A Guide to Product Development Jobs: Roles, Skills, Salaries

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Product development jobs involve the product lifecycle, conception to release. Learn the skills you need to work in product development or as a product manager.

[Featured image] A female, wearing a dark jacket and white top, is standing in front of and pointing to a whiteboard, as she conducts a meeting with the product development team.

When you work in product development, your role is to bring better products to the market. This involves the product lifecycle, from ideation, concept development, prototyping to testing. As a product developer, you must have a strong understanding of the creative and technical aspects of product development.

The skills you need to build a successful career in product development vary depending on your role in the product team. Some essential skills include creativity, problem-solving, attention to detail, and strong communication. As you look through job advertisements, you’ll notice that product jobs often pay very well. Senior product development positions in the US can pay as much as $126,259 a year [1]. In this article, discover more about this rewarding career.

What exactly is product development?

Product development is the process of creating or improving a new product or service, including its design, testing, and release. The product lifecycle may also include controlling cost, quality, and time to market by improving manufacturing or distribution processes. An essential part of your role is ensuring that your products are functional, appealing to customers, and profitable.

What are the steps in product development?

This product development process can involve improving existing products or developing new ones. This includes considering marketing strategies for products once they are ready to be released into the market. Product development must consider customers' needs and wants and be aligned with the company's ability to source, produce, and market the product. You can think about the product development process in different ways. Here is a summary of the four critical steps in the product development process.

1. Research the market.

Before you start product development, you must research the target market to ensure demand for your merchandise. This involves surveying potential customers and analyzing data to determine if they’ll be motivated to purchase your product. You’ll also need to uncover how big the opportunity is.

Read more: Market Analysis: What It Is and How to Conduct One

2. Design the process.

Your first step in product development is designing the product. This involves brainstorming for a new product or ways to improve an existing one. Your design must be functional, aesthetically pleasing, safe, and compliant with relevant regulations.

3. Product development

Once the design is complete, it’s time for you to develop the product. This involves developing the manufacturing process, building prototypes, and ensuring products meet all safety and quality standards. Product development can be relatively simple or more complex involving many iterations in an Agile development environment. 

4. Conduct prototype testing.

Once the product is ready, present it to selected customers for feedback. Criticism can help improve the product before it goes to market.

If you’re interested in building software or digital product skills, consider the following courses. Both are available on Coursera.

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Software Product Management

Create Better Software using Agile Practices. Master Agile development and effective interactions to drive the making of great software products

4.7

(8,027 ratings)

63,749 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Software Requirements, Product Management, Scrum, agile, Project Management, Agile Software Development, Software Product Management, Software Project Management, Lean Software Development, Software Development Process, Scrum (Software Development), User Story, Use Case, Software Development, Agile Management, Program Evaluation And Review Technique (PERT), Software Metric, Software Metrics

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course

Digital Product Management: Modern Fundamentals

Not so long ago, the job of product manager was about assessing market data, creating requirements, and managing the hand-off to sales/marketing. Maybe ...

4.7

(4,443 ratings)

154,698 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 1 month(s)

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Skills you'll build:

Product/Market Fit, Product Management, Design Thinking, Innovation Pipeline, Lean Startup

Product development industry overview 

The industry is expected to grow with new technology, like robotics, data analytics, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT), is changing how products are developed and manufactured. Jobs for product developers are in demand as businesses strive to introduce new products to the market. Product development is also critical to a company's success, and those who enter this field can expect to find plenty of opportunities for advancement. 

Job outlook

The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) predicts that industrial product designer jobs will increase 6 percent between 2020 and 2030 [2]. Market research analyst jobs are expected to grow by 22 percent in this period [3]. Different positions in product development will have different demand levels as technology transforms.

Jobs opportunities in product development

When looking at careers in product development, you’ll see diverse job opportunities in the product lifecycle, ranging from entry-level jobs to highly specialized roles. Product development is critical in any company that designs and manufactures products. Here are some positions and its annual US salary: 

*All salary data is sourced from Glassdoor as of August 2022

Skills important to product development jobs

As a product development manager, you have many roles. One minute you might be working on the strategy for a product launch, and the next, you might troubleshoot an issue with a product in early development. To succeed in this type of role requires strong and diverse competencies. 

Technical skills

You’ll need to be proficient in several technical skills to understand complex technical problems and develop creative product solutions. Some of the technical skills you’ll possess include:

  • Conducting market research

  • Knowledge of user experience best practices

  • Understanding of web/software/product development

  • Writing technical specs and requirements

Workplace skills

Working in the product development lifecycle, you’ll also need excellent project management skills to juggle multiple products and deadlines. You’ll need to be able to work well under pressure and meet deadlines. This means having excellent workplace skills. Some of the essential workplace skills you need are:

  • Strong communication skills

  • Critical thinking and analytical skills

  • Flexibility

  • Leadership and the ability to take initiative

  • Problem-solving

  • Time management

Education requirements

You'll likely need to earn a bachelor's degree to pursue a career in product development. An industrial engineering internship can give you the skills and experience you need to be successful in this field. You may also consider a master's degree or professional certificate to enhance your employability.

Certification programs 

Product development certification can help you to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in this career path. It can also help you demonstrate commitment and competencies to stand out amongst other candidates, making you more attractive to potential employers. 

Certification programs may also provide access to exclusive job opportunities and networking events. Here are some product-related certifications that you might want to consider.

  • Agile Certified Product Manager And Product Owner by AIPMM

  • Certified Product Manager Credential by AIPMM

  • Certified Product Marketing Manager by AIPMM

  • Pragmatic Institute's Product Management Certification

  • Product Development and Management Association's (PDMA) New Product Development Certification (NPDP)

Learn more about product development

Courses in product development can help you to learn the skills you need to succeed in this field. To thrive as a product developer, you'll need to have strong problem-solving skills and be able to think creatively. You'll also be familiar with the customer journey and be able to map it out. 

You might consider an online course to learn more and enhance your resume. Two popular options are Product Development: Customer Journey Mapping with Miro and Product Ideation, Design, and Management Specialization offered on Coursera by the University of Maryland.

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guided project

Product Development: Customer Journey Mapping with Miro

By the end of this project, you will be fluent in identifying and analyzing customer journeys for new products and services and in deriving opportunities ...

4.5

(75 ratings)

4,419 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 1 month(s)

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Skills you'll build:

Product Development, Marketing, Business Strategy, Value Proposition, Innovation

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specialization

Product Ideation, Design, and Management

Learn to discover, design, and deliver products that customers love.

4.4

(131 ratings)

4,566 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 5 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Product Development, Ideation, Product Management, product design, Innovation, Market Analysis, Entrepreneurship, Competitive Analysis, Customer Development, Marketing, Leadership, User Experience (UX), Prototyping, Corporate Finance, Entrepreneurial Finance, Venture Capital, Finance

Related articles

Article sources

1. Glassdoor. “How much does a senior product developer make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-senior-product-developer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,27.htm.” Accessed June 28, 2022.

2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Industrial designers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/industrial-designers.htm” Accessed June 28, 2022.

3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Market research analysts,  https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/market-research-analysts.htm.”Accessed June 28, 2022.

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