How to get a job as a product manager in the USA

How to get a job as a product manager in the USA

by Andrea Byaruhanga
March 1, 2021

Whether you’re talking about developing a physical or digital product, the product manager is an essential part of the whole process. 

Product managers are the link between developers, customers and everyone else involved in developing or updating a product. They’re involved in every aspect of the product life cycle: understanding what the customer wants, creating a strategy to create the right project, keeping everything running smoothly, solving issues in the process and more. 

Because the specific responsibilities of a product manager can be different from one company to the next, there isn’t just one way to become a product manager.

Even so, we’re here to explain:

  1. How to become a product manager in the USA and we’ll talk about just one way to get there: focusing on professional qualifications and skills.
  2. We’ll even cover some common interview questions you might be asked when you apply for a product manager position.

Okay, let’s discuss how to become a product manager in the USA!

1. The qualifications 

The MBA route

Many hopeful product managers start their career path by completing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme. While this certification isn’t absolutely necessary, it’s very common among many product managers in the USA. 

Typically, the people who enter an MBA programme already have three or more years of business experience before they start. 

With an MBA on your resume, potential employers will see that you have a strong background in business – an important part of the product manager role. 

After completing your MBA, you can apply for a variety of roles. Here’s an example of what your career path might look like: 

Get a job as a marketing assistant or marketing associate. The responsibilities involved in those roles will give you a lot of useful skills that can help you in a product manager role: doing market research, collecting and analyzing data and making sure everything runs smoothly in the department. 

With the above experience under your belt (ideally two to three years’ worth), you can start looking for junior product manager jobs. Junior roles are easier to get into, and you’ll get tons of on-the-job training to prepare you to eventually apply for a senior product manager role.  

Education Systems in the UK and the USA

The product management certification path

An MBA isn’t for everyone: time, cost and prerequisite qualifications can be a roadblock for some. If that’s you, consider getting a product management certificate. These programmes offer specific, in-depth training that will give you the skills you need to be a successful product manager. And the best part: many of them are available online

The benefit of a programme like this is that hiring managers will see that you’ve got a variety of job-ready skills (rather than deep knowledge in just one area, like with an MBA). 

The right skills 

On top of the qualifications we talked about above, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have certain skills to be successful as a product manager. Here’s a list of just a few:  

  • Prioritisation: You should know how to decide which tasks are most important and when to say “no” to requests from various people involved.
  • Listening: You’ll need to speak to numerous people to gather information (including customer requests, market needs and competitors), then figure out how to use that data to develop or improve your product. 
  • Communication: Communication is key. Your role will involve things like expressing the client’s needs, updating clients on your team’s progress, motivating your team, giving powerful presentations about your product, describing how to handle issues and so on. And you need to do it all in a respectful and empathetic way. 
  • Basic UX: Understanding how design teams develop products that offer a great user experience (UX) is very valuable and useful to a product manager.
  • Programming: Knowing the basics of computer programming can be very helpful in understanding a product and building strategies for it.

2. The interview

Even if you’ve got all the necessary skills and qualifications, you’ll still have to prove it when you go to a job interview. It’s quite likely that you’ll have to prove you can collect and analyze data, know what to do with it, identify and solve issues and more. 

To help you prepare, here are some questions you might be asked in a product manager interview:

  • Provide an example of a product that you released or updated. 
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of?
  • How do you work with multiple teams?
  • What did you do when things didn’t go as planned? What did you learn from it?
  • How often do you visit customers?
  • Describe the product life cycle.
  • Why do you want to work with us?
  • Where do you plan to be in five years?
  • Is there any training you think you need? If so, what?

Let Lingoda help you become a great communicator

We mentioned earlier that part of being a great product manager is having communications skills. And when you’re talking about how to become a product manager in the USA, those communications skills revolve around English. Without strong English skills, your message might be lost or misunderstood. 

Make sure you have the English skills you need by signing up with Lingoda. By practising face-to-face with our native-speaking teachers, you’ll get instant feedback, allowing you to improve with every lesson. It’s the best way to strengthen your English skills and get ready for your career as a product manager. Start a free 7-day trial today!