What Is PLM? Product Lifecycle Management Career Guide

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn about PLM systems, tools, and careers in this quick guide.

[Featured Image] A product lifecycle team meets to discuss the development of a product as it goes through the product lifecycle stages.

What does PLM stand for?

PLM stands for product lifecycle management. It is the management of a product as it moves through the four stages of its lifecycle. In practice, product lifecycle management aims to support products in unique ways that correspond to their current lifecycle phase. Departments involved in PLM include design, development, manufacturing, pricing, and marketing. 

Fundamentals of PLM

An important aspect of PLM is the centralization of information. Everyone who needs to access data regarding the product should be able to do so easily. A few more essential elements of PLM include:

  • Management of documents pertaining to the product

  • Maintaining a central repository

  • Project task assignments

  • Workflow management

  • Change management

Read more: What is Change Management and How to Use it Effectively

Product lifecycle (the PL in PLM)

Product lifecycles can vary slightly from industry to industry. Overall, there are four common stages:

1. Introduction stage. Product launches are where the lifecycle begins. 

2. Growth stage. Successful, quality products move into the growth stage, where profit margins increase due to higher consumer demand. 

3. Maturity stage. Often the most profitable stage in the lifecycle, the maturity stage is marked by an increase in competition and a decrease in marketing and production costs. 

4. Decline stage. This final stage occurs when a product loses significant market share. 

You can learn more about the product lifecycle and how to manage each phase in the following article: What Is Product Lifecycle? 4 Stages + How to Manage Them.

How does PLM work?

One of the benefits of project lifecycle management is that it helps to determine if a product is worth pursuing and if it will be marketable and profitable. A PLM plan can help to increase productivity and reduce the time it takes to get a product to market.

Careful planning can also help eliminate waste and minimize company risks. It also allows companies to understand when a product has reached the end of its lifecycle and when it’s time to focus on new innovations.

Careers in PLM

Do you like solving problems while leading a team? Are you interested in working through and understanding product development and business strategy? If so, a career in product lifecycle management is a great option to consider. 

What do PLM professionals do?

Product lifecycle management professionals oversee product development as it progresses through each stage. They closely monitor product growth and track data using PLM software and tools. Their primary goal is to help companies make informed decisions for successful products. 

What is PLM software?

PLM professionals use an array of solutions to advance business strategy. For example, product visualization software can help solidify initial concepts, and collaborative product development tools streamline cross-departmental business processes. The most efficient solution depends on variables like the industry type and the form of product or service that needs management. 

PLM job titles

PLM professionals are often referred to as product managers or product lifecycle managers. However, specific job titles may vary depending on the industry in question. For example, a PLM professional who focuses on software products and has experience in software development may hold the title of PLM engineer. Large organizations with complex corporate systems may hire for roles like global principle solution architect or PLM coordinator

Product lifecycle manager skills and responsibilities

Product management involves taking on varied responsibilities. As a product manager, you may also need to assume the role of a PLM analyst or product owner. You will likely need to possess a complete understanding of product management concepts such as:

  • Product strategy. This is the foundation of all product management activities, including planning, product data management, development, and marketing.


  • User experience design. As a product manager, you must understand user experience design principles and methods.


  • Agile PLM. You’ll need to understand Agile software product development concepts, methodologies, and tools.


  • Business analysis. You ensure that under-development products are commercially viable. Business analysis skills may help you create a compelling business case, share data along the product value chain, and identify critical requirements.



  • Leadership. The ability to inspire a team to execute product strategy is critical to your success as a product manager. Product leaders must be able to rally all necessary employees around a single vision and motivate them to take it from concept to reality.


  • Communication skills. You'll need to communicate with everyone involved in your product development process and be able to talk and explain your product. This means presenting information clearly and succinctly.


  • Collaboration: As a product manager, you’re not solely responsible for the success or failure of the product, but you will be making critical decisions for it. It takes many people to bring a product to life, from manufacturing to quality assurance, to packaging. Collaboration is key to a successful outcome.


  • Engineering expertise: As a product manager, it's essential to understand how the technology that powers your product works because it can help you make better decisions. Having a fundamental understanding of mechanical design and simulation can be highly beneficial. 

Average salary of a product lifecycle manager

According to Glassdoor, the average base salary for a product lifecycle manager in the US is $94,257 annually [1]. Product lifecycle managers also reported an average yearly additional pay of $21,186. Additional pay may represent commissions, profit-sharing, and bonuses. Combined, these figures equal an average yearly wage of $115,442. Your salary may be influenced by factors like experience level, industry type, company, and location.

How to become a product lifecycle manager

While there’s no one specific career path to becoming a product lifestyle manager, you must have experience, knowledge, qualifications, or certifications in the product management and development field. Use the steps below to visualize a potential PLM career path. 

1. Consider earning a relevant degree.

According to Zippia, 72 percent of product managers have a bachelor's degree, 17 percent have a master's degree, and 7 percent have an associate degree [2]. Relevant academic programs for aspiring product managers to pursue include business management, marketing, electrical engineering, and computer science. For example, future product managers may enroll to earn a Master of Science in Management from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign online:


Master of Science in Management (iMSM)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

2. Develop key skills.

Sales and analytical skills are crucial for product lifecycle management careers. Transferable skills from any former employment unrelated to PLM may also be relevant and useful. For example, communication, problem-solving, and leadership are essential to the role. 

If you don’t have experience in product lifecycle development, taking online courses or earning career credentials can help enhance your resume. Even those with experience can benefit from continued professional development, given the technical nature of PLM. 

3. Consider getting certified.

Two certification programs are available from the Project Management Institute (PMI):

  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM): Offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the requirements for certification include a high school diploma and an associate degree. To sit for the exam, you need to complete 23 hours of project management education.

  • Project Management Professional (PMP): To qualify for the exam, you need a four-year degree, 36 months of experience leading projects, and 35 hours of project management education or training. As an alternative, a candidate can possess a high school diploma and an associate degree along with six months of experience leading projects and 35 hours of project management education or hold CAPM certification.

Read more: CAPM vs. PMP: Which Is Best for You?

Take the next step toward a career in PLM

You can learn project management skills from an industry leader in technology with Google's Project Management Professional Certificate. It's 100% online and self-paced. After completion, you can directly apply for jobs at Google, Best Buy, and more. If you're considering earning the CAPM, this certificate qualifies you for over 100 hours of project management education.


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Article sources


Glassdoor. "How much does a product lifecycle manager make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/product-lifecycle-manager-salary-SRCH_KO0,25.htm." Accessed March 23, 2023.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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