Job Description:

Booksellers buy books from publishers or wholesalers and sell them to customers.

Job Category:
Retail & Consumer

What you will do:

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • serving customers – taking payment, giving advice, answering enquiries and ordering in books
  • stock control – assessing the market and ordering new stock
  • admin tasks – accounting, distributing orders, arranging deliveries and dealing with returns

In a specialist bookshop, you may have extra duties, like working closely with teaching staff from local schools, colleges and universities to make sure you stock the right text books.

As a bookshop manager, you’ll recruit and train new staff.


You’ll need:

  • business management skills
  • good general knowledge
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • a passion for books, with an awareness of current literary topics
  • customer service skills
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork)
  • the ability to sell products and services
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • persuading and negotiating skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • organisational skills
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

There are no specific subjects that are required to become a bookseller. Bookselling is not a profession that typically has strict academic prerequisites. However, certain subjects and skills can be beneficial if you’re interested in pursuing a career as a bookseller:

  1. English Language: A strong command of the English language is essential for a bookseller. This includes reading, writing, and communication skills.
  2. Mathematics: Basic math skills are useful for inventory management, pricing, and financial transactions.
  3. Business Studies: Taking business-related subjects can provide you with a better understanding of business operations and management, which can be valuable if you plan to run your own bookstore.
  4. IT/Computer Science: Familiarity with computer systems and software can be helpful for managing inventory, online sales, and e-commerce platforms.
  5. Customer Service: Good interpersonal and customer service skills are crucial for interacting with customers, providing recommendations, and creating a welcoming atmosphere in a bookstore.
  6. Art and Design (optional): If you plan to work in a bookstore with a strong focus on aesthetics, having a background in art and design can be beneficial for creating appealing displays and arranging books attractively.
  7. Reading and Literature: A passion for reading and literature can be a significant advantage in a bookseller career. It will help you understand and recommend books to customers.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly

You may have an advantage when looking for work if you’ve completed a qualification at university, like a higher national diploma or a degree. Employers will accept any subject, although some may prefer English, humanities or the arts.

You can learn some of the skills you need for this job by doing a:

  • Certificate or Diploma in Retail Skills (Level 2 in the UK)
  • Diploma in Retail Skills (Sales Professional) (Level 3 in the UK)

You can get into this job through a retailer intermediate apprenticeship or a retail team leader advanced apprenticeship.

Direct Application
You can apply directly for jobs from school – subjects like English and maths will be required. You’ll have an advantage if you have previous experience of:

  • retail or online sales
  • customer service
  • publishing

You’ll need a broad range of reading interests and an enthusiasm for books.

You may need specialist knowledge for some bookshops. For example:

  • comic art for a shop that sells graphic novels
  • classic literature for rare or antiquarian books
  • art history for specialist art publications

Career tips
You’ll need sound business skills and a good grasp of the publishing and bookselling industry if you want to go on to open your own bookshop. This includes some understanding of online promotion and sales methods or e-commerce.

Working Hours and Environment:

You’ll usually work 37 or 38 hours a week, from 9am to 5pm, often including Saturdays. Evening and weekend work is likely. Overtime and part-time work is often available.

You might be on your feet all day. You may be asked to lift heavy boxes.

Career Path & Progression:

With financial backing and a lot of experience, you could open your own bookshop.

You could also work from home as a book dealer, or set up an online bookshop.