Careers in Retail: How to Become a Cashier or Sales Associate
by Jim Reams
A retail cashier is one of the most popular occupations in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are more than 3.5 million cashier sales associate jobs in the country, and that number looks to remain relatively stable through 2026.
Retail is a strong and growing industry, so if you're interested in a busy, customer-focused career, a retail cashier position is an excellent entry-level choice. Read our tips on how to become a cashier.
What does a cashier do?
The cashier is a pivotal position in any business. Cashiers and sales associates have a direct impact on a company's bottom line. A cashier's duties include:
- Conducting transactions — such as sales and returns — efficiently and accurately
- Serving as point person for customer service and customer complaints
- Keeping a lookout for shoplifting, employee theft and other forms of shrinkage
The cashier job in a retail setting is part customer service, part security guard, and part retail teller. The position doesn't usually require an education higher than a high school diploma (or the equivalent). However, if you're eyeing a competitive cashier job, an associate's or bachelor's degree with a focus on business will make you a very competitive candidate.
What cashier skills do I need?
A cashier's skills are diverse, including:
- Basic math skills for conducting transactions, including cash sales, where you'll need to make correct change and learn how to identify counterfeit currency.
- Basic computer skills to operate the company's point of sale (POS) system. These systems involve scanning items, voiding items, entering coupons and discounts and, in some cases, ringing up sales with no tax.
- Ability to package and gift wrap merchandise. A cashier's responsibilities include packaging or bagging sold merchandise properly to ensure a positive customer experience. You'll also need to learn the company's procedures for handling returns and providing both cash and credit card refunds.
- Time management skills, dependability and punctuality. These skills are almost impossible to train, but having them will make you a very desirable candidate.
- Product knowledge. You may know much about the store's products before you get the job, but you should demonstrate an eagerness to learn and an interest in what the store sells. And be sure to highlight if you've worked in a store that sells similar products.
- People skills. The cashier is the person the customer looks to for information about specific items, so you'll need to be comfortable interacting with strangers. Being friendly with customers and fellow workers are critical for customer and employee retention.
At many retail locations, the cashier will perform additional duties such as stocking merchandise, basic custodial tasks, and answering phone calls. You may be called upon to open or close the store and, as a cashier, this may involve cash bank deposits.
Finding a job as a cashier
Your first step toward getting a cashier job is to build a resume that is properly formatted and well-written, as well as targeted to the job at hand. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you craft your cashier resume:
- Keep it short. Whether you're looking for your first job or you've worked as a cashier for several years, your resume should be concise enough to fit on one page.
- Avoid generic language. Phrases like "team player" and "hard worker" don't mean much to an employer and are widely overused.
- Be specific. Offer examples to back up your skills whenever possible.
Reinforce your skills with numbers whenever possible. If you have previous cashier experience, list the average number of transactions per day at your last job, or the percentage of cash versus credit card transactions you handled. If you were the treasurer at your college sorority, list the budget and how you decided on allocations. These examples will show employers that you'll be an asset to their organization.
To make sure your resume stands out from the crowd, use our free Resume Templates and get help with both the writing and formatting of your resume. An enthusiastic cover letter will also help take your application a step beyond.
Your cover letter is where you draw attention to your knowledge of what the company is looking for in an employee, and where you get to tell your personal story of how your experience and skills connect you to the job, and make you the best applicant in the pool. Like a resume, you should write each high-quality cover letter specifically for the job to which you're applying. Get started with our free Cover Letter Templates.