Everything you need to know about becoming a product manager

Product management is a broad field with many entry points and room for growth across various industries. The success of a business and growth of a brand often depends on the work of a product manager.

Many current product management roles are centered in the tech industry, but product managers can work within any business that makes, sells, or distributes a product — from automobiles to software, biochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and consumer goods.

What does a product manager do?

Product managers will have different responsibilities unique to their industry, business, and the team that they work with. But across all industries, their primary responsibility is to oversee the success of their organization’s product, be it something physical like shoes and clothes or a digital product like an app or type of software.

Product managers will manage many different aspects of a product’s lifecycle from concept work to design, manufacturing, and production, as well as packaging and shipping for physical products. They structure timelines, set deadlines, and monitor progress throughout each of these stages, often using analytics and data processing tools to guide their decision making.

During the manufacturing and production stages of a product’s lifecycle, they may be tasked with sourcing parts and packaging for physical products or other components like software for tech products. Especially in start-up companies and small businesses, they often work closely with company leadership to execute an overarching plan for a product from conception to launch and beyond.

A product manager often serves as the liaison between multiple departments throughout an organization. Their duty is to keep everything related to the product they oversee running smoothly, so they often need to interact with marketing teams, customer service specialists, engineers, designers, and anyone else pertinent to the product’s success.

How do you become a product manager?

Product managers come from a variety of backgrounds, but most will hold at least a Bachelor’s degree. Depending on the industry, some project manager jobs do require a graduate-level education such as an MBA or similar.

However, product management is not a field that requires any one specific type of degree or education. Each specific product manager job will have its own requirements for experience and education. For example, a job as a product manager for a company that is creating a new app may require a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and experience with software development. 

Upon entering the workforce, future product managers will need to gain experience within their chosen industry with entry-level positions. The exact qualifications for each product manager’s job will depend on the industry and type of products that they will work with.

What skills do you need to become a product manager?

To land a role as a product manager, a person should be able to successfully translate skills from their previous work experience into that job, regardless of the industry that they’re in. However, there are some key skills that all project managers will possess.

Product managers should be adept at record-keeping, research, data analysis, and project management. Organization, collaboration, and communication skills are helpful for product managers as they manage their team and oversee the different stages of product development.  

They should possess knowledge of how businesses operate, have a thorough understanding of the production process for the product they are working with. Product managers often need to employ logic, reasoning, and problem-solving skills to analyze and troubleshoot throughout the course of their work. 

What is the average salary for a product manager?

According to data from Indeed, the average salary for a product manager in the U.S. across all industries is $98,164. However, depending on the industry that a product manager works within, they may make much more.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics does not currently track specific occupational data for all product managers, but, they do collect data for product managers in certain industries. For example, the BLS reported that the average salary for industrial product managers was $108,790 in 2020 and the average salary for a computer and information systems product manager was $151,150.

What is the typical career path for a product manager?

As product managers can work in just about any industry, their career paths can vary widely. Many will start in entry-level positions within their industry to gain experience before working their way into management.

Product managers can work for a wide range of businesses across all industries. This includes businesses large and small, from startups to corporations. Their work is sometimes project-based or temporary to fill a current need when a company has a short-term product goal to meet, but the majority of project manager jobs are full-time salaried positions.

Product management is also a career that segues well into positions that are directly related to the marketing of a product. Product managers also track well into director positions and even executive positions where they need to be hands-on with teams who oversee product development or distribution.

Where to find product manager jobs

There are a variety of product manager jobs available across various industries. Job seekers with experience in marketing, product distribution, and brand development may want to consider product manager jobs available within their area of expertise.

See current job openings for product managers on Ladders now.