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

Written by Coursera Staff • 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] Product manager standing in room full of seated  coworker

Product managers are technology professionals who focus 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 and 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 also understand the competitive landscape, learn about its users, and devise new improvement solutions.

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 to plan and bolster a product's success.

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

What does a product manager do?

Product managers stay on top of business and consumer trends and behaviours 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

  • Researching 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

  • Leading teams throughout the entire product life cycle

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.


Skills needed to be a product manager

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 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.

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

  • User empathy helps identify and evaluate users' challenges with the product.

  • Project management skills 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 outlook

As of February 2023, Glassdoor reports the annual average base salary for a product manager in Canada is $99,780 [1]. Many considerations can impact how much you make, including your location, industry, education level, and amount of experience. According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, the outlook for product manager jobs in Canada over the next few years is moderate or undetermined in most provinces and territories [2].  

How to become a product manager

When you pursue a career in product management, you get to use your creative and organizational skills every day. You will also be able 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 to help businesses function better or consumers live better lives.

1. Get a bachelor's degree.

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

2. Build up your skills.

You'll want to build your skills, whether you are just starting or switching from another role. 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 unnecessary, 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.

4. Apply for jobs.

Many future product managers work in finance, marketing, content strategy, UX design, or project management. You might be looking to leap laterally from your current role or 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 manager career path

Working in this role opens 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 business and product design, take the next step into this new career. Get an introduction to the field by taking the Digital Product Management Specialization course from the University of Virginia.

Article sources


Glassdoor. "Product Manager Salaries in Canada, https://www.glassdoor.ca/Salaries/canada-product-manager-salary-SRCH_IL.0,6_IN3_KO7,22.htm?clickSource=searchBtn." Accessed April 24, 2024.

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