What Does a Product Manager Do?

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Overseeing Product Development From A to Z

Every childhood friend group has one of those kids who love to take charge of the lemonade stand. She might insist on choosing the name, debate the merits of setting it up on one corner versus another corner, and want to taste-test every batch the group mixes up. She might get called bossy, but she also gets stuff done. (And if you're raising one of those kids, you know how forceful they can be.) This type of child could make a great product manager. Being in charge of shepherding a new product from the brainstorming phase all the way through launching it takes a lot of energy, enthusiasm and, sure, maybe a little bit of bossiness.

Job Description

Product managers, or PMs, are responsible for overseeing the creation and improvement of products. In tech, a PM might be in charge of managing projects such as building a new website, adding features to an existing app or creating new software programs. While other people are responsible for specific parts of the process, such as writing the code or managing the marketing campaign, product managers are in charge of the big picture stuff. They might create the road map that gets the team on the same page, oversee the research that finds out what users want from a new product, work with the developers or engineers in the creation of the product, and analyze user feedback when the product is released. They also troubleshoot and solve problems that arise along the way. Essentially, PMs wear a lot of different hats, which is why they need a lot of skills.

Education Requirements

Because product managers have to understand the roles of all the people they oversee, PMs who work in tech must have both technical skills and business acumen. Exactly which technical skills a PM needs depends on the type of products her company builds. Software companies in the medical field, for example, might need PMs who have degrees in biomedical engineering and understand coding. Many product managers are also MBAs.

Ultimately, the job title of product manager is a very broad one. Two people could be PMs at similar companies but have dramatically different skills and roles. If you have some experience working in tech and are also detail-oriented and good at creative problem-solving and management, your skills could align perfectly with certain PM roles.

These jobs do require having at least a bachelor's degree, though many PMs hold post-graduate degrees too. They tend to be highly paid. The median income for a product manager working in software is $90,453, which means that half of PMs earn less than that amount, and half earn more.

About the Industry

Product managers working in tech are usually located in major cities. It's not a job that's very feasible to do remotely or part-time, and parents should be conscious of the fact that PMs often work long and unpredictable hours to accommodate production and launch deadlines.

Years of Experience

The more experience you gain as a product manager, the higher salary you can command. For an entry-level PM working in software with less than five years of experience, the average salary is around $86,000. The average salary for a mid-level software PM is around $103,000, or around $121,000 for a high-level PM with 20+ years of experience.

Job Growth Trend

Product management is a fairly niche job, so the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't track or forecast its growth. But if you're looking for a career with tremendous growth potential, product management is worth consideration. Glassdoor included product management on a list of the 20 most in-demand jobs with six-figure salaries.