The product manager job is one of the most important jobs in the realm of products and services. However, landing a PM job can be hard because of product manager education requirements.
Usually, organizations tend to opt for PMs who have a proper education and a solidified career path. However, these days, some companies have started to become laxer in their hiring processes. One can change their current career to product management without going through college programs.
That doesn’t mean that the general product manager education requirements have diminished over the years. It’s just that, companies understand that you don’t need a degree in product management to become a product manager.
In this article, we’ll go over the product manager education requirements in 2021, along with how you can become one.
Let’s dive right in.
Table of Contents
What are the Product Manager Education Requirements?
On average, a product manager needs to have a Bachelor’s degree in product management, business, or any related field.
As long as your degree includes classes and courses about business management, product management, public relations, marketing, communications, advertising, basic economics, and mathematics, you’re good to go.
Here’s a summary of the individual educational requirements:
- A Bachelor’s degree in product management, business, economics, or any related field. If you’re a SaaS product manager, AI product manager, or any other computer science-related PM, a Bachelor’s degree in computer science can also work.
- A Master’s degree in the same fields as listed above. However, since Master’s degrees are more about specialization, you should only opt for them once you’ve racked up ample experience. That’s because once you getting some experience, you’ll realize what you’re good at, and so you can get a clear picture as to what you need to specialize in.
- You can also go for a D. degree if you want, but the majority of organizations don’t ask for it. Nevertheless, a select few enterprise organizations may require them, but only for high-level and C-level product positions.
- Various product management certifications are useful for building your credibility and qualifications. These certifications can be about product management fundamentals, product manager jobs, and even specific things like product strategy.
- You should also complete product management courses to expand your knowledge base. Most online courses provide completion badges, while in-person courses tend to give you physical certification
- Additional classes and training in various product-related matters are usually needed. That can include learning how to use product management software, various product tools, and how to utilize metrics to calculate KPIs and evaluate data for insights.
These educational requirements are the bare minimum for the most part.
What are the Product Manager Skills Requirements?
Typically, the product manager job description lists several skills and abilities as requirements. However, the thing with job descriptions is that they usually list down all the possible requirements for the job.
Usually, the job itself entails and utilizes half of the skills and abilities listed. But that doesn’t mean that a product manager shouldn’t have all the typical skills and abilities that are required of them.
The following skills and abilities are what every product manager should have, regardless of their career path, specialization, or industry:
- Business Skills – PMs need to have superior business skills to manage products according to business needs. They have to understand organizational and business goals to drive the products toward those goals.
- Research Skills – All product managers have to consistently do market research, product research, feature research, competitor research, and more. It helps them stay one step ahead while ensuring that all the teams are on the same level.
- Technical Skills – These tend to be more important when the product or service is technical in nature. In that case, the product manager needs to have some technical skills to understand the workflow and process.
- Communication Skills – It is crucial for a product manager to have communication skills because they need to cross-functionally manage multiple teams, including the product team, engineering team, development team, and more.
- Analytical Skills – All PMs need to have analytical skills to analyze multiple data sets. They use their analysis to derive more efficient workflows, better product features, and do much more.
- Prioritization Skills – It’s critical for a PM to know how to prioritize tasks. That’s because they need to come up with the ideal workflow to ensure all deadlines are met by all the teams.
Other skills include interpersonal, marketing, strategy, and delegation skills.
Additional Abilities Requirements
On top of typical product manager skills, PMs also need to have some specific, yet basic abilities.
Those abilities include the following:
- A basic understanding of Microsoft Office products, including Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Microsoft Project.
- Fundamental understanding of web development. PMs don’t need to know how to code or program, but they should be able to understand the nuisances of the job.
- Should be good technical writers. They don’t need to write the technical documentation, but they should be able to assess the work of a technical writer.
- A basic understanding of user experience and user interfaces. It helps PMs come up with better product features.
Some companies may ask you to include credentials for the skills and abilities listed above to ensure they fulfill the product manager education requirements.
How to Become a Product Manager
Becoming a product manager requires years of experience in different capacities. That can include product management experience and project management experience. Furthermore, it requires a hefty experience with product development, product strategy, product launches, or even product marketing.
Usually, the product manager has to oversee all aspects of a product, and that requires knowledge about multiple product-related concepts. That’s why the average salary of a product manager is higher than the national average salary in the US.
According to Glassdoor, the average product manager salary in the US is $112,029. The average salary range is between $73,000 and $173,000, with the upper end being offered in cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Typically, a product manager’s salary depends on several factors. That can include things like the industry, organization, product lines, and the overall expertise of a PM.
