A recent article from Product Coalition explains why landing your first job as a product manager will be a challenge. As the author points out, competition is fierce, and most hiring managers want to see several years of experience. If you are hoping to land a product management job—especially your first—you will need every advantage you can find. One suggestion Product Coalition offers is to take product manager courses.
We strongly agree. In this post, we’ll explain why. We’ll also link you to other content we’ve developed that describes some of our favorite product manager courses and certification programs.
Why Take Product Manager Courses?
Whether you are an experienced product manager or new to the field, you can reap many benefits by going through the right product management education programs. We will briefly discuss the advantages for seasoned product managers below. But the rest of this article will focus on why these courses are valuable for people just starting their product management careers.
Benefits for an experienced product manager
1. Refresh your knowledge of the basics.
If you’ve been in a product role for a few years, you’ve probably developed processes that work for your company or your team. Or a product leader at your company might have handed the processes over to you and asked that you follow them. Those processes might not translate perfectly to another company or a different industry.
It’s a good idea now and then to go back to the basics of product management and re-familiarize yourself with the broad roles and responsibilities of the job. Taking a course in product management can help you do that.
2. Expose yourself to new ideas and approaches.
It’s easy to develop tunnel vision in any product role. You find a routine that works and stick with it. But you want to challenge your processes and ideas from time to time and look for ways of doing things that could be better. A product manager course can help you do that as well.
3. Share ideas and best practices with other product managers.
Product managers need to work with many departments across their companies. They coordinate the efforts of engineers and designers. To make sure their products meet the needs of their target personas, product managers confer with their companies’ sales, marketing, and customer success teams. They must also present their product roadmaps to executives, investors, and other decision-makers.
But they might not get to spend much time with other product managers, share ideas and tips, and discuss what’s working and what isn’t. A course or certification program in product management can provide that opportunity.
What Are the Benefits of Product Manager Courses (for New PMs)?
Product manager courses and certification programs offer many benefits for someone hoping to break into the product field. Here are five of the most important.
Note: Before we go further, we want to point out that most hiring managers will not demand to see a certification from a product management program on your resume. These courses rarely play a deciding role in hiring a product manager. But as you’ll see below, the suitable courses will offer you experience and confidence that can help you in the hiring process.
1. You’ll gain practical, hands-on product management experience.
You will learn more than just product management theory in the best product manager courses and training programs. You will gain real experience developing product concepts, researching markets, building plans to take a product from concept to production.
2. You’ll have a chance to learn from experienced product leaders.
Teaching a product manager course is a prestigious, sought-after opportunity. It also looks good on a resume. You will find many of these courses taught by experienced product professionals from world-class organizations, such as Netflix and Google.
3. You’ll increase your confidence (and reduce imposter syndrome).
As someone new to product management, you will likely feel insecure going on those first few interviews. If you land a job, you will almost certainly feel the same as you settle into your new role. But if you can draw on recent experiences in a product management course and the knowledge you gained from a seasoned instructor, you can mitigate those worries—and proceed with confidence.
4. You’ll be able to demonstrate experience to hiring managers.
As we noted above, presenting a certificate of completion from a product course probably won’t make or break your chances of getting hired. But because the course will give you the experience of creating hypothetical products, it can help you speak more intelligently and concretely in a job interview. When you can tell a hiring manager the story of how you conceived a product and how your research helped you shape it, you will increase your chances of coming across as ready for a real-world product job—even if it will be your first.
5. You’ll make progress more quickly in your first job.
No two product management jobs are identical. The daily routines of your first product role, and the expectations on you, will depend on your team, your organization’s leaders, and the company’s culture. Figuring out what to do in your first 90 days as a product manager can feel overwhelming. But having suitable product manager courses under your belt can help give you some ideas of prioritizing and building a routine that works.
Should I Choose a Product Manager Training Course Based on Whether or Not it Offers Certification?
The answer: No.
To the extent that you want to sign up for product manager training, you should do so for the reasons outlined above. The proper courses will give you knowledge, hands-on experience, the chance to work with successful product leaders, and confidence.
One of the minor valid reasons to take a product manager course is to earn a certificate you can show to hiring managers. An organization looking to fill a product manager role will want to see evidence of several traits in the right candidate, including:
- Problem-solving ability
- Communication skills
- Proficiency in research and analysis
- Persuasiveness and natural leadership
- Outstanding listening skills
Note: Your certificate from a product management class will not serve as proof of these traits.
But we can tell you that the product management courses we believe are the best all offer certificates of completion.
Does it Make Sense to Become a Certified Product Manager?
We cannot answer this question for you. But we can offer some additional guidance.
You should know that the industry does not have an agreed-upon definition of a certified product manager. Businesses all have a clear understanding of what an undergraduate or master’s degree means. But suppose you hope to make your resume stand out by labeling yourself a certified product manager. In that case, you need to understand that all recruiters and hiring managers will read that label differently.
Some companies might give weight to certification, while others won’t. In some cases, the label could even undermine your resume. A hiring manager might read it and think you are not knowledgeable enough to know that the product industry isn’t looking for certifications.
There are a couple of scenarios where a certification could help bolster your case.
2 examples of how certification could enhance your product manager qualifications
1. You want to show knowledge of a specific area of product management.
Let’s say you want to land a job at a company that demands specific knowledge from its product team. For example, an understanding of how agile development works. You might want to complete a course that earns you the title of Agile Certified Product Manager.
As you’ll see in our detailed post on the best product manager courses, the Association of International Product Marketing and Management offers such a course.
2. Your formal education is in another field.
It’s worth noting here that earning a university degree in a product-related field is also not necessary to a career in product management. As we explained in an article debunking product management myths, you do not need to go to school for product management. One person we discuss in that article, Brian Crofts, studied economics in college. He is now Vice President of Product at a successful software company.
Formal education in fields that seem unrelated to product can make you more appealing to companies looking for product managers. Some organizations will be searching for product professionals who understand business. They might give an edge to candidates who studied finance or earned an MBA. Other companies will want a product manager who can speak intelligently with developers or other technical people. Those companies might prefer candidates with computer science or engineering degrees.
But if you are trying to find your first product management job, and your schooling or work experience are in different fields, which leaves you feeling insecure about your product manager qualifications, you might find it worthwhile to enroll in a product manager course that offers certificates for completion.
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