Do You Need a Degree to Get a Job at Walmart?
December 18, 2019
Walmart has been the #1 Fortune 500 Company for six straight years. Seeking job stability? This mothership of companies is built to last.
I recently traveled for the first time to Bentonville, Arkansas, the birthplace and corporate capital of Walmart. I guess I was expecting a town that reflected the Walmart retail ethos, with its emphasis on cost-cutting and seeming indifference to aesthetics. What I found was quite different: a welcoming, livable city, population 49,000 plus, powered by smart growth. Driving from the airport, I saw bucolic fields and cows on one side of the road, a string of brick compounds housing Walmart corporate buildings with the ubiquitous blue-and-gold logo on the other. Maybe the company's motto—"Save money, live better"—wasn't all spin.
Bentonville is the epicenter of Walmart, the world's largest private employer. The family-run retail giant has invested in local quality of life to attract first-rate corporate employees. The public Bentonville High School has an A rating, affordable housing is readily available, and the city also has a world ranking museum, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, located in a stunning modern Moshe Safdie-designed building—and it's free to the public!
The Walmart myth begins with its founder, Sam Walton, a former JCPenney employee. The University of Missouri graduate worked his way through college performing odd jobs from milking cows to newspaper delivery. In 1962, Walton launched the company in Rogers, AR, planting the seed for what would become a billion dollar company. That combination of hard work and commitment to betterment through education is baked into the Walmart culture.
Walmart by the Numbers
According to Forbes, the discount retailer has a market cap of $296.1 billion, sales of $514.4 billion and employs 2.2 million people worldwide. As of 2018, CNBC reported that Walmart was the #1 Fortune 500 Company—a place it held for six straight years. Seeking stability? This mothership of companies is built to last—and has seen major growth in its eCommerce business, along with the addition of these brands: Bonobos, Hayneedle, Jet.com, MooseJaw, Modcloth, Parcel, SamsClub.com, Shoes.com and Vudu.
Graduate Internship Program
Walmart has an established internship pipeline for those pursuing MBAs or other advanced degrees. According to the company website: "You've already established yourself, but now it's time to go bigger. To do work that impacts 230 million weekly customers. To own something and make a real difference in the world. To reimagine retail as we know it. We're looking for MBA and graduate students - with a few years experience - who are ready to take that challenge."
The ten-week summer internship offers competitive pay and are available at both the Bentonville and the San Bruno & Sunnyvale, California, locations. Among the silos are the E3 Finance Program, which allows participants to look under the hood at the global company's financial structure while gaining access to senior-level managers. Over at eCommerce and Walmart Labs, interns enter projects that involve areas of massive future growth, including online and mobile sales. Marketing, Merchandising and Global Strategies are also available for summer interns.
Unlike many internship programs, Walmart offers summer housing and relocation funds, an individual project assignment for the intern to own and access to decision-makers all the way up to the company's CEO Doug McMillon. And, yes, it is a pipeline to job offers come graduation. According to the company site: "the majority of our interns are offered a full-time position or return internship at the end of the summer."
A Post-Grad Career at Walmart
Founder Sam Walton set the tone for employee culture at his company. The combination of roll-up-your-sleeves work experience in tandem with a strong education that doesn't require a fancy Ivy name typifies the management of Walmart.
Given how massive the company is, and how many pies it has its corporate fingers in, there is a vast array of advanced career paths. These include, but aren't limited to:
- Accounting and Finance
- Administrative and Support Services
- Corporate Affairs and Communications
- Data Analytics and Business Intelligence
- Project and Program Management (PMO)
- Merchandising and Online Operations
For MBAs there are a plethora of job opportunities. For example, the President & CEO of Walmart eCommerce US Marc Lore has an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Following a Strategic Initiatives MBA Internship (see above) in the summer of 2018, newly minted Wharton grad Farah Virani became Head of Business Operations – Fashion at Walmart eCommerce. With an MBA out of Utah State University, David Fietkau, MBA, CPM, Senior Product Manager, Application/Software – Fulfillment Systems.
JD recipients are also in demand. Lawyers can be found all over the company, with highly-responsible roles such as:
- VP, Strategic Partnerships and Business Development at Walmart eCommerce
- Director, Employment and Ethics Compliance for eCommerce at Walmart eCommerce
- Manager II-Regulatory Change Management at Walmart
Within the corporate structure, there's always a demand for Counselors at all levels. At the time of this writing, the company had posted the following positions for attorneys:
- Senior Associate Counsel - Investigations/Triage Governance
- Senior Associate General Counsel II – Lead Counsel
Among the positions you might seek at the retail giant, here are their average salaries:
- Senior Manager $105,682
- Project Manager $76,889
- Replenishment Manager $65,974
- Systems Analyst $95,348
- Senior Program Analyst $84,009
- Programmer Analyst $74,263
- Senior Product Manager $109,425
- Assistant General Counsel – between $133,000 and $157,000
- Vice President, Operations – between $257,000 and $278,000
Case Study: Walmart CEO Doug McMillon
The current President and CEO of Walmart, Inc., Doug McMillon, became only the company's fifth CEO in 2014. But he was no newcomer to Walmart. Having grown up in Bentonville, he had already put in his hours unloading trucks as a summer associate while attending the local high school in 1984.
McMillon attended the University of Arkansas where he earned a Bachelor of Science, Business Administration in 1989. He immediately enrolled in the University of Tulsa where he received his MBA.
Even while getting his MBA, future CEO McMillon balanced work and school, taking advantage of local corporate-academic partnerships. He approached a Walmart executive with his interest in learning about becoming a buyer. After working while he studied, once he got his MBA, McMillon joined the Buyer Training Program upon graduation, starting off in fishing tackle and expanding from there.
This is a case study of an individual who was very targeted on what he wanted to achieve—and what was possible. He kept his focus relatively local, which did not limit his horizons given that a global company was headquartered there—and that there were a number of state schools that could supply his business education.
The Ethos: Hard Work, Solid Experience and Continued Education
As reflected in the career arcs of founder Sam Walton and current CEO McMillon, what appears to unify the senior-level Walmart employee is the combination of solid work experience in the field combined with university degrees and, typically, a graduate degree as a path to higher responsibilities and salary.
The roll-up-your-sleeves work ethic that described founder, cow-milker and newspaper deliverer Sam Walton flows down throughout the company. The University of Missouri grad built a company based on value and service—and the academic paths followed by his employees reinforce that ethos even as the company adapts to the rise of eCommerce and the waning of the bricks-and-mortar store.
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