How to Become a
Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications
It can be difficult to be a successful product manager. The role demands a specific level of expertise and requires that you have well-rounded knowledge in products and marketing. Find out how to become a product manager through this guide.
You can decide which education track is best for you to learn the skills you need for product management. This is a job that thrives on creativity and innovation. Take as many opportunities as you can to improve and get ready for the commitment that the role requires.
What Is a Product Manager?
A product manager is a business expert who comes up with new products for a company. They are highly involved in the product development process. You will lead a cross-functional team of members from the marketing, sales, and engineering departments. Your aim as a product manager is to combine business and technology.
It is also your responsibility as a product manager to monitor the market. You need to learn the trends and analyze the competition. Equipping yourself with market knowledge allows you to gain more opportunities to expand your vision for future products and services.
What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become a Product Manager?
There are many schools you can attend to learn the necessary skills to become a product manager. Most companies require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions. Bachelor’s degree programs help you understand business and technology. However, there are other options, like a product management bootcamp, that you can also consider.
Best Product Manager Education Tracks
The easiest way to become a product manager is to go to university. You can earn a degree in business or a related topic. If there is a skill that you want to learn right away, then you can try attending short courses. There are many online colleges today that offer comprehensive learning in a digital setting.
Below are some education options that you can try on their own or mix and match to create your path.
You can start by getting an Associate Degree in Business or Management at a community college. This should prepare you for the essentials that come with the business side of product management. There are also specializations such as digital marketing that you might focus on.
After completing a two-year program in community college, you can consider transferring to a university to complete a four-year degree. Most associate degree programs allow you to use your credits for this purpose.
Product Manager Degrees
Going into a university to earn a bachelor’s degree is the most straightforward track to become a product manager. Your primary option is to get a degree in business administration. This program can teach you the basics of business, marketing, and management.
You should also be adept with operations and finance. You are responsible for overseeing the product development process, so you need to be equipped with the right strategies. You will also handle most of the planning and you must be aware of potential expenses.
Product Manager Bootcamps
Sometimes, universities have gaps in workforce training. A short-term bootcamp can be a good alternative to spending long years in school. Some bootcamps specifically offer a product management program where you will gain a certificate upon completion. Product Gym, Product School, and General Assembly are all great choices.
Product Manager Courses
There are various online product management courses offered by Coursera, Udemy, and edX. These courses may be shorter than bootcamps and mostly focus on a specific skill or component of product management.
Some courses can teach you traditional product management skills to help you understand the day-to-day needs of the job. There are also courses that focus on how to effectively use digital tools to ease product management. In some cases, you can get a certificate upon completion.
How to Become a Product Manager: A Step-by-Step Guide
Equipping yourself with the right skills is a sure way to succeed as a product manager. Building a portfolio and applying for internships can also help you grow in the field. Below is a suggested step-by-step guide for you to consider.
Complete a bachelor’s degree
Get all of the knowledge and skills that you need from a four-year business degree in a university. Here, you will learn marketing, operations, strategies, and finance.
Build your project portfolio
Having a project portfolio can help you during your job application process. You can either start your own project or try doing paid commissions from clients.
Apply for internships at tech companies
Take advantage of internships and other training programs offered by companies. This is your chance to learn theoretical practices in a real-world setting. Working in a tech company is a great choice for your career progression.
Enroll in a bootcamp or course
A bootcamp program or online certification class can be a viable option to learn new skills. You can choose a product management bootcamp and earn a certificate.
Consider a master’s degree
If you want to be promoted to a senior product manager position, then you can get a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA). Having an MBA is proof that you have more experience and knowledge to offer. This means that you are updated with the current learning and methodologies.
Key Product Manager Skills
Product managers are expected to handle tasks that require higher-level skills. You are not only handling a product’s development, but also a team composed of people from different fields. With this, you need diverse skills on the job.
In this position, you need to be innovative to come up with new products. You should also find ways to develop an already existing product. This includes doing research to find the pulse of your target users. You have to learn the trends and the behaviors of consumers and convert them to profit opportunities.
Leadership and Communication
A project manager role could also involve working with other people. Therefore, you need to have good leadership skills to guide your team to make sure that you are working towards your goal. Good leadership is paired with the ability to establish proper communication with coworkers and clients.
Marketing and Creativity
You need to make sure your product will sell well, so you should have good marketing skills. Marketing involves being creative and knowing how to present your product and capture the interest of the consumer. You should use market research to discover which products will sell.
Product Manager Salary and Job Outlook
The average product manager salary, according to PayScale, is approximately $98,088 per year. The salary ranges from $67,000 to $135,000 depending on your years of experience. Employees with project management, business strategy, and software development skills succeed in the field.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, management job opportunities will grow by six percent by 2029. This growth rate is faster than average. This means that you will find more project manager jobs in the coming years.
