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How to Become a Product Manager

There are dozens of people involved in product development, from designers, to developers, to marketers. Product managers bring all of these disciplines together and coordinate the creation of a new product.
After all, someone has to help plan out the strategy for the products that we use every day. Indeed, product managers have access to strong career prospects, and high salaries which make product management an attractive career path for many people. And as a product manager you’ll be able to solve difficult problems and work with other people in creating a product.
But how do you become a product manager? In this guide, we’ll answer that question, and give you all the information you need to decide whether a career in product management is for you. We’ll also give you resources on product manager salaries, training programs, and tips on how to find your first job as a product manager.

What is a Product Manager?

A product manager is responsible for overseeing the development and launch of products and services.
The product manager will get involved by assisting team members, creating plans and deadlines during product development, and will assign tasks to other team members. Product managers will also help maintain a product after it has been launched, too. They’ll follow user reactions, make updates to a product, and they’ll ensure those updates meet the needs of users.

Types of Product Manager

There are many types of product manager that you can choose from. These positions range in seniority, from “junior-level” to “senior” and represent a specific type of product management. The more experience you acquire, the more responsibilities you will be given over the product development process.

Technical Product Managers

Technical project managers have a background in computer science and are involved with technical products. They’ll set the strategy around products and features, and will create a development plan for the product.

Internal Product Managers

Internal product managers work on managing products for internal use — the products co-workers will use. Internal product managers play a key role in maintaining internal core technologies that employees need in big companies.

Consumer Product Managers

Consumer product managers work on consumer-facing products. They will learn about customer pain points, and determine how they are going to reduce those pain points with a new product.
No matter which type of product manager you want to be, Career Karma is here to pair you with the right training program that matches your unique needs.

Product Manager Job Description - What Does a Product Manager Do?

Product managers plan the development of new products, execute on development plans, and help maintain a product over time. They are responsible for ensuring the product development process goes smoothly and that all products meet specifications.
Product managers work with the design, engineering, and marketing departments to coordinate the development of a new product. They also allocate tasks to people in those departments who are working on a specific project.
Product managers set the broader strategy for a product, and are responsible for making sure a product meets a specific customer pain point. They also work with management to set the vision for a product.
In addition, product managers maintain a product over time. This involves tracking the performance of a product after launch and taking notes on the successes and failures of the project. A product manager is also responsible for considering whether any updates should be released to older products or a new version could be launched.

Product Manager Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track the job outlook for product managers, although there are many open positions in the field. For example, there are over 109,000 open product manager jobs on LinkedIn. Technical product management jobs are also expected to grow as companies develop more technology-based projects, which will create a need for skilled product managers with technical backgrounds.

Product Manager Salaries - How Much Do Product Managers Make?

The average salary for product managers on ZipRecruiter is over $93,500 each year, and some positions offer salaries of up to $146,000.

The exact amount you make will depend on a variety of factors such as the company you work for and your location. For example, product managers in San Francisco earn an average salary of over $109,000 per year,and some positions offer salaries of up to $170,900 per year.

The amount you earn will also depend on your experience. Senior product managers can expect to earn an average of almost $131,000, and some positions offer up to $195,000.

Further, your salary will depend on the type of product manager you are. Internal product managers, for example, earn an average of over $82,000 per year; technical product managers make an average of almost $117,000

How much can you earn? (source: Glassdoor)

$131,000
Senior product manager
$93,500
Middle product manager
$82,000
Junior product manager

How Can You Become a Product Manager?

There are many paths available if you’re interested in a career in product management. The most common paths people take when breaking into a career in product management are
  1. Attend a coding bootcamp specializing in product management
  2. Earn a business management or computer science (for technical product managers) degree from a traditional university
  3. Learn product management through your own learning
In the past, product management roles were reserved for people who had earned degrees in business management or a field related to the product they would be managing. And learning product management through self-study can be impractical and difficult.
However, today there are other options available, such as going to a coding bootcamps. Coding bootcamps that specialize in product management offer an alternative to traditional degree programs. Rather than spending four years in a university and taking out loans, aspiring product managers can attend a coding bootcamp and learn the practical skills they need to succeed in a career in the field.

Companies that Hire Bootcamp Grads

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How to Learn Product Management

There’s more than one way you can learn about product management. Some product managers have attended a college or a university to learn about product management, usually in business or a similar field. Other product managers have taught themselves about a specific field and advanced up the ladder to a role in product management.
However, one method which is growing in popularity is coding bootcamps. During a coding bootcamp, a student will spend a few months learning the practical skills they need to pursue a career in a specific field. A number of bootcamps exist which help people break into a career in product management, such as Product School.

