Are Product Management Courses (Certifications and Degrees) Worth the Time and Investment?

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When I started my product management career in 2013 there were a limited number of educational institutions that offered product management training. 

Over time an increasing number of institutes have arrived on the scene to train product managers. And rightfully so, many of them are providing a beneficial service in training the next generation of skilled product managers that understand their responsibilities and can solve critical issues that companies and customers face.

There is no standard product management certificate for product managers.

Unlike the Project Management Professional Certification (PMP) that is accredited by the Project Management Institute or a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) certification which accredits and recognizes accountants in North America, there is no product management equivalent.

Product management courses

There are numerous places that aspiring product managers (and skilled product managers) can rely on for product management training. 

Product Hall for example offers product management training for new and aspiring product managers. 

Along with teaching the fundamentals of product management plus more, their program includes lessons from industry professionals to tie the knowledge gained to practical application and they offer lifetime 1:1 mentorship to students.

Co.Lab is another institute that not only provides product management training, but also pairs new and aspiring product managers with designers and developers to build real products and gain practical experience in the process.

Check out our list of the best product management certifications and courses in 2021.

Is the time and financial investment in a product management course with it?

The answer depends on your situation and goals.

For an aspiring product manager these courses are definitely beneficial. 

Taking a product management course will not only teach you what you need to know about product management, but it will also enable you to build your network, gain experience building something real, and obtain guidance and assistance from industry professionals.

The awarded certifications from these institutes are also highly recognized in the software industry. It’s possible that a member of the product team at a company that you apply for may have a certificate from one of these programs.

While it is possible to become a product manager without taking a product management course (people have successfully done it) the road may be longer.

And to be frank, obtaining product management certification communicates that at the very least you know the fundamentals of product management and can grow further into performing the role at hand.

Product management certification displays competence and can avoid a conversation.

For experienced product managers these certifications are a nice-to-have.

Taking them can assist an experienced product manager with growing in their role and complete any knowledge gaps that they may have missed if they took the route of learning while on the job.

Those who learned on the job likely made mistakes along the way (as we all do), read books, attended conferences, watched videos, etc. However they did not have any formal training in their career. 

When completing a product management course you can learn additional frameworks, tools, techniques, and also connect with other experienced professionals that you can learn from.

There are no colleges or universities that offer undergraduate degree programs in product management. Given that product managers are a jack of all trades that use skills from various disciplines we don’t see this happening in the near future.

However this may change as product management continues to evolve and rise in popularity. 

What about product management MBAs?

Is an MBA needed to land a product management role?

MBA programs (on average) are 2-year programs and cost thousands of dollars. Some can cost more than $80k for the entire course.

In these 2 years students learn the ins and outs of managing a business while specializing in one of the main business disciplines (strategy, finance, marketing operations management, etc).

Some of the reasons that learners consider obtaining an MBA include transitioning to a different career path, advancing in their current company (all senior managers have MBAs and one may not progress without it), or gaining access to a reputable network of skilled business professionals. 

Does someone need an MBA to become a product manager? No.

It’s possible to become a product manager without obtaining an MBA. 

Though you will come across many product managers who have an MBA you will also come across many who do not. And they continue to succeed in their careers.

If you are already considering obtaining an MBA for an alternative reason and you are interested in product management then it is a great asset to have. 

Likewise, if you are already in a product role but may need an MBA to achieve a specific role within your company or to get a specific job at a preferred company where an MBA is required then pursuing one can be beneficial.

However pursuing an MBA for the sole goal of becoming a product manager is not advised.

It may be more beneficial to utilize your time taking a course at a product bootcamp and building a real product to gain practical experience. Practical experience that can be spoken about and leveraged into getting a product management job.

There are many product managers who are in senior roles and are performing well in their careers who do not have an MBA.

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