How to Become a Product Manager (With Skills and FAQ)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 10, 2022 | Published January 3, 2022

Updated June 10, 2022

Published January 3, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A product manager's role focuses on bringing a product from conception to the consumer market. There are various ways to become a product manager, but regardless of the career path, there are some key skills that most product managers have in common. If you are interested in a career in product management, knowing the steps to become a product manager can be beneficial to you. In this article, we discuss what is a product manager, learn how to become one, explore their salary and skills, and look at some frequently asked questions about the role.

What is a product manager?

A product manager coordinates the development and launch of a product. They take part in the entire lifecycle of a product, from creation to design to launch. During these different stages, the product manager works with various teams to ensure the finished product aligns with the client's expectations. Product managers work with various stakeholders throughout an organization, often taking on a leadership role and making key decisions.

How to become a product manager

Here are some key steps you can take to learn how to become a product manager:

1. Determine your preferred career path

There are mainly three paths you can take to become a product manager. The path you select may depend on your previous work experience, the type of company you hope to work for, or your educational background. Three paths you can take to become a product manager are:

Post-secondary credentials

Earning a diploma or degree in a business discipline can give you some skills and knowledge required for a product management career. You may even consider completing courses or a certificate program in product management. Typically, companies look at education in combination with experience, so a program that includes an internship could be beneficial.

Professional certification

Professional certification can be beneficial when preparing for a product management job. Certifications are available from several professional project management organizations and are often available online. You can research to learn what certification is recognized in your particular area or industry. If you already have some experience or education in business, professional certification may help you hone your skills to apply them effectively in a product management role.

Practical experience

Because there may not be specific education or credential requirements for product management roles, hands-on experience can be very important. You may gain on-the-job experience while working with a product manager during one or more of the stages of product development or launch, or while working in a supportive role with a product manager. On-the-job training can be complemented by having a background or education in a related field.

2. Complete the learning requirements

Once you have chosen your career path, the next step is learning the basic principles. Whether you do this on the job, through a post-secondary program or through a certification course, having a good understanding of the foundations can be key to success as a product manager. If you are considering working in a particular industry, you may want to go beyond the basic foundations. For example, if you are interested in working for a tech company, you might upgrade your coding skills.

3. Consult with others in the industry

You can learn more about product management by talking and asking questions to people who work in related roles. Setting up a career development interview can be a great way to do this. If you don't know any product managers, try looking for connections through your academic or professional network.

4. Take leadership courses

Leadership and related skills lay the foundation for a successful career as a product manager. You might take leadership courses to develop your skills. Leadership courses are offered in several settings and formats, including formal classes at post-secondary institutions, professional development courses offered through professional or community organizations and webinars. You can also look for ways to get hands-on leadership experience. Volunteer positions can provide great opportunities to apply and practise your skills, and they can help build your resume.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

5. Prepare your job application materials

Once you have completed the educational requirements and feel confident that you have the necessary skills, you can prepare your resume, cover letter, and elevator pitch. When preparing your resume, include a clear objective and the skills and experience that relate to the position. If you don't have experience working as a product manager, focus on applicable skills and relevant education, and include any examples of situations where you worked alongside a product manager or in a related role.

Your cover letter and elevator pitch can be formulated based on your resume. A great cover letter addresses directly how the contents of your resume relate to the job. When preparing your elevator pitch, try to touch on the highlights of your resume while introducing yourself and showcasing your communication skills.

Related: How to Write a Resume

6. Prepare for interviews

When you get an opportunity to interview, prepare ahead of time by researching the company. Read carefully through the job description and think about how your skills and experience relate to the requirements. It can also be helpful to learn about common interview questions and practice your answers.

Related: 19 Common Interview Questions and Answers

How much does a product manager earn?

The average base salary for a product manager is $86,646 per year. Sometimes product managers may also earn additional income through bonuses or performance incentives. Depending on the company, compensation packages may also include extended health or dental benefits.

What skills are important for product managers?

Because there are so many aspects of product management, a product manager can benefit from having a broad range of skills. Some of these may be industry specific, but many of the important skills for a career in product management are fairly universal. If you're interested in a career in product management, here are some skills you can develop:

  • Leadership: A product manager acts as a leader throughout the process of creating and launching a product. Strong leaders show confidence and accept responsibility while utilizing interpersonal skills to bring their team together in working toward a common goal.

  • Teamwork: Product managers liaise with various divisions and stakeholders throughout an organization, so teamwork is essential. Negotiation skills, interpersonal skills, and emotional intelligence can all contribute to effective teamwork.

  • Decision-making ability: The ability to assess available information to make an informed decision can be key to successful product management. Product managers formulate strategic decisions by taking into consideration available information and research.

  • Communication: Good communication skills make it possible for a product manager to engage with the teams they work with throughout the product's lifecycle. This includes the ability to succinctly present their position and also good listening skills.

  • Project management: Project management skills include effective time management, organizational skills and the ability to plan and forecast. Product management is similar to project management in that the product manager works with teams across an organization and takes ownership of an objective.

  • User Experience (UX) skills: As a product manager, a good understanding of UX design is useful, as the end-user experience can be a key consideration when developing and launching a product.

Related: How to Improve Communication Skills

Frequently asked questions about becoming a product manager

Here are some frequently asked questions about becoming a product manager;

Is the focus of a product manager's role creative or technical?

There are both creative and technical elements to a product manager's role. There can be variations between jobs within the field. Creative skills can be important for product managers who work on brand new products, while technical skills can be more important when working on an existing product.

What industries can I expect to work in as a product manager?

Product managers work in a variety of industries. You can focus your job search on roles in industries that relate to your interests, previous experience and education. Some industries where product managers are common include information technology, finance, and wellness.

What is the work environment like?

In most cases, a product manager works in an office environment. However, this can vary from industry to industry. Product managers typically work a standard full-time work week and may require working extended hours whenever needed.

What is a typical day like for a product manager?

Because a product manager follows a product throughout its lifecycle, their activities may vary from day to day or week to week. For example, during the early stages of product development, the product manager may spend a significant amount of time working with the design team and analyzing research, while toward the launch phase, their activities may focus more on marketing. They may also work on reports and presentations based on the stage of the product.

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