Education and Training Bachelor's degree minimum; typically a master's degree in business administration plus training
Salary Median—$95,900 per year, including bonuses
Employment Outlook Very good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Product managers are responsible for planning and developing the marketing strategy for a single product or group of products. They work with various company departments, including product development, market research, sales, advertising, and public relations and typically report to a marketing manager or marketing director. Product managers can be found in almost every industry, including computers and data processing services, publishing, retail, and manufacturing.
Because product service has become the key to selling goods and services, product managers play an important role within corporations. They estimate the consumer demand for the product they manage, identify potential customers, stay informed of any competing products on the market, develop pricing strategies, and oversee product development. In addition, they work with advertising and public relations staff to promote the firm's goods and services.
Product managers must be able to supervise large groups of workers, think creatively, focus on the overall objectives of the company, and interact with other corporate areas. The growing complexity of doing business means that managers must be increasingly versatile and keep up to date with technological developments.
Education and Training Requirements
Although a wide range of educational backgrounds is acceptable for entry into product management, all employers require a bachelor's degree and usually an advanced degree or specialized training. Some employers prefer a broad liberal arts background, while others want managers with a bachelor's or master's degree in business administration. Technical industries such as electronics and computer manufacturing may prefer to hire applicants with a bachelor's degree in engineering or science and a master's degree in business administration.
Recommended courses include marketing, communications, technical writing, economics, statistics, business law, advertising, market research, and management. Knowledge of business software such as Microsoft Excel is essential, and completion of a marketing or product development internship while in school is highly recommended.
Getting the Job
Many companies fill product management positions by promoting experienced staff or by hiring individuals from related professional or technical areas. Therefore, individuals interested in product management should seek an entry-level position as a sales representative, purchasing agent, buyer, market researcher, or product specialist. Entry-level positions in these fields are often listed on Internet job sites and in newspaper want ads. Working in conjunction with local colleges and universities, many firms offer management training programs that can accelerate advancement to a product manager position. Some marketing and related associations also sponsor management training programs.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Product managers have high-profile jobs that put them on the fast track for promotions. Successful managers often become top company executives or start their own businesses.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of marketing managers (the category into which product managers fall) was expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations between 2004 and 2014. The number of products and services competing for American dollars will likely increase in coming years, fueling the need for more product managers.
Product managers often work well over forty-hour weeks, including evenings and weekends. There is a great deal of pressure connected with this job due to numerous deadlines, schedule changes, and regular meetings with other managers. Many product managers must travel frequently throughout the United States and abroad to meet with their clients.
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries for product managers vary greatly, depending on education, level of responsibility, experience, and the employer's size, location, and industry. Mercer Human Resources Consulting reported in a 2004 survey that product/brand managers made a median of $95,900 per year in bonuses and wages.
Where to Go for More Information
American Marketing Association
311 S. Wacker Dr., Ste. 5800
Chicago, IL 60606
Promotion Marketing Association
257 Park Ave. S, Ste. 1102
New York, NY 10010
In addition to standard benefits that include health insurance, paid holidays and vacations, and retirement plans, many product managers earn bonuses equal to 10 percent or more of their salaries. Some are given stock options and the use of company cars.