What Is Release Management? (And How to Start Your Career in It)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn about release management and how you can become a competitive candidate in this career field.

[Featured Image] A person interested in release management examines code on multiple computer screens.

What is release management?

Release management is the process of overseeing the software development lifecycle (SDLC), the method of planning, writing, updating, and maintaining software. It is one of the main operations of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework. It includes leading the planning, designing, testing, deploying, and releasing phases of software product development. Release management is essential to the SDLC. It ensures that the development team meets business requirements and delivers high-quality software.

Release management vs. change management

Release management and change management are closely related. People often use these terms interchangeably, but they’re different. Although they have similarities, release management, and change management have several distinguishing features. You can use the chart below to compare and contrast the two.

Release managementChange management
Operational processGovernance process
ITIL framework processITIL framework process
The focus is on executing the phases of the SDLC.The focus is on quality control and obtaining change approval from stakeholders.
It always results in a release that incorporates changes.It may not result in a release.

The release management process

The release management process is often linear, but it’s more of an iterative process. You can repeat each phase of the release process as needed. The list below outlines the phases of the release management process.

1. Plan. During the planning phase of the release management process, you define the project's scope, and all necessary authorizations happen. The release manager will also solidify a release schedule for the development team. 

2. Build. In release management, the build phase refers to the execution of development and design plans. Release activities during this phase may include configuration management and rollout planning.

3. Test. Once the release is ready for testing, the engineering team deploys the product in a test environment for bug identification. If necessary, the release will return to the developers for fixes.

4. Deploy. The product is now ready for deployment in the production environment and end users can now use the product. End-user training occurs during the deploy phase.

5. Maintain. Post-deployment monitoring is essential to the quality of software releases. This release management phase requires the release team to record and report any defects.

What does a release manager do?

A release manager is similar to a DevOps engineer, but a release manager focuses primarily on the development team, release process, and technical specifications of a software product. In contrast, DevOps engineers also orchestrate collaboration among the entire organization. Core responsibilities for roles in release management include:

  • Scheduling releases to ensure on-time delivery

  • Coordinating resources to ensure the project remains within the given budget

  • Facilitating collaboration among development and quality assurance (QA) team members 

  • Strategizing the use of release management tools and techniques

  • Tracking and reporting project progression to the appropriate parties

Salary and job outlook

Release managers belong to the occupational field of computer engineering and information technology. According to Job Bank Canada, software engineering managers typically will have “Good” or “Very Good” prospects throughout Canada, especially in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick [1]. 

A release manager's average annual base pay in Canada is $99,534 [2]. Your pay can vary by experience level, training, location, and industry. 


Roles in release management typically require a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science or a related field. Some employers may prefer candidates with a Master of Computer and Information Technology. Additional qualifications include certifications or training in relevant areas of study. For example, Google offers a Professional Certificate in Agile Project Management.

How to become a release manager

As a release manager, you’ll need high-level technical knowledge and the mastery of several non-technical skills. It's easy to feel overwhelmed if you're new to the field, but remember that many release managers begin without the skills below. 

As you work through basic concepts, the advanced disciplines will become easier. Also, some of the skills you already possess will likely help you gain the ones you don't yet have.

Gain the essential skills.

  • Strong knowledge of digital project management. Release managers often use techniques and tools from various software project management disciplines. For example, DevOps, Agile development, Scrum, and Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) are beneficial methodologies for an aspiring release manager to learn. You can enhance your knowledge of digital project management through online courses like the University of Virginia’s Digital Project Management Specialization.

  • Software development expertise. A release manager must thoroughly understand computer programming, system architecture, and the software development lifecycle (SDLC).

  • Team management skills. Release managers should have a considerable amount of experience with people management. Interpersonal skills are as vital a component of release management as technical proficiency. 

Enhance your resume.

It’s important to present yourself to employers as a competitive candidate. You can enhance your release management resume in several ways. For example, you may consider browsing job listings to learn about the most in-demand skills for release managers. You can also demonstrate your abilities and earn certifications in relevant areas of study. 

Get started with Coursera

Take the first step toward your career in release management by earning a certificate in Software Project Management from the University of Alberta. In this course series, you'll learn Agile and Scrum project management methods and how to interact confidently with clients, shareholders, and development teams.

Or, focus on building job-ready skills while working toward a certificate from an industry leader in technology Project Management Professional Certificate program. You'll learn to build Scrum artifacts, implement Scrum events, and build a foundational understanding of Agile project management. By the end, you'll have practiced strategic communication, stakeholder management, and project documentation throughout each project phase.

Article sources


Job Bank Canada. “Software Engineering Manager in Canada, https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/marketreport/outlook-occupation/1464/ca.” Accessed February 16, 2024.

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