Entry-Level Product Manager Job Requirements
The average base salary for an entry-level product manager is $50,332, according to ZipRecruiter. ZipRecruiter also reports that New York has the highest salary for product managers compared to other US cities by almost $10,000.
To make sure that you can get hired as a product manager, you need to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Make sure to prove your capabilities by having your own portfolio and demonstrating the skills for a product manager role.
What Does a Product Manager Do?
A product manager leads a product development and marketing department to help create and sell new products. They are closely involved in product development and work with marketing managers, engineers, and more. Read below to learn more about what a product manager does.
Study, Budget, and Conceptualize
When clients make requests, the graphic designer studies them thoroughly to get to know the requirements. You will also determine how much the project will cost according to the client’s budget. If everyone involved is satisfied with your recommendations, you can start conceptualizing.
Oversees Product Development
You are responsible for researching what kind of product you will develop. From conception to marketing, you will oversee the life cycle of each product. Even after releasing it to targeted consumers, you need to find out how it fares compared to the competition.
Plans a Marketing Strategy
You are involved in the planning for the marketing strategy of your product because you are the one who knows its specifications. This involves determining the retail price for your product and providing forecasts to help your marketing team position the product in the market.
Manages Staff and Communicates With Stakeholders
You have a duty to find the right people with the right skills to work on product development. Managers are the ones communicating schedules and strategies with the staff to meet deadlines. You are also at the forefront of communicating with other stakeholders such as upper management employees or clients.
Product Manager Certifications
A license is not required to become a product manager, but there are certifications that you might want to consider. These certifications can establish your skills and capabilities, especially for your job applications.
Certified Product Manager (AIPMM)
The Certified Product Manager certification is offered by the Association of International Product Marketing and Management (AIPMM). This rigorous program teaches you the best practices of product management in 18 modules. You need to take an exam to test your knowledge and capabilities. If you pass, then you will earn the official certification.
Pragmatic Certified Product Manager (Pragmatic Institute)
The Pragmatic Certified Product Manager certification is a great way to upskill and start earning a better salary. To get this certification, you will need to take a few courses and complete an exam. The four courses are Build, Foundations, Focus, and Design. Each one can teach you industry-specific skills.
New Product Development Professional Certification (PDMA)
The New Product Development Professional Certification (NPDP) program is offered by the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA). The program covers seven key areas in product management, including product process and market research. You need to pass the exam at the end of the course to earn the certification.
How to Prepare for Your Product Manager Job Interview
Different companies have different expectations from product manager candidates. Still, you need to demonstrate your skills and knowledge in creating and marketing products. Your hiring manager will immediately look for these qualities during the interview, so should be prepared.
Make sure to ace your job interview by promptly answering questions and clearly expressing interest in the role you are applying for. Below are some questions you can expect to be asked during an interview.
Product Manager Job Interview Practice Questions
- What does a product manager do, and why do you think the job is for you?
- Give a specific example of a time when you created a product for a client, and list your process from start to end.
- Cite an already existing product you want to redevelop. How would you develop it?
- What is the most important skill of a product manager?
- Do you have any ideas of new products to create for our company?
How Long Does It Take to Become a Product Manager?
It takes about four years to get a bachelor’s degree and become a product manager. Depending on the city you live in, it could take a few months to find a job in the field. If you choose to take additional courses after graduation, becoming a product manager could take five years or more. A certification can help you get a higher position and salary.
Should You Become a Product Manager in 2021?
Yes, you should become a product manager in 2021. This means that the job is challenging but fulfilling. The salary is also higher than average, and there are many openings every year.
Companies always strive for product innovation. There is a need to come up with valuable products every year. Other than having many opportunities, you are also partaking in creating meaningful products for the future. Take advantage of the skills and programs around you and become a product manager in 2021.
Product Manager FAQ
What does a product manager do?
A product manager is responsible for creating products and overseeing product development. You are also expected to do market research to assign the correct price for the product. Managing people is also one of your duties as a product manager.
How do you become a product manager?
You need at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify for a product manager job. A business degree is the most popular choice because it covers marketing, operations, strategies, and finance. You can also take an exam to earn a certification in product management.
What skills do I need to become a product manager?
Some of the primary skills that you need to become a product manager are product development, strategic management, market research, creativity, and leadership. Product management is a combination of creating, developing, and selling a product.
Do you need a license to work as a product manager?
No, you do not need a license to work as a product manager. However, you can take a certification exam to have additional proof of credibility. Years of experience are also a good way to demonstrate your skills and knowledge in the field.