What Does a Product Manager Do? And How to Become One

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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.

[Featured Image] A product manager works from home on his laptop.

Product managers are a rare breed of technology professionals who focuses on the vision for a product or service. They set the strategy and roadmap for the product, working with cross-functional teams to define and execute its success.

A product manager is responsible for the overall business strategy for a specific product. A product manager might also help decide what type of products should be developed. 

What is product management?

Product management is a function of an organization that involves guiding teams on a product's lifecycle, from development to execution, by focusing on exactly what (potential) customers want. While product managers are champions of the product, they are also understanding the competitive landscape, learning about its users, and devising new solutions for improvement.

Because every product is different, the role of a product manager is also very dynamic. For one company, product management might involve research and development of a new product. For others, it might be the relaunch and repositioning of an old product. No matter what, product management refers to delivering excellence at all points of a product's lifecycle.

Product management exists at the intersection of business, technology, and user experience (UX) design. It often requires developing strong relationships with cross-functional teams in order to plan ahead and bolster a product's success.

The role used to be situated on marketing or engineering teams, but in recent years, tech companies have begun to realize the importance of product management as its own team. There will often be one product manager for each product or service within a company.

What does a product manager do?

A product manager is a professional who defines the strategy, roadmap, features, and success of a product. They help set goals and motivate the product team of engineers, designers, marketers, and researchers, with the primary concern of ensuring that a product launches and continues to do well in the market.

Product managers stay on top of business and consumer trends and behaviors that directly or indirectly affect the product or company. Day-to-day responsibilities may include:

  • Analyzing, understanding, and representing user needs

  • Monitoring the market landscape to develop competitive analysis

  • Defining the vision for a product, such as a multi-year roadmap of its development, packaging, launch, and expansion

  • Coordinating and communicating about the product's vision with management, product teams, and other stakeholders

  • Gathering and conducting research and feedback on the product

  • Guiding teams through the entire product lifecycle

Many people confuse product and project managers, two roles that sound similar and have some overlapping responsibilities and business goals, but essentially are two different jobs.

A product manager focuses on the product vision for a product or service, while a project manager makes sure the vision for the product or service is executed on time and within budget.


Read more: Product Manager vs. Project Manager: What’s the Difference?

Skills needed to become a product manager

Successful product managers are keenly aware of trends on the market and instinctively know what would make a product or service better or better suited for a particular customer group. If you're interested in becoming a product manager, set yourself up for success by developing these key skills:

  • 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

  • Management skills empower you to help individuals and teams perform at their highest levels

  • Technical skills equip you to understand what goes into designing a product or service

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

  • Project management to ensure marketing, design, engineers, and other stakeholders are aligned on the product's vision and can carry out that vision in a timely, organized manner

Product manager salary and job outlook

Glassdoor reports that the average base salary for a product manager in the US is $102,220 [1]. Many factors can impact how much you make, including your location, industry, education level, and years of experience.

The product manager role has grown in recent years, especially in technology, as companies seek to navigate a rapidly changing market and economy. Product managers who can succeed in being agile and intuitive against trends, unforeseen events, and recessions have a bright outlook in the next few years.

How to become a product manager

Product managers are problem solvers and strategic thinkers who come from varied educational backgrounds and professional experiences.

1. Get a bachelor's degree.

Typically, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in business, marketing, finance, or a related field. While it is not required, employers often like to see this as a minimum education level.

2. Build up your skills.

Whether you are just starting out or switching from another role, you'll want to build your skills. You can do this by reading books, blogs, and podcasts to explore product management concepts and terminology on the product lifecycle, building roadmaps, and product development.

3. Earn a certification.

While certification is also not necessary, you'll find that certificate programs can give you the leverage you need to land a competitive job as a product manager. You'll have a structured learning path so you gain all the essential skills, receive guidance from product managers in the field, build a portfolio of projects, and earn a certification from a credible institution.

Read more: What Is a Certified Product Manager (and How Do I Become One)?

4. Apply for jobs.

Many future product managers are currently working in finance, marketing, content strategy, UX design, or project management. You might be looking to leap laterally from your current role. You might be fresh out of your bachelor's degree. What's important is that you highlight transferable skills on your resume, cover letter, and interviews.

Product management with the University of Virginia

If you are passionate about business, technology, and UX design, take the next step into this in-demand career. Get an introduction to the field by taking the Digital Product Management Specialization from the University of Virginia.



Digital Product Management

Implement a modern approach to product management. Master the fundamentals that create great teams and products


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Skills you'll build:

hypothesis-driven development, Product Management, Design Thinking, agile, Lean Startup, Product/Market Fit, Innovation Pipeline, agile user stories, User Experience Design (UXD), Agile Software Development, Software Development, Usability Testing, Continuous Delivery, agile product management, backlog management, Kanban, XP

Article sources

  1. Glassdoor. "What Does a Product Manager Do?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Career/product-manager-career_KO0,15.htm." Accessed January 17, 2023.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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