A product owner (PO) is a professional in an Agile team that manages the product backlog. This is a crucial leadership role in the development process that works alongside other high-level positions, like product managers and chief technology officers (CTOs).
In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to become a product owner. You will get to know more about this profession, the requirements involved, education paths available, estimated salaries, and responsibilities.
What Is a Product Owner?
A product owner is responsible for creating and explaining the product vision. The development team must follow a guideline called a product backlog. This is a set of requirements used as a product roadmap for developers. It can be seen as a non-static to-do list based on the product goals.
The product owner’s duty is to create each backlog item, prioritize the steps, and communicate them to the development team. It is also their responsibility to ensure that the customers’ needs are met in the development process.
Product Owner Job Description
The role of a product owner often involves developing a product roadmap, which is a strategic outline to follow that summarizes the vision and directions for product development. The product owner is also the primary connection between the customers’ needs and the product development process.
They determine the products’ goals and create a list of requirements to meet those objectives. The product backlog must be mapped out and prioritized to improve communication within the development team.
Product Owner Salary and Job Outlook
According to PayScale, the average annual salary for product owners is $87,544. This salary steadily increases with experience. While an entry-level product owner earns an average of $68,316, a mid-career professional with more than five years of experience often earns over $95,000. More than 10 years of experience will allow you to earn about $108,000.
Top Reasons to Become a Product Owner in 2021
Becoming a product owner (PO) is an excellent career if you enjoy working in the tech industry and want to advance your career. This profession offers a high salary and comes with great job benefits. Here are some of the top reasons to become a product owner in 2021.
- It has a high demand: According to the World Economic Forum, product owners are in high demand, which contributes to job stability and career opportunities.
- Excellent salary: One of the major perks of becoming a PO is the high salary, which is usually above $80,000, according to PayScale.
- It’s a leadership role: If you enjoy being in a leadership position and you have the interpersonal skills required for it, then working as a PO offers a great opportunity to build upon those skills and grow in your career.
- High job satisfaction: The product owner’s role is very valuable within a company, as it has a direct impact on an organization’s operations. They’re the immediate link between the development team and the internal stakeholders.
Product Owner Job Requirements
To become a product owner, you need to have a mix of experience and technical training. To be eligible for this role, you must have a college degree, project management experience, and proficiency in software engineering concepts.
- Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science: This is a very technical role that requires you to have a deep understanding of computer science fundamentals. That’s why it’s so crucial to have a computer science-related degree.
- Scrum knowledge: As a product owner, you will be working a lot with the Scrum framework. Therefore, you must have some training in this framework.
- Project management training: The product owner role requires being on top of everything, so it is crucial to have project management skills. You must make timely decisions, delegate key tasks, and oversee the entire development process.
- Experience in the software development industry: Having previous experience in the tech industry is crucial when it comes to applying for a product owner role. The company will want to know that you understand the development process.
Types of Product Owner Careers
A product owner’s experience provides various job opportunities in other roles. You can work as a business analyst, a product manager, or even as a chief executive officer (CEO). Take a look at the following positions to know more about these careers:
A business analyst uses data analysis methods to determine the best decisions to make in an organization. It can be implemented to improve current processes or to enhance a product. To become a business analyst, you must have a mix of technical and communication skills to bridge the gap between the IT and business departments.
A product manager is a professional who oversees the development process. They make sure every IT team member follows the company’s standards, timeframes, and budget. Becoming a product manager calls for expertise in several areas, including product strategy, product design, value propositions, and data analysis.
Chief Executive Officer
The chief executive officer (CEO) is the highest-level executive position in any organization. The CEO’s responsibilities include administering the company’s resources and making important corporate decisions. Your experience as a product owner could give you the skills needed for such a role.
Product Owner Meaning: What Does a Product Owner Do?
A product owner has a leading role, which puts them in charge of overseeing the development process and ensuring everyone follows the appropriate steps to create a successful product. Some of the product owner’s responsibilities include determining a vision for the product, creating and prioritizing each product backlog item, and developing a roadmap for developers. Let’s explore a product owner’s key responsibilities in detail below.
Create a Product Vision
A product owner is responsible for creating a plan of execution for the development team. This is the product vision they will have throughout the entire development process, which includes the customers’ needs, desired outcomes, timeframes, and development standards.
Creating a Product Backlog
Another daily task involves developing, prioritizing, and updating the list of product backlog items. It is a list of activities that the team must deliver to obtain a particular outcome. This list of tasks must be prioritized and updated throughout the entire product journey. The product backlog will change whenever there’s a need for product enhancement or the customers’ needs evolve.
Developing a Roadmap
Developing a roadmap is essential to have effective communication with the team. It shows them why they’re doing what they’re doing, and demonstrates the logical reasoning for each task. This is also one of the product owner’s daily responsibilities.
Essential Product Owner Skills
A good candidate for a product owner position must have a list of technical and non-technical skills, including communication skills, logical thinking, team management skills, and proficiency in analytic tools.
Agile Software Development
Agile software development is a set of methods used to develop digital products efficiently in the software development process. These methods involve developing solutions that evolve throughout the entire development process. This means that developers learn to respond to change promptly.
