursuing a degree isn’t feasible, then start working in sales in any job you can find. Working in retail at a young age is a great foundation for a long-term sales career, even if you eventually pursue a degree.  

Network 

All salespeople need a strong client base because a salesperson is nothing without their clients. 

Networking is a great way to build this client base, and this kind of networking can translate into an entry-level position. And once you’re further into your sales career, having that network of clients will help you command a higher salary and move into more senior positions. 

Grow Your Subject Matter Expertise 

Knowing your product is crucial to selling it. So if you’re looking to work in sales in a particular industry, then you need to be well informed about that sector. Your knowledge of your industry and your product will impress both hiring managers and prospective clients.  

Find a Mentor 

A mentor can be just as valuable as any degree. Mentors can introduce you to their networks and can offer advice when you’re making tough decisions. Plus, they can offer tips on landing sales. 

Sales Degree FAQs

Here are some questions you might be asking yourself if you’re considering a sales degree.

Is a Sales Degree Worth It?

Yes. They allow you to demand a higher salary range and pursue a career in many different sales careers. 

How Much Does a Degree in Sales Cost?

It can range from $35,000 up to $115,000. 

Can I Be Successful in Sales Without a Degree?

Yes, you can. But despite that, many roles still require a degree.

Since you’re here…
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Sakshi Gupta

About Sakshi Gupta

Sakshi is a Senior Associate Editor at Springboard. She is a technology enthusiast who loves to read and write about emerging tech. She is a content marketer and has experience working in the Indian and US markets.