What is a product manager?
Product managers are responsible for understanding the market, audience and demand for a software, hardware or service. A product manager typically acts as the point person throughout a project’s life-cycle. It is a role that requires you to balance input, concerns and feedback from multiple departments, key stakeholders, business leaders, customers and clients.
The product manager role also requires an understanding of technology and business, as product managers must understand which products are worth developing and how they’ll directly impact the business. Whether it’s an internal or external product, product managers are responsible for understanding everyone’s needs and expectations and then translating that across departments.
Product manager responsibilities and skills
Product management skills and responsibilities will vary depending on the products you work on and where you work. But some of the most common responsibilities and skills for product managers include:
- Meeting with customers and clients to determine product requirements
- Monitoring the development process
- Establishing pricing models
- Creating business plans for new products
- Reviewing and correcting implementation strategies
- Training support teams
- Finding ways to adapt new technologies
- Monitoring industry trends
- Understanding potential challenges, risks and hurdles
- Requirements elicitation and testing
- Agile software development
- Requirements analysis
- SQL and business strategy
While business and IT skills are an important part of the product manager role, according to Julia Austin, who teaches a course on product management at Harvard University, a great product manager also needs the following soft skills:
- Emotional intelligence (EQ): Product managers need a solid EQ to manage customer relationships and to ensure they have all the right requirements heading into a new project. They also need to understand how to “empathize with customers” and to read between the lines to address any potential hiccups from the start.
- Relationship management: Relationship skills are vital for balancing communication between multiple departments, stakeholders and with various business leaders. Product managers must know how to negotiate, resolve conflict and encourage team work, while balancing budgets and resources.
- Self-awareness: Product managers need to stay objective during the development process so that their biases, opinions and preferences won’t impact the final product.
- Self-management: As a point person for multiple cross-functional groups, product managers need to have a good sense of time management and how to prioritize around tight deadlines.
- Social awareness: Socially-aware product managers tend to have an easier time empathizing with customers and clients, and they are more sensitive to a customer’s “emotions and concerns,” while balancing concerns from sales, support or engineering.
Product manager salaries
According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a product manager is $180,879 per year, with a reported salary range of $74,000 to $150,000 per year, depending on location, seniority and experience.
As you grow in your career, so will your salary. The average salary for an entry level or associate project manager is around $81,000, according to Glassdoor. Senior product managers earn an average salary of $131,995 per year, while those at the director level report an average salary of $161,090 per year.
According to reported salaries on Glassdoor, here’s what product managers make at some of the top tech companies:
Product manager salaries
Becoming a product manager
While the path to becoming a product manager depends on industry and expertise, there are a few things you can do to get started in the field. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all education, but a bachelor’s degree in business or a similar field are typically required for entry-level positions. Other valuable degrees include marketing, communications, statistics or economics.
If you don’t have a relevant degree, but you still want to branch out into product management, you can opt for an online course to boost your resume. There are plenty of online courses, but if you want to get a jump start you can check out any of these programs:
- Udemy: Product Management 101
- Coursera: Brand and Product Management
- LinkedIn Learning: Product Management First Steps
- General Assembly: Learn Product Management
- UBC Sauder School of Business: Product and Service Management Boot Camp
- EdX: Micromasters Program in Digital Product Management (Boston University)
- eCornell: Product and Service Design Course
- Harvard Business School: Product Management 101
There are also master’s programs you can choose from, including:
- Carnegie Mellon University: MS in Product Management
- Northwestern: Master of Product Design and Development Management
- NYU Stern: Product Management MBA
There aren’t very many certifications in product management, so you might want to see which skills are the most valuable in your position and focus on certifications in those areas, such as agile and Scrum. However, there are a few certifications you can pursue to validate your experience in product management.
- Association of International Product Marketing & Management (AIPMM): Certified Product Manager Credential (CPM)
- Pragmatic Marketing: Pragmatic Marketing Certified
- Scrum Alliance: Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)
- 280Group: Product Management Certification