Product Manager Job Description (Certification, Skills, Duties, Salary & More)

By Mike Simpson

Behind many of the world’s favorite products is an unsung development hero: the product manager. These professionals give products flight, whipping new ideas into shape, turning concepts into realities, and elevating existing options. They ultimately determine what actually makes it into the hands of customers, and that’s pretty amazing.

For many, the idea of shaping the products of tomorrow is ridiculously appealing. Working as a product manager is a chance to have a genuine impact on the daily lives of people. Not every professional can say they do that.

Being a standout product manager means being able to balance the creative and the technical. It’s part planning, part innovation, all wrapped together with time management and organization.

If this sounds like it might be the job for you, let’s take a deep dive into the product manager job description so that you can find out what it’s all about.

What is a Product Manager?

First things first, don’t confuse product manager with project manager. While the two job titles sound a lot alike, they aren’t the same thing. Sure, product managers to handle projects, but all of their work focuses on products. That isn’t always the case with project managers.

Alright, now that is out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Product managers focus on bringing products to life. They may develop a new idea into a product or find a way to improve one that’s already out in the world.

What Are a Product Manager’s Duties and Responsibilities?

Turning ideas into winning products takes a lot of work, but product managers take this in stride. A typical list of product manager duties ensures that all of the critical steps to make that happen are covered.

Exactly what that entails can vary a little from one company to the next. In fact, even the product type itself can impact what falls into a product manager’s lap, as some products are more complex to handle than others.

However, many of these roles have quite a bit in common. Here’s an example of the responsibilities a product manager may have:

    • Conduct, oversee, outline, and analyze market research
    • Define project strategies and plans
    • Identify key team members for product development
    • Lead cross-functional development teams
    • Prioritize product features
    • Lead the creation of early-stage samples or demos and gather feedback
    • Conduct research on competing products
    • Manage project budget

It’s important to note that a product manager job description may also include direct supervisory responsibilities. Large enterprises may have massive product development departments. That means, for some, product manager duties include overseeing others.

What Skills Do Product Managers Need?

If you want to stand out as a product manager, then you need the right skills and traits. In some cases, these are thoroughly outlined in the product manager job description. In others, you need to read between the lines and suss out what the hiring manager wants to find.

Often, the technical job requirements are a bit more concrete, so let’s focus on those skills first. If you want to excel as a product manager, here’s a look at some core capabilities you need to bring to the table:

    • Project management
    • Market research
    • Trend analysis
    • Sales strategy
    • Marketing communications
    • Production cost analysis
    • Pricing strategy
    • Product positioning
    • Customer experience (CX)
    • Return-on-investment (ROI) analysis

Alright, now that we’ve address technical prowess, let’s dive into more ambiguous territory. Soft skills are critical for job success; that’s just a fact. However, not all companies outline these capabilities in their product manager job description.

Instead, hiring managers just sort of know that they need to find them, so you want to make sure you demonstrate that you have what it takes. Here’s an overview of the soft skills you should highlight during your product manager interview or on your resume:

    • Communication
    • Time management
    • Organization
    • Problem-solving
    • Critical-thinking
    • Attention-to-detail
    • Leadership
    • Collaboration
    • Adaptability
    • Creativity
    • Innovative thinking

Product Manager Certification and Education

By and large, the biggest educational requirement for product managers is a Bachelor’s degree. Exactly what degree you’ll need can vary depending on the products involved or the required skill set. Some of the potential options include:

    • Communications
    • Marketing
    • Advertising
    • Engineering
    • Computer science
    • Business
    • Economics
    • Design

In many cases, employers prefer candidates with Master’s degrees or two Bachelor’s that work well together for the role. However, a single Bachelor’s degree should be considered the minimum.

Additionally, candidates who want to stand out might add a certification or two to the mix. Here are some of those options:

In most cases, a certification isn’t a necessity. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort to get one on your resume, especially if you want to separate yourself from other job seekers.

Product Manager Salary Expectations

Ah, the product manager salary. While pay isn’t everything, it’s something pretty much everybody wonders about. After all, no one wants to pursue a career only to discover that it can’t give them a comfortable living.

Luckily, if the product manager job description above sounds pretty good, you’ll be happy to know that the pay is solid, too. On average, product managers make over $108,000 a year.

In some cases, you can actually make quite a bit more – $150,000 or more a year, to be precise – especially once you get some experience under your belt. Not bad, right?

Well, before you start mentally spending that sweet salary, hold up for a second. Not everyone is going to hit those kinds of numbers. If you’re early in your career, you might earn closer to $60,000 annually at first. Similarly, if you live in South Dakota, you aren’t going to find the same pay rates that product managers get in, say, Los Angeles. That’s just how things work.

But, even knowing that, you should be able to see how much potential a career in product management offers. If you stick with it, the sky’s the limit.

What You Need to Know for Your Job Interview

Alright, so you have the right skills and education, and you’re ready to jump into a new product manager role. You know what time it is then? It’s interview time, that’s what.

NOTE: Check out our product manager interview questions article as well!

In nearly all cases, you can’t land a job without having a little sit down with the hiring manager first. Luckily, nailing that interview is possible, allowing you to shuttle your career off in the right direction.

If you want to blow the hiring manager away, take some time to prepare. First, read the product manager job description in detail. In it, you’ll find out a ton about the skills and qualities the company wants to find. Since you want to show that you’re the right candidate for the job, review those details. That way, you can position yourself as the perfect new hire by sharing how you shine in those areas.

Additionally, when you answer behavioral interview question skills, make sure to tap the incredible power of the STAR Method and the Tailoring Method. Those strategies help you turn an everyday answer into a compelling story. You’ll be mountains more engaging, and that makes a difference when you’re trying to land a job.

MIKE'S TIP: If you have to face the dreaded “tell me about your weaknesses” question during your interview, go against the grain. Don’t try to masquerade a strength as a weakness. Hiring managers see right through that. Instead, be completely honest. Your candor will be refreshing. But don’t stop there. After admitting your weakness, talk about what you are doing to overcome it. That way, you are demonstrating your dedication to continuous improvement, offsetting that you might not be amazing at absolutely everything on the planet.

Putting It All Together

Product managers play a crucial role in bringing products to life. If you’re considering becoming a product manager, scour the information above. It can help you chart a winning course, ensuring you can make your professional goals a reality.

Good luck!

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Check out our other “job description articles” if you’re exploring career options:

About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.