Is a Product Management Certificate Worth It?

By BrainStation December 13, 2018
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Product Managers are often referred to as “mini-CEOs” of products – in other words, the people who steer a product’s lifecycle from ideation to launch and beyond.

Clearly, it’s a position that demands a vast degree of competency across any number of disciplines and competencies. So to answer the question in our title, yes! A product management certificate is worth it, and many Product Managers (or aspiring Product Managers) are enrolling in certification programs.

Let’s take a closer look at why a product management certification is worth your time.

Demand is High – And Salaries Are Too

It seems that good Product Managers are hard to find.

In 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported that Product Manager was the most coveted job title among M.B.A. graduates, and life as a product manager has only gotten better since. CBS News recently listed it among the Top 10 best jobs in America, noting the abundance of openings.

According to Hired’s 2017 Global State of Tech Salaries, Product Managers brought home the highest average salary offers of any tech role at $138,000. Further, that rate was growing – in the U.S., the number was up 5.9 percent in 2016 compared to the year before.

So, if these positions are so lucrative, why aren’t they luring the right candidates? In part because attitudes and technologies around product management have changed rapidly in recent years, and it can be difficult to find candidates who understand those shifts.

“I am often asked: how do I hire product managers?” wrote Matt LeMay, author of Product Management in Practice.

“Part of the reason for this, I believe, is that many high-profile and high-tech products have publicly failed to live up to their expectations. The idea that shipping software – any software – is itself a holistic end goal is much harder to support now than it was five years ago.

“And as venture capital becomes more interested in companies that are revenue-focused and truly understand their market, there is an appreciable shift away from ‘just shift software’ and towards ‘ship the right software.”

A good certificate course will help develop that high-level thinking, teaching you how to identify market opportunities, user needs, and which products customers will actually buy.

Product Managers Have a Lot of Responsibilities

Product Managers tend to sit at the nexus of technology, business, and user experience – or, as Marty Cagan wrote in his book Inspired, the goal of a Product Manager is to “discover a product that is valuable, usable, and feasible.”

Within the UX sphere, Product Managers need to understand the marketplace, their customer base, how to employ usability testing, and how to identify opportunities. On the business side, Product Managers need to know how to consider the organization’s strategic goals, the value of the product, and how to maintain internal interest and buy-in on the product’s potential. Finally, Product Managers need to be technological leaders with a deep understanding of development processes, necessary resources, and technical limitations.

It’s a lot to juggle, which is why many in the field recommend certification – not just to help you master those various skills, but also to make you confident and comfortable with the processes that help steer a product from conception to completion.

“I highly recommend going through some form of training before starting a new job in product management,” said Kevin Mease, senior vice-president worldwide support at MicroStrategy. “You need a framework/template to center your thinking. You will constantly be pulled in different directions with each conversation throughout the day, so it’s important you have a framework to fall back on.

“It’s also important to brush up on your skills as you go and I think every three months is a good cadence for additional training.”

Certification Courses Provide Hands-on Experience

A certification course can offer invaluable experience in simulating the entire product lifecycle, helping Product Managers understand the potential pitfalls and setbacks they will face in steering a new product – without being under the pressure of a microscope.

BrainStation’s part-time Product Management course begins with the identification of problems worth solving. From there, you develop a go-to-market strategy with a comprehensive product launch and a definition of your Minimum Viable Product, positioning and pricing, before gaining a strong understanding of Scrum and Agile methodology. Finally, you will present a go-to-market plan for your new product, perform a market assessment, and present the product solution to key stakeholders.

Ready to get started? BrainStation offers part-time product management certification courses, both online and on-campus in New York, Toronto, and Vancouver.