Product Managers Are Always in Demand

In the business world, the title Product Manager often has a highly specific meaning. Many companies have Software Project Managers and UX/UI Developers, some of whom go on to become Product Managers. The “product” in question may be a physical product, a software as a service model (SaaS), or a financial or insurance product or service. Other companies’ product management personnel cover industrial, marketing, or other areas.

Product Managers often have college or university degrees, but this isn’t necessarily required. More likely than not, though, a Product Manager will undergo comprehensive training in their technical field, and obtain a specialized certification. Examples of these include:

  • CBAP - Certified Business Analysis Professional
  • PMP - Project Management Professional
  • PMI-ACP - Project Management Institute Agile Certified Practitioner
  • CPPM - Certified Professional Project Manager
  • AIPM - Associate in Project Management
  • CAPM - Certificate Associate in Project Management

Drilling Up, Drilling Down

If you want to advance to a product management position at some point, you’ll first need to drill down into the requirements in your field of study. While certain management skills are transferable among industries, some positions demand considerable expertise in the field itself in addition to management skills. Knowing where you plan to use your management training is essential.

Median salaries for management professionals vary, and some industries pay substantially more than others. Whereas industrial production management pros typically earn a median annual salary around $109,000, computer and information systems managers earn a median salary closer to $150,000 per year.

Develop a Strategy to Launch Your Product Management Career

The infamous “Peter Principle” suggests that many management professionals advance to a point beyond their capabilities or competence. No one, however, wants this to happen to them. Having a plan and following it is crucial to succeed in a management career, especially product management.

Some Software Managers are natural candidates for product management positions in their organizations, and these titles may or may not be interchangeable. Again, expertise in one’s particular field is all-important.

The following suggests paths to management positions, with or without a formal college or university education; keep in mind, too, some companies may subsidize your education if you’re on their management track. (Click individual steps to skip ahead.)

  1. Know Your Field Inside Out
  2. Be Aware of Current Trends, Anticipate the Future
  3. Do the Required Work—Then Go Above and Beyond It
  4. Have an Open Mind about Qualifications
  5. Enroll in the Right Certificate Program
  6. Get Certified!
  7. Surround Yourself With the Best Management Pros 
  8. Continue to Expand Your Management Skill Set

1. Know Your Field Inside Out

Product management and project management are not necessarily the same, but in some fields they are virtually indistinguishable. Whatever your field of choice—from software as a service to personal fitness to financial analysis—your management abilities will be questioned less if you know much more about the field than the minimum required. A brief look at companies currently seeking Product Managers through online postings includes:

  • Google
  • Adobe
  • Meta
  • Zillow
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Live Nation

Though positions like these may fill up fast, the need for skilled, knowledgeable management pros may be greater than ever. Preparing by learning is essential for managers to thrive in today’s fast-paced workforce.

2. Be Aware of Current Trends, Anticipate the Future

Keeping up with any management trend can be difficult, and with product management, the challenges brought on by constant change can be unique. Still, you can find multiple resources to use on an ongoing basis before taking on any management role. Online subscriptions, newsletters, and news stories about management challenges can give you a clearer picture of what’s happening in the market now.

While you won’t be able to predict the future any better than your colleagues, sniffing out upcoming changes in a particular industry can be especially helpful as you progress in your management career. If you know which way the wind is blowing before others, they will be grateful for your knowledge and assistance, as well as your leadership.

3. Do the Required Work—Then Go Above and Beyond It

If you think you’re working harder than everyone else in your company, you may be right. You also may be on your way to a management position.

Of all the changes assailing corporate America, one thing remains constant: managers notice people who outwork everyone else, and those hard workers often get promoted. In companies where multiple software managers compete for a product management opening, the hard worker without a degree may pass by the university grad who puts in an average effort.

In large corporations in particular, you might start out as a Software Developer before you progress to Project Coordinator, Assistant Project Manager, or Project Manager. And you may need to prove yourself in such a position for years or acquire specific certifications before qualifying for Product Manager. In construction, you might progress from Civil Engineer to Construction Project Manager. Each industry’s path will differ, but going above and beyond the job’s basics can take you far.

4. Have an Open Mind About Qualifications

One of the best aspects of product management positions is that you may be able to attain them without attending a particular school or getting a particular degree. Many careers demand a range of hard skills that top employers’ requirements list, and they won’t care where, or even if, you went to college.

Positions available to project management pros often demand certifications, such as the Certificate Associate in Project Management (CAPM), Project Management Professional (PMP), or Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP). Be open to acquiring one or more of these certifications, as they can be required, but they also distinguish you among other candidates even where not technically required.

5. Enroll in the Right Certification Program

Noble Desktop offers a PMP Certification Bootcamp and a CAPM Certification Bootcamp, both highly recommended by alumni. You can also benefit greatly from their Project Management Bootcamp and shorter introductory and intermediate project management courses. Consider joining a local chapter of the Project Management Institute itself (PMI), as the community offers many networking opportunities for project management and other executives and management professionals.

6. Get Certified!

Once you’ve determined your course of action and chosen the best certification program, it’s time to enroll. You might ultimately want to get PMP-certified, but this opens the door to positions that require multiple years of management experience in addition to PMP Certification. 

Depending on your industry and level of experience, you may need to sit for CAPM Certification before you qualify for a PMP Certification. The CAPM requirements are not as restrictive as those of the PMP, and you may ultimately decide to get both. If you don’t have a college degree—and won’t necessarily need one—it’s worth considering getting CAPM certification as you gain the on-the-job experience required to sit for the PMP exam.

7. Surround Yourself With the Best Management Pros

Networking is an essential part of the PMI community, not only for project managers and product managers but also for executives and sole business owners of all types. Regular meetings with highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals is a feature of many business communities, but PMI can be an especially attractive option for those who are interested in their certification programs.

In addition to the popular PMP, CPAM, and ACP certifications, PMI certifications include: 

  • PMI-PBA - PMI Professional in Business Analysis
  • PgMP - Program Management Professional
  • PMI-RMP - PMI Risk Management Professional
  • PfMP - Portfolio Management Professional
  • PMI-SP - PMI Scheduling Professional

Whatever your course of action includes, some of these certifications may be appropriate for your career path, either now or in the future.

8. Continue to Expand Your Management Skill Set

Professional development is an ongoing part of the journey for many management professionals, whether you’re in the public or private sector. Educators, product management pros, and accountants. Areas of professional development emphasis can include, but are not limited to:

  • Leadership
  • Conflict resolution
  • Work ethics
  • Talent management
  • Employee onboarding
  • Industry knowledge
  • Written communication

Your motivation and skills will benefit you greatly as you move upward toward your product management goal, regardless of where and when you went to school. If you work hard and train through a CAPM or PMP certification bootcamp, you’re likely to succeed not only in taking the appropriate exam but also in your future endeavors.