How to Become a Product Manager: Skills, Experience, and Salaries – Business Insider

Workers, from teachers to nurses and more, are quitting their jobs to find better work-life balance and higher wages — and many are itching to find roles in tech that don’t require coding experience or a computer science degree. 
That’s where careers in product management come in. A product manager supervises the development and shipment of products that a company makes. They work with engineers, clients, designers, and other teams across the company to decide on strategy, roadmap, and design behind new projects or app updates. 
Having product managers to focus on the business side takes some of the process burden off of developers, designers, and other roles, according to Sadiq Dorasat, who was a product manager at HSBC and now works product at UK retail company Marks and Spencers. 
“Being a product manager is one of the most meeting-heavy roles in tech,” Dorasat tells Insider. 
That’s why product managers come from all walks of life, getting hired based on the skills they bring from nontechnical backgrounds to the role. From former engineers to college professors, Insider spoke with product managers on the skills they use on the job, lessons learned from their previous industries, and the salary ranges throughout their careers. 
Current and past product managers tell Insider that their roles require strong communication skills and a lot of foresight. Former sales representatives, consultants, and other roles that require interpersonal interactions bring skills transferable to the role. 
For example, previous experience in finance and data management helped Dorasat assess data and other research to determine how to move forward on a given product, and ultimately drive social engagement to web and mobile platforms. 
Some newcomers to the career track are pursuing technical certifications to help them stand out in the crowded field for the relatively few entry-level product management positions available. That said, Teneika Askew, who works product for the US Navy, tells Insider that if applicants can sell their experiences at past roles, they should be able to land a product manager job. 
“For example, if you are a nurse, you will be a great healthcare startup product manager,” Askew said. “I worked with a lot of data in the past, so I was able to use that to better understand my product at my current job.”
Generally, being a product manager is a very flexible role that rewards transferable skills, product manager Cinneah El-Amin tell Insider. While she never coded in college, El-Amin ran product development for major companies like Mastercard and American Express. Learning how to communicate and network in a humanities-driven major like Africana Studies helped her work her way up to the role, she said.
But there are technical skills El-Amin picked up along the way to help her become a successful. While she worked at Mastercard, El-Amin worked with engineers to familiarize herself with Javascript, application programming interfaces, and Python, she said. 
“You have to be naturally curious, and ask a lot of questions,” El-Amin said. “I don’t have any certifications or know any programming languages, but at the end of the day this is my product, so I need to know how my products work.” 
Like any role, salary levels for product managers can range based on experience, location, and other factors — but mid-to-senior level roles generally report earning six figures or more on the job.
Junior product managers earn a base salary around $40,000 to $70,000, mid-level product managers earn around $70,000 to $120,000, and senior-level product managers make above $120,000, according to product managers that spoke with Insider. Insider previously reported that product management pays an average of $129,772 a year in San Francisco, and that senior product managers at Big Tech companies can make around $150,000-$190,000
For many, whether the salary is worth it is relative to what they earn in their current roles. Ibrahim Javed, who used to work in consulting before he became a product manager, tells Insider that his salary increased 40% when he changed career paths. Generally, newcomers to the field can expect to earn around $94,000, according to Glassdoor.
People may also want to work in tech to get better work-life balance, but that can vary from company to company. Douglas Franklin, who works at a startup in Nairobi, Kenya, says that working at a company that is rapidly trying to grow will require a lot more work than a company that already has a mature product. 
But managing expectations can help job seekers navigate if its the right role for them, Dorasat says.
“Some people make out tech as this place where there are rainbows and people are singing songs, and I think if you have that expectation coming in you will be disappointed,” Dorasat said. “Talk to people in the field you want to go to, they have a lot of valuable insight.” 
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