A product manager is one of those positions you don’t necessarily go to school for but instead discover later. Besides not having it in mind when starting your career path, many myths surround this position. Some of these involve a decent product manager salary. We will go over this rewarding career path, so you can know that some of the things you’ve heard said about a product manager salary are simply wrong.
Product Manager Salary Myths
There are several product manager salary myths that you should know, so that you are not apprehensive about following this great career path, especially when it’s a position within the SaaS world. Here are the top 7 myths about a decent product manager salary.
1. You Need to Go to School for Product Management
You do not have to go to school specifically for product management to earn a good salary as a product manager. It’s important to understand that there is no specific and narrow career path that everyone takes to become a product manager. No matter what an executive, entrepreneur, or product manager tells you, they are all suggested paths you can take, not requirements.
Of course, you will need to study something, such as business or tech. Still, as long as you are dedicated to being a lifelong learner, you can become a product manager from virtually any background. A great product manager will need to have knowledge from as diverse an array as possible. By doing this, you can receive a decent product manager salary, without taking a specific path to achieve it.
2. You Need to Be an Expert on Things like Six Sigma
An inviting product manager salary is no longer dependent on creating 50-page PRDs or product specs. Thanks to new advances in development methodologies, the job of a product manager have changed significantly. This includes the kind of skills you need to bring to the table.
Today, a product manager is akin to being more of a mini-CEO, in that they should understand something holistically. To get the big bucks, they need to identify problems, see if they are big enough to spend time on, and if so, work with a team to efficiently resolve them.
Knowing a process inside-out, like Six Sigma or agile development, is not a prerequisite for getting a product manager salary. They may provide some value still, but do not necessarily provide value to a product, the company, or customers. These are tools that are constantly changing and may no longer be relevant a few years down the road. What guarantees a good salary is knowing the customers and solving their problems in a way where your company benefits.
3. There Is a Single Crucial Trait You Must Possess
There is no one essential trait or ability you need to have to enjoy a decent product manager salary. Hiring managers will have their own individual preferences and biases, which you will never be able to account for accurately. That means no need to spend so much of your time mastering a particular skill. Regardless of what your natural abilities are, you will be able to use them to be a great product manager and get a salary that corresponds with that.
Some hiring managers look for an entrepreneur, while others look for someone who can demonstrate exceptional curiosity, whereas someone else may want to see someone who knows how to identify patterns intuitively and statistically. If there is anyone who proclaims there is one singular trait that leads to a good product manager salary, they have probably only worked in one company and have nothing to compare it to.
4. You Need Years of Product Management Experience
Saying that years of product management experience are required to get a decent product manager salary is a bit off. What should be said is that you should have experience with managing multiple products throughout their lifecycle.
You can get a good salary by picking up product management skills that will help with being a product manager. There are also numerous opportunities you can get involved in on the side that will help you acquire the product experience that is valued and build up a product portfolio.
5. You Need Plenty of Domain Knowledge
Just because you worked in one industry and then decided you want to shift into a completely different one does not mean you cannot earn a decent salary as a product manager. In fact, being able to apply what you learned in another domain can foster innovation and lead to being well-compensated for it.
You get to see problems with a new pair of eyes, seeing things others who are deeply entrenched in one domain don’t have. You can deliver tremendous value, regardless of what industry you come from. You can follow patterns and models that have worked in another industry and apply them to a new one. This is something that companies love to see and will compensate you handsomely for it.
6. You Need a Technical Background
Nope! In fact, a 2017 study found that three out of four product managers had a non-technical role. Eight out of ten product managers do not even have a programming background! You don’t need a technical degree to get paid well as a product manager.
Instead of wasting a great deal of time and money on programming courses, use your time and energy in developing vision, the ability to execute properly, and leadership.
7. You Need to Be a Project Manager as a Product Manager
While a handful of product managers need to also double as project managers, almost all companies will have a separate project manager, who is involved in all the timeline aspects of a project. What a product manager will need to stay focused on most of the time is identifying where a customer has pain points, to successfully develop solutions. They will get assistance from engineering and UX designers’ way more than they will from a project timeline. Don’t be concerned that you won’t make a decent salary because you are not a project manager. 16
This article has hopefully cleared up some of the top product manager salary myths out there. The bottom line is that you should pursue whatever you are passionate about. After that, begin or advance your career in any industry and role that you find most appealing. Be an avid learner and dedicated to solving problems for customers and you will enjoy a great product manager salary.
Surojit has over 15 years of experience in quality and implementations. He is a promoter of an extremely light and efficient Agile process to fit business needs. In his prior role as product owner, he built a robust product in a very short span of time.
Published June 17, 2020, Updated December 30, 2020