Psychology Major as Preparation for Sales Careers

psychology and sales

If you find yourself working in a standard retail position after earning a psychology degree, you may hope it’s temporary, a step up to a higher position. In most cases, you don’t need a college degree for this type of position. Sales, though, is a much broader field; there are positions that require both savvy and content area knowledge. Many sales positions require four year degrees. This is true not only of sales manager positions but of many sales representative ones. This includes some wholesale, services, and commission-based items.

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Sales Representative Positions

Wholesale: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the high school diploma represents the entry-level for non-technical wholesale positions, but that the bachelor’s degree represented the entry-level for technical ones.

In many cases, it is the “hard sciences” where specialized knowledge is sought. However, it’s not all about computer parts and aeronautics. Peruse nationally advertised sales positions, and you’ll see that companies seek professionals with expertise in many disciplines, from education to publishing.

Psychology has its own set of tools, and these can reach beyond texts. A sales representative can represent eye tracking software, for example.

Some big companies ask for degreed applicants, even when the product itself doesn’t seem techie. Does the company proclaiming itself the largest manufacturer of foam cups advertise for sales reps with degrees? They have been known to do just that! Just having a degree can be a signal that a professional can learn complex product features, answer questions, and put on presentations.

Services: There are also plenty of sales reps representing services. Some pertain directly or indirectly to physical, rehabilitative, or mental health needs. Professionals are hired to represent everything from substance abuse treatment to facilities for the aging. Companies may seek candidates with varying levels of experience in the healing arts. In some cases, this even means having a clinically focused degree; there are positions where a substance abuse certification, for example, could prove helpful. Some professionals simultaneously make presentations, answer questions, and do a little intake (

Commission-Based Sales: The Bureau of Labor Statistics places the required education for real estate below the bachelor’s level but notes that some positions do require a degree. Expensive items – like homes – are often commission-based. Higher education can help, even when it’s not mandatory. To sell luxury homes, you need to understand not only the real needs but the self-concept of the target market. There is some research involved. The College Majors Handbook placed securities, real estate, and related sales within the top 10 occupations for psychology majors who stopped after the bachelor’s degree (

Sales Management Positions

Sales management positions often favor those who have both sales rep experience and a college degree; managers can also enter through other sales positions or through purchasing roles (

Sales managers benefit from coursework in a variety of areas, including management, law, economics, and statistics; higher level positions sometimes favor candidates with master’s degrees. The BLS reports that academic requirements tend to be less strict for the professional with sales rep experience.

Putting Psychology Skills to Work

So what can you potentially get from a degree in psychology? Skills in understanding statistics and analyzing data. Knowledge of decision making processes. Knowledge of diverse populations. Coursework in ethics.

Psychology majors sometimes have the opportunity to take coursework in organizational psychology or even specialize in industrial/ organizational (i/o) psychology. I/o courses can give you some business skills at the undergraduate level and also prepare you for further study.

While retail may not your lifelong goal, you may well want to begin there. Wagner College suggests taking a summer job in retail… or taking on leadership roles with campus organizations (