Check available Product Management courses

app-academy
Full-time
Income Sharing,
Financing
In-person,
online
Check course
flatiron-school
Full-time,
Part-time,
Self-paced
Income Sharing,
Financing
In-person,
online
Check course
thinkful
Full-time,
Part-time,
Self-paced
Income Sharing,
Financing
online
Check course
rithm-school
Full-time,
Part-time
Income Sharing,
Financing
in-person
Check course

Advantages

  • Options for both in person and online bootcamps
  • Immersive and structured program
  • Mentors, instructors, and peers at your fingertips
  • Quick-start to a new career
  • Learn to collaborate with others
  • Build a strong professional network in technology

Disadvantages

  • Requires motivation and hard work
  • Fast-paced learning style
  • Staying up to date with evolving web technologies

Apply to Product Manager Bootcamps

Whether you’ve decided you’re ready to apply for a product manager bootcamp or you still aren’t sure which coding program you want to attend, Career Karma can help. Our mentors are here to not only help you find the perfect coding bootcamp for you, but we will also help you every step of the way from the application process to supporting you with any questions or hiccups you run into while interviewing with multiple bootcamps.

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Top Skills Needed for Product Management Careers

To thrive in your career as a product manager, there are a few core skills you’ll need to have. Let’s break these down, and start with the technical skills you should have as a product manager.

Essential Technical Skills for Product Managers

There are a couple of technical skills you should have in order to be a successful product manager. These skills include product management processes, product concepts, and more.
  1. Product Strategy.

    As a product manager, you’ll be in charge of setting the strategy for a product. These strategies will outline your target market, buyer personas, and how you plan to launch and scale your product. This strategy will guide the entire product development process, and give team members an idea of what their role in the product development process will be. You should be able to write an effective strategy, and work with other team members to ensure you cover all bases in the strategy.

  2. Product Design.

    You don’t need to have technical design skills to succeed as a product manager, but you should know the fundamentals of product design. You should be able to put together a rough plan for the design of a product, which can then be shared with the design and development teams. If you have good product design skills, that’s great!

  3. Product Lifecycles.

    The product life cycle is one of the most important ideas in product management. The product life cycle states that there are four main stages of a product: introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. You should know what these stages mean, and how you should allocate team resources based on the stage a product is at in the product life cycle.

  4. Value Propositions.

    As a product manager, you will need to have an understanding of value propositions and customer pain points. You should know how to define a value proposition, and be able to explain to your team how the value proposition relates to the main development goals of a product. You should also be able to conduct basic market research to confirm your thoughts around customer pain points for a product.

  5. Data Analysis.

    Product management is metric-driven. You’ll need to be able to use basic data analytics tools such as Mixpanel, Google Analytics, or Tableau to analyze performance data from a product. You should also be able to use that information to make better decisions about product updates. While you may have a data analyst who performs this role, you’ll still be in charge of analyzing KPI information in your job, and processing that data as well.

Essential Soft Skills for Product Managers

To be a successful product manager, you’ll need to have good interpersonal (“soft”) skills, as well as technical skills. The main soft skills you’ll need to have include:
  • Problem Solving.

    The main goal of a product manager is to ensure a product is solving a problem for a specific audience. And in order to solve that problem, you must think analytically about customer pain points, and experiment with different solutions until they find one that works. You should also be able to solve any problems that arise during the implementation phase, to ensure everyone is on track based on your deadlines.

  • Communication and Teamwork.

    As a product manager, you’ll have to communicate with other members of your organization on a daily basis. You will be in charge of managing other employees and will have to share information about deadlines and priorities. You should also be able to work well with others in your team, assign them the right responsibilities, and ensure everyone is on track to meet their goals.

  • Creativity.

    Product managers often need to come up with creative solutions to difficult problems. Although you’ll have to follow certain processes during product management, you’ll need to think creatively when coming up with the design and feature set for a product.

How to Become a Product Manager: Step-by-Step

There’s a couple of steps you’ll need to follow to get started on your journey toward becoming a product manager. These are:
  1. Choose a product management career path
  2. Learn about product management through a bootcamp or university
  3. Refine your technical skills
  4. Create a product manager resume
  5. Craft your product management portfolio
  6. Start looking for a job
  7. Prepare for your technical interview
Career Karma is here to help you along every stage of your journey to becoming a product manager. We’ll pair you with a coach who can help you navigate your new career in product management, and introduce you to a community of your peers who can hold you to account for your progress.
We’ll also help you prepare for and get accepted to one of the best product management bootcamps. If you are looking to start a new career and enjoy thinking about products, a role in product management may be for you!

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