If you’re considering a career in product management in 2022, you’re in luck. More companies than ever are creating digital products, each of which creates an opportunity for those interested in becoming product managers.
If you crave autonomy, collaboration, and complex problem-solving in your professional life, you’ll be well-suited for a career in product management.
- Product managers (PMs) oversee the product strategy, creation, and maintenance of physical, digital, and hybrid products.
- The field of product management is experiencing exceptional growth due to an increasingly digital economy. Prospective PMs will likely find a number of job opportunities, but they will also encounter the pressure to succeed in a competitive market.
- There is no established path to becoming a product manager. Many develop relevant skills and experiences within other departments such as marketing, analytics, or UX design.
- Being an effective product manager requires an eclectic array of skills in areas such as leadership, communication, research, finance, project management, technology, and more.
What skills and qualifications do product managers need?
If you’re considering how to get into product management, you’ll need a variety of skills and competencies. You’ll also need to follow these product management best practices.
Because products, businesses, and industries differ, not all product managers perform the same functions. But there are essential skills most hiring companies will expect from prospective PMs.
PMs are usually capable of thinking strategically and analytically with an ability to understand the big picture as well as the small details. Successful PMs are able to thrive in high-pressure environments, communicate with ease, understand technology, and lead a team.
The role often includes the following responsibilities:
- Oversee the product life cycle from early-stage concept to distribution and optimization
- Research industry topics that inform a given product’s development, such as customer interest, competition, profit margins, and market fit
- Collaborate with and/or lead a team of professionals from multiple backgrounds such as engineers, marketers, sales reps, and administrators
- Determine a product’s key performance indicators and continuously track progress toward achieving them
- Analyze complex sets of analytics, such as behavioral data, and draw actionable insights that govern decisions
- Communicate product value to internal stakeholders, such as C-suite admins, and external stakeholders, such as PR firms or merchants
- Manage multiple initiatives simultaneously, such as timelines, release dates, and product updates
How to earn product management skills and land an interview
Product managers often learn the skills they need from being in another job first. Many PMs are former marketing or project managers, UX designers, or even software engineers.
If you’re an experienced professional in one of these backgrounds, and you’re wondering how to get into product management, you may already have a number of requisite skills which could help you land an interview.
If you don’t have relevant experience or want to improve your skills, there are a number of resources available.
Seek a learning opportunity in your current role
This is one of the quickest ways to earn valuable experience for a future PM role. Because skilled product managers will become increasingly difficult to hire, your company may provide a learning opportunity for you to grow into a new role. If you’re not currently on a product team, find out if your company has one.
If there are no positions available on the team, you can still express interest or even contact a product manager directly to learn more about the role or industry.
Meet real product managers to build your network
This option is particularly useful for someone who wants to learn about the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of a product manager. Because each PM role is unique to the business, speaking with a real product manager is a great way to understand which skills they find most valuable. You may even meet someone who can check your resume, refer you to an open position, or even hire you directly.
If you don’t have access to a product manager at your current company, there are plenty of networking opportunities. For instance, LinkedIn hosts groups such as the Product Management Networking Group —140,000+ members strong. Other opportunities to connect include GrowthHackers, Product School, and Women In Product.
Learn a PM mindset by reading books and blogs
If you want to know how to get into product management, you have to start thinking like a real PM. Understanding the ins and outs of product management will give you a better idea of how to position yourself to hiring companies. Reading books and blogs about the role will immerse you in the culture and give you a taste of what to expect.
For example, leaders in the product management community have long heralded Marty Cagan’s book, “Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love.”
Companies such as Productboard publish a blog that’s written exclusively for product managers. Reading this kind of content keeps you tuned into the current PM zeitgeist and will help you understand what to highlight on your resume.
Earn a degree or certification
Traditionally, employers of PMs have preferred candidates with at least a bachelor’s in marketing, tech engineering, or another related discipline. But the product management role has grown so much in popularity that there are now accredited degrees and certifications available specifically for this career path.
Top universities like Carnegie Mellon offer advanced degrees in product management. You can also earn a certificate from The Association of International Product Marketing and Management (AIPMM). Either of these credentials, paired with any professional experience you already have, is sure to help your resume stand out.
While these certifications can help, it’s often better to get direct PM experience by working on PM projects at work or by building your own app.
What does a role in product management look like?
Product managers determine the future of a product
Product managers are responsible for the entire life cycle of a product, including conception, development, distribution, and optimization. Their core function is to make critical decisions about the future of a product. This requires a deep understanding of a company’s technologies, processes, and employees.
Product managers work cross-functionally
Product managers usually lead a cross-functional team that may include members from marketing, analytics, production, sales, customer success, or user experience (UX) design. Products can be virtual, physical, or a hybrid mixture of both, presenting job opportunities for PMs across industries.
Product managers have to be industry experts
Since products represent the result of an entire company’s efforts, product managers are involved in many aspects of the business. They study market trends, calculate profit and loss, test product features, develop long-term roadmaps, and ensure customer satisfaction.
Product management job outlook is strong
Professionals seeking a career in product management in 2022 should expect to find more job opportunities than usual. A study conducted by Senior Product Manager Neal Iyer reports a staggering 32% growth in product management roles between 2017 and 2019. This wave of growth has likely continued since the radical expansion of the at-home, digital consumer in 2020.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide data on the product management career but offers relevant info about adjacent career paths. The BLS projects a 10% increase in demand (from 2020 to 2030) for “Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers.” Since many PMs come from these backgrounds, it’s reasonable to infer a shared pattern of growth.
Product manager salary and market trends
Glassdoor reports product manager salaries starting at $73K and topping out at $175K for senior roles. At large or well-funded tech companies, these salaries can even reach upwards of a 200k base—and nearly $1M total compensation with bonuses and stock options included.
Aside from occupational data, economic trends and projections forecast a perfect climate for the growth of product manager positions.
- As the market becomes saturated with options, skilled PMs who understand quality product experiences will become more valuable to digital-first industries such as ecommerce. Adobe’s Digital Economy Index reports a new landmark for ecommerce in 2022—the first trillion-dollar year.
- Prospective PMs will be well-positioned to find jobs in different industries as consumers embrace more digital products and services. According to Forbes, “In 2022 we’ll reach peak Everything-as-a-Service with pay as you go models becoming increasingly popular for everything from data software to desktop virtualization.”
- With more companies prioritizing digital acceleration, an influx of products and services will need to be brought from concept to reality. In a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review and Amplitude, “92% of executives say that now is a unique opportunity to capitalize on digital acceleration.”
Additionally, experienced product managers have more opportunities to grow in their career paths than in previous years. Organizational structures have changed in response to digital transformation—PMs are finding themselves in positions of administrative leadership.
Companies now offer advanced roles with titles such as:
- Senior Product Manager
- Group Product Manager
- Senior Director of Product
- Chief Product Officer
- Chief Innovation, Technology, and Product Officer