Retail and Consumer Sciences Major Guide for 2013-2014

What is Retail and Consumer Sciences

The major in Retail and Consumer Sciences provides students with a thorough knowledge of the retailing industry, complemented by business principles and theories related to providing goods and services to consumers. Students gain sufficient specialization and professional experience to be immediately productive in an entry-level management position in the ever changing, fast-paced world of retailing.

Career Opportunities in Retail and Consumer Sciences

The career opportunities are varied depending on your interests, personal goals, and expertise. Being a retail manager, assistant buyer, planner, allocator, product development manager, sales representative for a manufacturer or service company are career opportunities for our graduates. Graduates accept management-training positions with companies such as Walgreens, Macy’s, Target, Wal-Mart, Kroger, Belk, Nordstrom,  JCPenney, and Dillard’s.

Salary Trends in Retail and Consumer Sciences

Current starting salaries for students entering management-training programs are in the range of $37,000 to $42,000. With successful performance, graduates can reach high levels of responsibility in just a few years and are paid accordingly.

High School Preparation

High school students should follow a normal college preparatory curriculum. In addition, it is very important to gain as much practical retailing experience as possible. This major includes a minor in Business Administration; it is important to take a variety of college preparatory mathematics courses to develop the mathematical skills necessary to be successful in this major.  Pre-calculus and Calculus are particularly helpful preparatory courses.

How to Major in Retail and Consumer Sciences

Following acceptance to the University, students should contact the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences Advising Center at (865) 974-8194. A student indicating an interest in Retail and Consumer Sciences will be assigned to a faculty advisor in the department.

Requirements for Retail and Consumer Sciences

  • Cumulative GPA of 2.3 or higher out of a possible 4.0, for at least 30 semester hours.
  • Grade of “C” or better in the following courses:
    All Retail & Consumer Sciences courses
    All Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism courses
  • Completion of English 101-102 and Math 125.
  • Complete 300 hours of retail-related work experience (post-secondary) that must be approved by the Internship Coordinator.
  • For graduation, students must earn a “C” or better in all Retail & Consumer Sciences courses.

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

Experiential and problem-based learning approaches are integrated into the curriculum to develop students’ critical thinking and decision-making skills. Our program has strong relationships with many industry leaders who are always eager to participate in student experiences such as job shadowing and company visits, which are incorporated into many of our courses. Our students are encouraged to participate in the Retailing Student’s Association, which is a very active and engaging organization. The bi-weekly meetings extend and reinforce classroom activities by providing contact with industry professionals, such as store owners, department store buyers, store managers, and district managers.

An internship is required of all students. It is typically completed during the summer after the junior year and gives the student an overview of working with a company and the culture of that company.

Examples of companies where recent internships have been completed:
Nordstrom, Walgreens, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Kohl’s, JCPenney, Gaylord Opryland, Disney World, Dillard’s, Target, Wal-Mart, Kroger, Sears Holding, Betsey Johnson NYC,  Aeffe Fashion Group, Pepsi , Kirkland’s Corporate

Highlights of Retail and Consumer Sciences

Our strategic partnerships with key retailers give students in the program a competitive advantage. Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Jewelry Television, Pepsi Bottling Group, Goody’s, Kroger, Pilot Travel Centers, Nouveau Classics, and Gaylord Entertainment are all members of our Advisory Board. These companies provide the critical job experience and industry contacts that are the key to career placement and satisfaction. Each Spring semester, the Retail Market Planning and Execution class visits New York City and experiences a day in market with apparel buyers from one of our retail partner’s companies. An Honors Class is taught in the Fall semester for exceptional students for in-depth study of emerging retail trends. The RCS faculty and many of the industry partners work together to teach topics and provide related experiences. The RCS faculty are strongly committed to mentoring and advising students to prepare them to become outstanding managers and leaders in the retail industry.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, offers study abroad programs in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, South America, and North America. Program lengths vary from mini-term trips to the entire academic year, and students may choose to fulfill general education requirements, study a foreign language, or take courses within their majors.  In addition, UTK offers students opportunities for international internships.

Study abroad options certainly exist for RCS majors! Possibilities include (but are not limited to) studying retail concept development in the Netherlands, digital commerce and the consumer in Korea, fashion retail management in Australia, European consumer behavior in Spain, or strategic luxury brand management in Italy.  Additionally, the Retail and Consumer Sciences department regularly schedules international and domestic study tours that combine professional appointments and cultural visits. Recent faculty-led trips have been taken to Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Asia.

Consult an academic advisor early in your academic career about the best time for you to study abroad as well as what courses you may need to take. For more information about program options, the application process, and how to finance study abroad, please visit the Programs Abroad Office website.  Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

Academic Plan and Milestones

Following an academic plan will help students stay on track to graduate in four years. Beginning with first-time, first-year, full-time, degree-seeking students entering in the Fall 2013 semester, UT has implemented Universal Tracking (uTrack), an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. In order to remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester, known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.

To see a sample academic plan and milestones for this major, go to

For More Information

Lucy Simpson, Internship Coordinator
Retail and Consumer Sciences
110 Jesse Harris Building
Knoxville, TN 37996-1900
Phone: 865-974-6242


The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.