Pathways to a Product Management Career

If you’re reading this, you’re exploring how to become a Product Manager and you’ve undoubtedly concluded that you will be in high demand. You’re right.

The role of Product Manager is in the top 10 hardest-to-fill jobs across the entire information technology sector, which makes them among the highest paid, too. So why aren’t there more good Product Managers?

Two reasons:

The job isn’t easy. The role is both strategic and tactical, and requires a unique combination of business acumen, technical smarts and emotional intelligence. This is why people don’t go through a four-year undergraduate program and work immediately as a Product Manager. Experience is very important.

The pathway to a Product Management career isn’t clear. Spending just a half hour online exploring your options for entering this field can be mind-numbingly confusing.

So how do you get there from here?

  1. DIY on the job/ Get mentored. Perhaps you’re already working in software development or a technical sales & marketing role at your current company. You can work with a product manager you admire and respect willing to coach and teach you. Your company may even allow you to work at an entry level product management role. Mentorship and ‘on the job training’ are typical ways product managers get the job, but many feel they need more formal training to succeed in the role
  2. Get Product Management certificate or training. One option is to supplement your skills by filling in your knowledge gaps with your own self-directed education. Universities such as Cornell and Harvard offer overview courses on Product Management. There are lots of books on the subject, too. Many product managers enroll in a certification and training program, such as Pragmatic Marketing, General Assembly or 280 Group, or get educated on product development methodology frameworks such as Agile or Scrum
  3. Earn an MS in Product Management. Surprise! Yes, you CAN get a degree in product management. This is a road less taken, because it’s a road that just opened. Recently, Carnegie Mellon University recognized that more formal training in Product Management is required. Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business and School of Computer Science have joined forces to help fill the market demand for good Product Managers. For now, this first-of-its-kind degree is offered on Carnegie Mellon’s main campus in Pittsburgh. The program takes just one year to complete and is attracting top talent from around the world. Those with F-1 visas are eligible for the STEM OPT extension. More information can be found here:

Whatever career path you choose, we wish you well. Great Product Managers are a rare breed and the world could benefit from having many more of them.

pathways to a product management career infographic