In smaller organizations, product managers tend to have more responsibilities because they can’t delegate too many tasks. That’s why some startups tend to pay higher salaries compared to medium-sized businesses.
Alternatively, large organizations tend to pay product managers more, but they typically have fewer duties and tasks for their product managers.
However, to become a product manager you need to have a well-defined career path. That means you need to start with an undergraduate degree that would assist you in your product management career. Once you’re done with that, you then need to work on getting some product-related experience.
Meanwhile, you can continue by reading product management books to improve your knowledge base. Along with that, you can start by working on getting some product management certifications and courses.
Doing that consistently can lead to a proper product manager job.
Becoming a Great Product Manager
Becoming a great product manager hinges on your overall academic qualifications and experience. If you don’t meet the criteria yet, your first order of business should be to focus on meeting a product manager’s education requirements.
Once those are out of the way, you can start focusing on getting relevant experience. Try to start in an industry that you can consistently work with, and if you can, choose your organization wisely.
Once you’re done with product manager educational requirements and have ample experience in the product management field, you can kick off your product manager career.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What do you need to become a product manager?
To become a product manager you need a few important sets of skills, along with some fundamental knowledge of product management.
You need to have a strong understanding of product management concepts, marketing strategies, customer needs, and metrics. On the skills side, you need strong leadership skills, problem-solving skills, and years of experience working with various products.
Other than that, your skill set should also include things like Microsoft Excel and various product management tools. You need excellent time management skills and should be able to delegate tasks effectively.
Having a technical background helps if it’s a technical product. For example, you need to be a machine learning product manager to work with products that use artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The PM role also requires you to know about product strategy, product marketing, product roadmaps, product lifecycle, product development, business administration, and project management. For SaaS companies, the product management role can also include knowledge of computer science principles, basics of business management, and more.
Meanwhile, larger organizations like Amazon or LinkedIn will always have additional requirements.
2. How many years of experience do you need to be a product manager?
There isn’t a clear answer on how many years of experience you need to become a product manager, but the general consensus is that it can take anywhere around 5 to 10 years. During that time, you need to be working with relevant products and services. You can build Product management experience by working alongside existing product managers, senior product managers, or even marketing managers.
Aspiring product managers tend to start on a project manager or associate product manager position. Product management jobs follow a specific career path in each industry and company, making it important to follow them.
Once you have enough experience as a project manager or full-time associate, you can apply for a product manager position. Your product manager career can eventually lead you to the position of Director of Product or Chief Product Officer.
3. What courses should a product manager do?
Since not every product professional has or can have a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree, a lot of companies have started to accept product management courses and certifications. There are a lot of online courses you can do to start your product manager career. However, you’re better off opting for a product manager boot camp.
Keep in mind that where you complete the course doesn’t matter much, unless you’re going for a certification.
Here’s a small list of product manager courses that you should look out for:
- Product manager fundamentals
- Digital product management
- Startup product management
- Entry-level product management
- New product manager basics
The product manager role requires some specific responsibilities, and in some cases, qualification matters too. In that scenario, you might have to opt for product manager courses that are designed to help you specialize in any single aspect of the field.
4. Is MBA required for a product manager?
You don’t necessarily need an MBA to become a product manager. An MBA is a Master’s in Business Administration, and it has more to do with business management. However, people who have an MBA can opt for product management, provided they have the right knowledge and expertise.
Typically, product managers are expected to have a Bachelor’s degree. However, that degree can be in product management, business administration, computer science, management sciences, or any related field.
Therefore, you don’t need an exact degree program to help you get to the product manager position.
However, if you want to move on from a product manager role to a senior product manager role, or even a director position, you may have to improve your qualifications. Depending on the company you’re working with, the Director of Product or Chief Product Officer positions usually require an MBA or any equivalent degree.
5. Is product manager a good career?
The product manager career is one of the best careers that you can opt for today. This is due to the abundance of products and services in the market. With so many new products and product lines being released every day, the demand for product managers is ever-growing.
Furthermore, the product manager job teaches you a lot of things like public relations, stakeholder management, pricing models, and much more. These things are crucial for running a successful company and product.
Not to mention that the product manager salary is above the national average in the US. On top of that, there are tons of new job opportunities available every day.
In fact, according to Glassdoor’s list of best jobs in the US, the product manager job ranks at number five, with over 11,000 active job opportunities at any given time.