How to Become a Product Manager

Learn how becoming a product manager can help you earn an above-average salary and join a growing field of professionals.
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Updated on April 21, 2023
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  • Becoming a product manager can lead to a competitive salary and career versatility.
  • Positions for product managers are expected to continue growing in the coming years.
  • Educational requirements for product management roles vary, ranging from no requirements to an MBA.

Product management has become a popular career option in recent years, given the flexibility these roles offer and the salaries they can provide.

Glassdoor ranked product manager as one of the best 50 jobs in America in 2022. According to Payscale, the average base salary for product management managers ranged from around $61,000-$152,000, as of February 2022.

Product managers have important, intensive roles focused on seeing a product through its lifecycle — conception, design, market positioning, pricing, and customer development.

Product managers regularly guide teams that have varied skill sets and focus areas, including engineering, marketing, communications, and legal/regulatory.

What Are the Requirements to Become a Product Manager?

Product managers come from a variety of fields and disciplines. The role does not require coding knowledge, but it never hurts to possess this skill — especially when working in areas of tech and software.

One of the most important skills an effective product manager possesses is the ability to work with diverse personalities and people types. Product managers must know how to bring together teams of people from various disciplines to see a product from development to launch. They must be able to motivate staff, solve problems with ease, and provide leadership skills that gel with different personality types.

When looking for product manager positions, candidates may soon realize that hiring requirements vary from role to role. Some positions take on applicants with no formal training but significant industry experience. Others only hire those with an MBA.

Individuals with less experience or no advanced degree may find it best to start with an associate product manager position and climb their way up.

Related Product Management Bootcamps for You

What Does Product Management Training Look Like?

Product management educational requirements can vary substantially across positions, so individuals interested in this path should make sure they have a good sense of what training they will need to qualify before enrolling in any course or degree.Many positions work with candidates who may have an unrelated undergraduate degree but have participated in product management courses or certificate training programs.

Companies like Udemy and Coursera provide a variety of product management courses at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, as does LinkedIn Learning.

More and more universities are also providing certificates in product management programs, such as Northwestern University's product strategy program lasting two months.

Some of the skills, tools, and applications these programs typically cover to help people land product management roles include:

  • Product ideation, design, and management
  • Hypothesis-driven development
  • Agile product management
  • Digital product management
  • New product opportunity analysis
  • Product positioning

With so many different product management courses available at varied experience levels, prospective students should carefully review key takeaways and syllabi to ensure they align with the type of education they need to land a job.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Product Manager?

In reality, the amount of time someone spends working toward a product manager position depends on the position itself.

For instance, it's common for startups and smaller companies to hire associate product managers straight out of college, particularly if they studied a relevant subject such as marketing, computer science, or engineering.

In this setting, individuals can typically learn on the job and eventually make their way up to product manager, senior product manager, and even director of product over time. That said, individuals with work experience may be able to complete a short online course lasting 2-6 months and leverage their experience directly rather than starting as an associate.

In the case of larger, more established companies, it's not uncommon to see product manager job postings that require candidates to hold an MBA. This is especially true for titles such as director of product, vice president of product, or chief product officer.

More and more schools now offer MBAs with product management concentrations to address the growing need for professionals educated in this expanding field.

Before committing to an MBA, however, professionals should consider taking a shorter online course to make sure this position fits their interests and aspirations.

Frequently Asked Questions About a Product Manager's Career

Do product managers have good salaries?

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One of the reasons so many professionals feel drawn to product management positions is because of the pay.

According to Payscale, the average annual base salary for these professionals is around $109,650, as of February 2022 — the bottom 10% of these earners took home around $61,000, while the top 10% earned approximately $152,000.

These figures vary based on how much experience a professional has, as well as their title, employer, and location. For instance, associate product managers earn average annual salaries of around $72,040, as of February 2022.

Do I need an MBA for product management?

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Educational requirements for product managers are still being developed in this growing field. However, it's likely that an MBA will become a common requirement in the years to come as hiring managers become more selective.Individuals wondering if they need an MBA for product management positions should consider both the pros and cons of earning this degree.

MBAs allow students to gain advanced, concentrated skills — especially ones with product management concentrations. But an MBA program can cost a lot of money when a certificate may qualify you for a job.

What's the difference between product manager vs. product owner?

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Some confusion exists about the differences between these two positions. Both are high level and offer above-average salaries.

But product managers work with their teams to create a strategic vision for a product, while product owners work in more tactical roles to actually create the product and refine it as needed.

Product owners tend to be more technical roles and focus on translating the vision of the product manager into actionable, day-to-day tasks that help move the product development forward.

Feature Image: pondsaksit / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images