Are you interested in a career that would enable you to exercise your creativity? Have you ever been curious about how new products get developed? The product manager career path could be the right one for you.
What is product management and what is the process for how to become a product manager? Explore this detailed career guide to get the answers.
What Is Product Management?
The average person’s life revolves around the use of products. They set alarm clocks to get out of bed in the morning, check a wellness app to see how well they slept, use a fitness tracker app to log their morning workout and then hop in a car to get to work. The average person uses countless products every day — from toothpaste to mountain bikes.
The sheer diversity of products out there is astounding, but one thing many of them have in common is that they entered the marketplace thanks in part to the hard work of a product manager. A product manager is responsible for the lifecycle of a product — from conception to marketing.
The product manager begins by identifying a customer need or desire and evaluating the potential business impact of fulfilling that need or desire. In other words, what new products do customers want and will those new products result in profits for the company? How will the new product fit into the marketplace?
Of course, the product manager isn’t solely responsible for the hands-on development, manufacturing and selling of the product. Rather, they oversee the lifecycle of the product by coordinating tasks with other teams, such as the research and development team. The specific responsibilities of a product manager can vary from one company to the next.
For instance, at large companies, one product manager may be responsible for overseeing research and development, while another one may oversee the marketing and launch of new products. At other companies, a product manager might be expected to oversee the entire product lifecycle.
Product managers can work in a wide range of industries. For example, some product managers specialize in tech products, like new apps or smartphones. Others might specialize in children’s products, such as toys or educational products.
An Overview for Becoming a Project Manager
Becoming a product manager can allow you to enjoy meaningful work that is on the forefront of innovation. However, it’s not an entry-level role, and it does require academic credentials.
Although every company has their own requirements, in general, product managers are expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Typically, aspiring product managers earn an undergraduate degree in the business and management field, although there are exceptions. Many product managers also have a graduate degree, such as a master’s degree in business administration.
Even with a master’s degree, you should expect to need at least a few years of relevant, full-time work experience to pursue higher project manager jobs. For example, a future product manager might work as a copywriter or a sales representative before pursuing their dream job.
Earn a Relevant Undergraduate Degree
After high school, the first step in the process of how to become a product manager is to earn a baccalaureate degree. There isn’t a universal degree requirement for this career path. However, some type of degree in business and management is ideal.
For instance, you might choose to earn a degree in business management, or marketing and advertising. A business analytics degree could also be a good choice. Some schools might offer a degree specifically devoted to product management.
Another option is to choose a degree in a different field altogether, but one that is relevant to the types of products that you would like to work on. For instance, if you are interested in becoming a product manager in the tech field, you might earn a computer science degree. If you opt for this route, you should also consider earning a business and management minor.
Product Manager Jobs and Career Path
Even after earning the necessary degrees, you can expect to need at least a few years of relevant work experience before you can pursue a job as a product manager. There is no single, universal product manager career path, as everyone’s journey is a little different. In general, however, some of the project manager jobs you might hold prior to becoming a product manager include those that follow:
Sales representatives are responsible for selling a company’s products. They identify potential leads, and conduct phone calls, training sessions and presentations to educate possible customers about the company’s products. Sales representatives play a major role in the success of a product, and consequently, the success of the entire company. They provide product trainings to retailers, often performs regular inventory, ordering and restocking of products for clients. There can be extensive requires for knowledge of large product lines.
To do their job well, sales representatives need to know the product inside and out, and understand how to build strong working relationships with customers and potential customers. Serving as a sales representative can provide a steppingstone for you as someone who aspires to become a product manager.
Another job that may be part of a future product manager’s career path is that of copywriter. A copywriter is a marketing expert who specializes in writing copy, or sales content, either for print media or digital mediums. Becoming a copywriter can be particularly ideal for you since this job can allow you to develop a strong sense of the psychology of consumers.
Copywriters must be able to identify and tap into the motivations and desires of consumers in order to drive demand for products. Copywriters also develop an understanding of how consumers perceive products offered by one company versus the offerings by a competing company. This can allow you to learn how to develop new products that are more desirable than those available from competitors.
Associate Product Manager
Before becoming a product manager, you might take a job as an associate or assistant product manager. Associate product manager jobs can typically have the same general responsibilities as a more senior product manager. However, you will perform your duties under the supervision and guidance of a product manager, allowing you to learn on the job.
Earn a Master’s Degree in Business Administration
After working in the field for a few years, you may be ready to head back to school to improve your qualifications before pursuing a job as a product manager. The Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is a widely respected, well-known credential that suits this career path well.
A master’s degree in business administration can include a concentration or specialization. Again, there is no universal concentration that is required of aspiring product managers, but some common choices include earning an MBA with a specialization in marketing, project management or leadership.
It may take one to two years of full-time study to complete an MBA degree. If you decide to continue to work on a full-time basis, it may take three or more years of part-time study to earn a master’s degree in business administration. However, the rewards will be well-worth the investment of time.
An MBA degree doesn’t only offer a deep exploration of topics that future managers need to master. It also provides the opportunity to refine your leadership style, improve communication skills and strengthen critical thinking abilities. Plus, every MBA program offers invaluable networking opportunities for professionals.
You can prepare to pursue exciting, senior-level positions in product management jobs when you earn a master’s degree in business administration at Grand Canyon University. The prestigious Colangelo College of Business is pleased to offer multiple degree programs, including the Master of Business Administration with an Emphasis in Marketing with convenient online and evening courses available. Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to begin your academic journey at GCU.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.