What Does a Product Manager Do (and How Do I Become One)?

Written by Coursera • May 6, 2021

A product manager focuses on product strategy to create, distribute, sell, and obtain feedback on a specific product or service. Read more to see if a career in product management may be right for you.

A product manager sitting outdoors with a member of his development team, working in front of a laptop

A product manager is responsible for the product strategy of a business. Sometimes a product manager has more decision-making power into what type of products should be developed. 

Many people confuse product and project managers but the two have some different and some overlapping responsibilities and goals.

  • A product manager focuses on the product vision for a product or service.

  • A project manager makes sure the vision for the product or service is executed on time and within budget.

What is product management?

Product management may mean different things to different companies. Sometimes it refers only to the research and development of a product. For others it pertains to the launch and sales of a product. Other times, it refers only to the maintenance of a product. 

In many companies, product management encompasses all these aspects of a product's lifecycle. There may be one or multiple product managers in a company depending on the products and an organization's hierarchy.

These jobs can be found in just about every industry.

Tasks and responsibilities of a product manager

Product managers stay on top of business and consumer trends and behaviors that directly or indirectly affect the product or company. In this role, your tasks and responsibilities focus on the success of a product, service, or product line, which contributes to a company or brand's overall success. Your day to day may include the following responsibilities and tasks:

  • Analyzing customer requirements

  • Conducting research on a product, service, competitor, or market

  • Strategizing a plan for a product or service (development, packaging, launching, expanding)

  • Coordinating and communicating about a product or service with management, teams, and stakeholders

  • Gathering and analyzing feedback about a product or service

  • Developing multi-year roadmaps for products and services

Product manager skills 

Successful product managers are keenly aware of all kinds of fads and trends, able to spot good versus bad product packaging, and instinctively know what would make a product or service better. If your career plans include a role in product management, set yourself up for success by developing these key skills now.

  • Communication skills help you collaborate with company stakeholders, executives, and product teams, absorb product market feedback, and convey the appropriate information and vision to the right people at the right time.

  • Strategic thinking is imperative to be able to prioritize and implement ideas that can best affect the company or brand.

  • People management skills empower you to help individuals and teams perform at their highest levels.

  • Design/technical skills equip you to understand the technical side of what goes into creating a product or service. 

  • User science and empathy help to identify and evaluate challenges users may have with the product.

Why pursue a career in product management?

When you pursue a career in product management, you get to put your creative and organizational skills to use everyday. You will also have the opportunity to learn and implement evolving designs and technologies throughout your career. You can make a real difference in the world by bringing products, services, and ideas to life that can help businesses function better or consumers live better lives.

Product manager salary

According to Indeed.com, the national average salary for a product manager in the US is $102,776 [1]. Many considerations can impact how much you make, including your location, industry, education level, and amount of experience.

How to become a product manager

Product managers come from varied educational backgrounds but typically need at least a bachelor's degree in business or a related field. During your studies, you’ll typically study topics like advertising, marketing, communications, statistics, and promotion. 

Product manager career path

Working in this role opens up doors to numerous careers and industries. Product managers can advance into higher-level management and executive roles like:

  • Senior product manager

  • Director of product

  • VP of product

  • Chief product officer

Get started with Coursera

If you are passionate about the world of business and product design, take the next step into this new career. Get an introduction to the field by taking The Business of Product Management from the Advancing Women in Product through Coursera. Dig deeper with Specializations on topics like Digital Project Management or Project Management Principles and Practices.

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Article sources

1. Indeed. "How much does a Product Manager make in the United States?, https://www.indeed.com/career/product-manager/salaries." Accessed May 5, 2021.

Written by Coursera • May 6, 2021

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