Why a Degree in Sales Can Lead to Long Term Success

Companies across the country are looking for motivated, passionate and enthusiastic salespeople who can build customer relationships, understand industry insights and drive business growth.

Sales positions such as inside sales, IT sales consultant, retail associate and guest experience specialist can be found within multiple industries and listed on several job sites, including CareerBuilder, Indeed and Monster. As of June 2017, posted nearly half a million sales associate openings nationwide.

A college degree is typically not required to land an entry-level sales position, especially in the retail sector. However, earning a bachelor’s degree can help you remain competitive within higher paying industries and prepare you for long-term success in a leadership role. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, anyone pursuing a career in software, pharmaceutical or medical device sales typically needs at least a bachelor’s degree.

When New England College graduate Justin Wheeler of Reno, Nev., started selling medical devices 13 years ago, he didn’t need a degree. Back then, the decision to drop out of college seemed right; he was 20 years old and making good money. As Wheeler moved up in the industry, he learned the lack of a degree was holding him back, despite his years of experience.

“I was being asked to apply for sales management positions, but was ultimately overlooked because other applicants had a degree.” he said.

So he decided to go back to school and earn his bachelor’s degree online through New England College. Six months before graduating with his BA in Business Administration, Wheeler was named sales director. He now manages 40 representatives across Northern California and Northern Nevada.

Read More: How to Build an Effective Sales Team

It is common to find sales reps in the medical device/equipment, pharmaceutical, diagnostic imaging, health IT and biotechnology sectors with four-year degrees. A 2017 salary report from found that 96% of respondents had a four-year degree or higher. The average annual compensation was recorded at $147,424, with the average base salary at $95,791 and an average bonus of $53,405.

Similarly, top software sales consultants earn a base salary between $80,000 and $100,000, with commissions anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million, according to According to former software sales recruiter Rob Paone, a successful salesperson in this industry can progress rapidly, as long as they have a bachelor’s degree to start. In his blog, Paone explains that a new sales rep can earn somewhere around $50,000 base pay with a $50,000 commission plan within the first year alone.

Opportunities exist and companies across industries need sales representatives to increase profit margins, launch new products and help businesses grow. While you may find positions only requiring a high school diploma, the decision to earn a degree may set you up for success in the future. A candidate’s educational qualifications, work experience and regional market conditions can affect job opportunities and salary potential.

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