Project Management Skills
A product owner must have project management skills. These skills allow them to delegate tasks, utilize time management methods, and prioritize activities to enhance the development process.
The Scrum framework is a subset of the Agile methodology on which the team creates a set of meetings, tools, and roles to organize the development process. The Scrum methodology helps an organization be more productive and in control of the product, as well as cope with change more efficiently.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Product Owner?
Typically, it takes about six years to become a product owner. You need to have a bachelor’s degree in a computer science-related field, which takes about four years, and have at least two years of experience in project management.
Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Become a Product Owner?
Even though a bachelor’s degree is usually required to become a product owner, you can still pursue this career with a coding bootcamp. You can join a software development bootcamp to develop computer science skills, and complement that with an Agile/Scrum program to obtain valuable skills you’ll use for product management.
Can I Become a Product Owner from Home?
Yes, you can certainly become a product owner from home. You can start by getting remote training in an IT-related field, whether it is a college degree or a coding bootcamps. In addition, you can even begin building junior product owner experience by working remotely.
How to Become a Product Owner: A Step-by-Step Guide
To become a product owner, you’ll need to follow the following steps. Keep in mind that this career path may not be the same for everyone, but this is the most common pathway for product owners.
Step 1: Obtain Computer Science Training
To pursue a career as a product owner, you must obtain CS training, whether it is through a coding bootcamp, a technical program, or a college degree. You must understand essential software engineering principles to be able to communicate with the development team.
Step 2: Get Project Management Training and Experience
Since this is similar to a manager position, you must also get project management training and experience. Many companies will ask you to have previous experience managing a project or even require you to have a project management certification.
"Career Karma entered my life when I needed it most and quickly helped me match with a bootcamp. Two months after graduating, I found my dream job that aligned with my values and goals in life!"
Venus, Software Engineer at Rockbot
Step 3: Earn a Certification
Having a certification is not a strict requirement in most companies, but it can be helpful when applying for a product owner position. You can pursue a project management certification or a credential in Agile/Scrum.
Best Schools and Education for a Product Owner Career
There are many schooling options for aspiring product owners, such as coding bootcamps, community colleges, and, of course, university programs. Below we take a close look at the main training options for these professionals.
Product Owner Bootcamps
Many schools offer web development programs to help you develop the skills needed to work in such a technical role. There are even schools that offer programs on the Agile methodology, which is a very valuable skill for a product owner to have. One of the most popular programs is the Agile and Scrum Bootcamp provided by General Assembly.
These institutions focus on training for trade occupations, so this might not be the best educational route if your goal is to become a product owner. It is possible, however, to find programs at vocational schools that teach software engineering, which could give you the foundation you need for a product owner career.
Community college is a low-cost option for getting software engineering training. You can join a computer science program and get hands-on experience training in the field while earning your associate degree.
Product Owner Degrees
Most companies will require you to have a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in IT, Computer Science, or a related field. As this is a common requirement, we recommend pursuing at least a bachelor’s degree if you want to enter this field.
The Most Important Product Owner Certificates
Getting a certification for a product owner position is a great way to advance your career. It’ll provide you with more career opportunities and boost your appeal to employers. Below, you’ll find some of the most relevant certifications for a product owner career.
Certified SAFe Product Owner
The Scaled Agile organization provides this certification. It measures your ability to work with the Agile framework and also demonstrates that you have completed the accredited two-day training with a SAFe Program Consultant.
Professional Scrum Product Owner
The Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) is awarded by Scrum.org. This certification validates that you have the skills needed to engage with internal and external stakeholders, manage the product backlog, and understand customer needs.
Project Management Professional
The Project Management Professional (PMP) is an industry-standard certification provided by the Project Management Institute (PMI). This certification demonstrates that you have leadership experience in project management, working with Agile and hybrid methodologies.
How to Prepare for Your Product Owner Job Interview
In a product owner interview, the company might focus on three areas: your prioritization skills, your technical experience, and how you manage decision-making. The following question examples will help you prepare for a product owner interview.
Product Owner Job Interview Practice Questions
- What’s the difference between the Scrum product owner role and the Scrum Master role?
- What’s your experience with the Scrum framework?
- In your opinion, what’s the most relevant product stakeholder?
- What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced with an uncooperative stakeholder, and how did you cope with it?
Should I Become a Product Owner in 2021?
You should definitely pursue a career as a product owner if you are interested in a tech leadership role and have computer science and project management skills. This is a profession that requires logical thinking, dedication, and excellent communication skills, all of which are compensated by a great salary and job security.
Product Owner FAQ
Some companies may focus mostly on your experience in the field, rather than on your lack of a college degree. However, the majority of companies would require you to have technical training.
As it is a senior-level position, it may require more effort and experience than entry-level roles in the IT department. You need to be dedicated, disciplined, and hard-working to earn this role.
In most companies, the product manager has a higher role than the product owner. While the product manager decides what will be developed based on customers’ needs and desires, the product owner creates a roadmap for the development team to build that product.
The product owner is responsible for setting a vision and a real-time roadmap for the Scrum team. They become the project’s key stakeholders in terms of prioritization and task delegation.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.