Online Merchandising Master's Degree and Graduate Certificate

Program Summary
Cost per credit hour:

2020-2021: $590

Average time to complete:
Master's degree: 28 months
Graduate certificate: 12 months

36 Hours


12 Hours

A storefront where jeans are displayed with a sale sign in the window.  A person wearing jeans is walking into the front door of the store.

Great Plains IDEA offers an online Master's degree and a graduate certificate in Merchandising. These unique graduate programs equip you with the skills to deliver the right product or service to the consumer in the right place, in the right quantities, and at the right time. 

Students will analyze and evaluate the triple bottom line (economic, social, environmental) impact of sustainable merchandising industry activities and processes. Taken entirely online, these Merchandising graduate programs are flexibly structured to fit the needs of working professionals.

Why study Merchandising through Great Plains IDEA?

The Merchandising curriculum provides in-demand skills to advance your career in the apparel or retail industry and is an excellent fit for creatively analytical thinkers. In particular, our technology-rich program expands your ability to improve business strategies through profit maximization, cost-cutting, customer satisfaction, and selling approaches measured through the triple bottom line.

The programs build your ability to complete the following essential merchandising-related job responsibilities:

  • Analyze data using a variety of techniques
  • Research and implement effective business strategies
  • Design customer-focused product development strategies
  • Create flexible promotional campaigns
  • Balance the sustainable interests of businesses, consumers, and society
  • Predict micro and mass-market cost controls
  • Navigate trade regulations and recognize cultural concerns
  • Understand the evolving standards of corporate social responsibility

Learn more about how our graduates earn the skills necessary for their employers and businesses in the soft goods industry to be successful in the video below.

Merchandising Graduate Program Formats

Catering to the unique needs of students, Great Plains IDEA offers a master's degree and a graduate certificate program in merchandising. This allows students the flexibility to select the program format that best fits their academic and professional goals.

Please note that degree and certificate titles vary by university. Consult with your selected home university for the title as it will appear on the diploma or certificate. This degree program does not lead to licensure. Review the official master's degree names at our member institutions in our Merchandising Student Handbook.

Master's Degree

The online Merchandising master's degree has a 36-credit hour curriculum consisting of ten (10) 3-credit core courses that build expertise in sustainability, retail theory, product design and development, consumer behavior, and financial merchandising implications.

Students round out their merchandising degree by completing six credit hours of practicum, thesis, or elective credits that allows them to specialize in an area of interest and dive deeper into practical learning. Students work closely with their academic advisor to develop a course sequence that meets academic and professional needs. 

Review the Master's Degree Curriculum

Graduate Certificate - Merchandising

The ideal fit for someone not ready to pursue a full master's degree, the 12-credit online Merchandising graduate certificate features three required courses and one elective course. Courses include consumer behavior, professional advancement, retail theory and current practices, promotional strategies, and product design and development. The certificate supports the acquisition of skills that can accent a professional career in retail and merchandising.

Review the Merchandising Graduate Certificate Curriculum

Merchandising Program Outcomes

Today's socially conscious customers rely on real-time reviews and social feedback of products and services to make their purchasing decisions, and the power they hold is instrumental in an organization's success. The programs at Great Plains IDEA prepares you to navigate the retail industry, understand the far-reaching impact of consumers, and develop corporate social responsibility initiatives in the following functions:

  • Buying and merchandising
  • Market research and entrepreneurial initiatives
  • Product development
  • Retail and sales leadership
  • Promotions and social media marketing
  • Sourcing and supply chain management

As a result of this comprehensive preparation, Great Plains IDEA alumni credit the degree and certificate programs as a reason for promotions and salary increases. Furthermore, the Merchandising master's degree graduates have made major career advancement in prominent professional roles such as:

  • Fashion Buyer
  • Retail Sales Manager
  • Market Forecaster
  • Advertising or Marketing Manager
  • Wholesale Sales Manager
  • Supply Chain Manager
  • Market Research Analyst
  • Purchasing Agent

In addition to gaining knowledge about the industry, you will create relationships with other students who work all over the world in various aspects of retail. Listen as Kelsey Bruner, a graduate of the merchandising master's degree program, explains how the perspectives and experiences of other students create a unique learning environment.

Affordable, Flexible, and Effective

Great Plains IDEA is dedicated to providing an affordable online education, offering a common price per credit hour at all universities regardless of degree program or course and whether in or out of state. Learn more about Great Plains IDEA on our How It Works page.

Both the master's degree and graduate certificate programs in Merchandising are offered entirely online, fitting conveniently within the need to balance home, work, and academic responsibilities, especially for those unable to make it to a campus. The average time to completion for the master's degree is 28 months and 12 months for the graduate certificate.

In the Merchandising program, five universities work together to bring an innovative, top-notch academic experience, allowing you to get the best from our member universities. Faculty collaborate across universities, blending their range of perspectives and expertise to provide students with a unique experience not able to be offered at a single institution. 

"One of my favorite things about Great Plains IDEA is that faculty from across many universities get to work together, bounce ideas off one another, and make sure the curriculum is the absolute highest quality.  We have so many diverse perspectives among faculty, providing us multiple ways to teach information most effectively.  We are a close-knit family in the merchandising program."Linda Manikowske, associate professor at North Dakota State University

Experienced Faculty Dedicated to Student Success

Faculty in the Merchandising graduate programs have extensive experience in the industry, providing you with direct access to some of the leading minds in their field. Their experience helps you put theory into practice, developing your real-world skill set to excel in your career. They are dedicated to your success as mentors and lead an engaging online academic experience that maximizes retention and promotes success. Get to know more bout the Merchandising faculty members at the bottom of the page.

Hear from instructor Greg Clare about how Great Plains IDEA merchandising faculty interact with retailers to understand the future of the industry and prepare graduates to be leaders in their field.

Degree Accreditation

All Great Plains IDEA member universities are accredited by regional agencies, aligning with requirements set by the U.S. Department fo Education. This ensures that students pursuing their degrees through Great Plains IDEA are met with a high standard of academic excellence, which is essential in sitting for certification exams and pursuing future employment.

The following member universities offer the master's degree in merchandising and hold regional accreditation:


Learn more about accreditation of our member universities.

Launch an Exciting Career in Retail and Merchandising through Great Plains IDEA

Great Plains IDEA's online Merchandising master's degree and graduate certificate programs provide you with the advanced knowledge to excel in the modern competitive retail, apparel, and merchandising industries.

Ready to launch your merchandising career? Learn how to get started!

The online master's degree program is 36-credit hours and consists of 10 (ten) 3-credit core courses plus six credit hours of practicum, thesis, or elective credits.

Course List for the Master's Degree

The online graduate certificate program is 12-credit hours and features three required courses and one elective course.

Course List for the Graduate Certificate

University Contact
These campus coordinators can help you navigate Great Plains IDEA. Click on the university name to learn more about how Great Plains IDEA works at that campus. Rachel Ohmes
Melissa Selders-Ortez
Karla Sisco
Aimee Maher
Melisia Bieber
University Members
Members of the Great Plains IDEA are universities accredited by a regional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Member universities recruit, admit and graduate students, teach in an academic program and contribute to the leadership and maintenance of the alliance. Membership in the alliance is a selective process that engages institutional leadership at all levels.

Kathryn Holt headshotThe Great Plains IDEA program was a perfect fit for my schedule as it allowed me to work, travel, and learn on the go. The nature of the program fosters a flexible learning environment, and as a student, you have access to all the tools you need with any online portal. With multiple universities contributing to the course roster, there are numerous offerings which provide students with plenty of options to build their skillset.

– – Kathryn Holt, Dietetics Student,
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