There are a lot of ways you can change the world. Among the many disciplines, specializations, and career paths lending themselves to world-changing work, product management is one we don’t often think about. Nonetheless, earning a product management degree employs visionary insight, business acumen, and analytical expertise that bring valuable products to market.
Steve Jobs, arguably the greatest product manager ever, exemplifies the power of product management. His vision of the world, coupled with his adept team building and ability to bring products to market, changed how we live and work today.
Writing in his blog, product manager Matthias Kentzia, quotes Jobs’ view of product management: “We are at the intersection of technology and the humanities.” And this humanitarian intersection isn’t confined to tech.
For the astute product manager in any sector, that intersection manifests with an empathetic understanding of the products people want and need. The very nature of product design entails building products that will, in some fashion, make lives better.
A Product Manager Mindset
Successful product managers aren’t just technologists, or designers, or engineers. “It’s not about knowing the most, working the hardest, or beating the competition,” says Dana Solomon in a ProductPlan article.
“It’s more of an art. It’s about demonstrating your empathy for the user, highlighting your ability to identify issues and opportunities, and collaborating with others.”
As Steve Jobs suggests, becoming a product manager is an exciting combination of human empathy, a vision for how the world can be, and the technical chops to bring that vision to fruition.
Product Management Specialization: A Career Outlook
Talented, well-trained product managers are in demand.
Neal Iyer, writing in his Medium channel Agile Insider, investigated job growth between 2017 and 2019. “Product Management roles in the US have grown an astounding 32% over just a two-year period, from August 2017 to June 2019,” he writes.
Furthermore, Iyer says, three main factors are driving that demand:
- E-commerce: “Strong growth in E-commerce roles,” says Iyer, is “led by incumbents and the continued digital transformation of traditional brick and mortar retailers.”
- Finance: An increase in product manager roles in the finance sector, particularly banks and credit card companies pushing for “new digital-first financial instruments.”
- Management Consulting: Top firms in the management consulting and financial advisory sector seek to develop “product practices,” Iyer says.
Another “micro trend” that Iyer identifies is in roles involving “Abuse” and “Privacy” functions in web services. “Especially with products that attract a substantial amount of user-generated content,” he says. Ivey expects this niche role will expand in the future. A look at our social media accounts bears out his prognostication.
Adding to Iyer’s list is life sciences. Already experiencing rapid growth, with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe in 2020, product managers in pharma and biotech play crucial roles shepherding vaccines and therapeutics to market.
What Does a Product Manager Earn?
According to PayScale.com, the average annual salary for a product manager regardless of industry is $85,783.
Breaking that down by sector, a product manager in life sciences can expect to earn $86,975 on average, according to Glassdoor. In the technology/software sectors, the average salary is $108,992.
However, compensation goes up significantly as managers move into higher leadership roles. Senior managers can typically earn $125,000. A VP of product development commands a salary in the neighborhood of $159,000.
In all cases, specialized training with a product management degree leads to the most lucrative and exciting roles in the field.
Earn a Product Management Degree at Merrimack College
The product management concentration is part of the Merrimack College online MS in Engineering Management degree program. The Product Management MSEM integrates an industry-aligned curriculum addressing key facets of the field.
Geared to move professionals confidently forward in their product management careers, the faculty and program designers have identified “skill gaps” typically encountered. Graduates emerge with well-rounded competency in business analytics, leadership, technology and software tools, and product life cycles.
Core competencies covered in the program include:
- Product innovation
- Project Management
- Data science
In addition, students choose between three specialization tracks: Life Sciences, Technology Products, or Software/Web/Mobile.
Combined with the concepts and skills gained through their specialization track, students are prepared to assume leadership roles in product management.
An MSEM Product Management degree gives you the tools and skills to realize the full potential of a career as a product manager. With it, you can change the world.