What Does a Product Manager Do? Steps To Become One

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 28 January 2023

Published 27 July 2021

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.

Product managers oversee the development and implementation of new products and product lines. These professionals use their knowledge of business strategy, product design and manufacturing to help businesses improve their quality, production and sales margins. If you're interested in business administration, marketing or product development, then you might consider pursuing a career as a product manager. In this article, we explain what a product manager is, share the steps you can take to become one and list some skills that can help you advance in your career as a product manager.

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What does a product manager do?

To understand what does a product manager do, the manager oversees the development of products or product lines. They create strategies to design new products and improve existing products based on market research and consumer feedback. Product managers usually report to the C-level executives within an organisation and collaborate with development teams to improve the company's profitability. They often work closely with the sales and marketing departments. Product managers may also collaborate with engineers to add new product features or optimise production.

Related: What Is a Supply Chain Manager?

What is the work environment like for a product manager?

Most product managers work full-time during regular business hours. They may work overtime occasionally to ensure each product development project they oversee is on track. Product managers often spend most of their time working in an office setting. While they can work for a wide variety of businesses, some of the most common industries that employ product managers include technology, finance, retail and consumer goods. They may also travel as needed to visit international clients or office branches if they work for a large corporation.

Related: What Does a Technical Product Manager Do? (With Salary)

What are the job duties of a product manager?

While a product manager's job duties may vary depending on the company they work for, there are several common tasks product managers are responsible for. Some of the most common job duties of a product manager include:

  • Testing product samples to ensure quality

  • Identifying market trends and opportunities

  • Surveying customers to gather feedback

  • Researching a product's effectiveness

  • Overseeing product development from conception to completion

  • Optimising product features to provide value to consumers

  • Identifying the target audience for each product

  • Developing product strategies and manufacturing plans

  • Assessing products from competitors

  • Preparing product sales forecasts

  • Collaborating with leaders, team members and key stakeholders

Related: 15 Project Management Skills a Project Manager Should Have

Average salary for a product manager

The average annual salary for a product manager is $98,712 per year. As a product manager, your salary may vary based on your education level, work experience and skill set. The industry of the company you work for may also impact your salary.

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How to become a product manager

While each employer may require a different level of experience when considering applicants for a product manager position, there are some education and training courses that can help you advance in your career. Here are some steps you can follow to start your career as a product manager:

1. Earn a pre-university diploma

Many product managers choose to pursue admission to a three-year polytechnic diploma course where they can study topics such as digital product design, integrated product life cycle processes and the digitalisation of product development while gaining tangible experience. Completing a full-time diploma course in business administration can prepare you for a successful career as a product manager by teaching you different innovation and entrepreneurship strategies. You can also learn about digital marketing, branding, international trade and operations through a polytechnic programme.

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2. Complete an internship

During the third year of your polytechnic course, you may have the opportunity to complete an internship or partner with a company to develop an industry project. By applying what you learned throughout your business administration courses, you can work with them to enhance their business and gain work experience. You can also work on consultancy projects, attend networking events and participate in competitions through your school to learn more about current market trends and hone your professional skill set.

Read more: The Best Times To Apply For an Internship (Plus Tips From a University Career Coach)

3. Enrol at a university

While you may not be required to attend university, earning an advanced degree can help you improve your skill set and impress potential employers. Consider pursuing a bachelor's degree in economics or management to continue your education. If you plan to work as a product manager in the technology industry, you may also pursue a degree in computer science, software development or a related field. Some courses that can help you prepare for a career as a product manager include:

  • Marketing and advertising

  • Public relations

  • Communications

  • Economics

  • Statistics

  • Product management

  • User experience design (UX)

4. Become certified

After you've completed your schooling, you may choose to earn different certifications to continue improving your skill set. Some employers require product managers to have specific certifications based on their industry and the software programs they use. You can research the certifications that are most common in your desired industry. Some popular product management certifications include:

  • Certified Product Manager (CPM): to earn this credential, candidates pass an exam provided by the Association of International Product Marketing and Management (AIPMM). The programme focuses on optimising marketing strategies for specific products and managing products throughout the first half of their life cycle.

  • SAFe Product Owner / Product Manager: earning this certification can help you demonstrate your knowledge of how to use lean and agile workflows to optimise your team's performance. Participants complete a 16-hour course and pass a final exam to earn this credential.

  • Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO): this is one of the most common product manager certifications that focuses on the basics of product management. While different companies may use other agile workflows besides scrum, understanding how this model works can help you implement more effective product development plans.

4. Apply for jobs

When you're ready to apply for jobs, create a well-written resume that showcases your skills and qualifications to impress hiring managers. List all the formal education you've completed, along with your certifications and relevant work experience.

Once your resume is complete, use search engines to find product manager jobs that match your preferred industry, skill set and qualifications. You can also connect with any professional contacts you made during your internship, schooling or training courses to ask if they know of any companies that are currently hiring product managers. If one of your professional contacts refers you to an employer, it can help you make a good first impression and set you apart from other candidates with similar backgrounds.

Related: 5 Product Manager Interview Questions (With Sample Responses)

What skills do you need to be a product manager?

Here are some skills that can help you advance in your career as a product manager:

  • Communication: product managers communicate with their supervisors, company stakeholders and other members of the product development team frequently. Having excellent written and verbal communication skills can help you make sure everyone understands the expectations for each product and team members know what they are responsible for.

  • Time management: as a product manager, you may oversee the development of several products or product lines simultaneously. Managing your time carefully can help you prioritise tasks and make sure you meet deadlines.

  • Risk analysis: a successful product manager can effectively identify and analyse potential risk factors to prevent them in the workplace. They may review large amounts of data or research market trends to help them make informed executive decisions when handling these risks.

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving: product managers are responsible for conceptualising new products and planning their development. Honing your critical thinking and problem-solving skills can help you create plans that are effective and troubleshoot potential challenges as they arise.

  • Leadership: an essential part of a product manager's job is to motivate and support their team. Practising your interpersonal skills and ability to delegate tasks can help you lead your team effectively.

  • Finance management: product managers develop and maintain budgets for each product or product line they oversee. Having a background in finance management can help you evaluate revenue margins and forecast expenses.

Related: 36 Technical Product Manager Interview Questions

Please note that Indeed is not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this article. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing.

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