Certifications are often used as a way to accelerate career growth opportunities. Considering there aren’t many degrees specializing in product management, certifications can be a great way to prove to potential employers that you have the knowledge and skills to lead a product team.
Table of contents
- What are product management certifications?
- Choosing the right certification program
- Are product management certifications worth it?
- Top 5 product management certifications
What are product management certifications?
Product management certifications recognize individuals who possess the knowledge and skills required to succeed in product management. PMs and aspiring product professionals often pursue certifications to prove to employers they have the skills required to complete a job or perform well in a given role.
Certifications vary from organization to organization. Some are conducted online, others are in-person. Some certifications may offer practical, hands-on learning experiences while others only require participants to pass an exam.
Choosing the right certification program
It’s important to research product management certifications to determine whether they’re a good match for you and your career path.
“Consider first what drives you to pursue a certification in product management,” said Manu Sood, Product Manager at ProofHub.
Maybe you’re completely new to product management and want to discover whether it’s the right career path for you. This type of person will probably need a different certification than someone who has several years of experience in product management.
When evaluating product management certifications, TJ Lokboj, Founder of SyndicationPro, suggested considering four factors to choose the right program:
- What are the requirements for certification?
- How difficult is the certification program?
- Do you have any previous experience with product management?
- What can you do with the certification that won’t be possible without it?
“I believe the best product management certification is one that is relevant to your career path at this moment,” said Lokboj. “Some companies can even have a program specifically designed for employees looking to advance their careers. But whichever route you take, make sure to find a program that is affordable and offered by a reputable company or university.”
Are product management certifications worth it?
There are a few aspects to consider to determine a product management certification. Let’s review some factors that can sway your decision as to whether a product management certification is worth pursuing.
Product management certifications often come with a hefty price tag — is it a good investment?
Ideally, your employer would cover these types of educational expenses. But if you’re left to pay the bill, you need to consider your budget and the potential ROI before taking a certification course.
“Certifications are a great way to get some professional recognition and build your resume, but they’re not the only way to go,” said Will Yang, head of growth at Instrumentl. “If you’ve got a real passion for product management, then you should be able to do it without a certification — and save yourself some money in the process.”
Logan Mallory, VP at Motivosity, noted that certifications with robust training programs can be good investments.
“Without a good training component, the certification won’t be nearly as useful,” said Mallory.
Deeper, more specialized knowledge comes with a full training program.
“This will be far more useful because you don’t just have a piece of paper with a credential, you have skills to back it up.”
Previous work experience
Often, employers are looking for candidates who have previous business or tech experience. If you’ve already worked in a related industry for a few years, you may find it easier to get a junior product manager position. Taking your current skill set and finding an entry point to product management may happen without a need to get a certification.
“Getting certified can work to anyone’s advantage, but the practical application of skills and the learning-by-doing approach is what is necessary to become good at the job,” said Stacey Kane, business development lead at EasyMerchant.
“Familiarizing yourself with the different frameworks, models, and tools around product planning can be helpful in your role but the actual application and learning are what will truly define how good you are as a product manager.”
Current career stage
There comes a time in every product manager’s career when they need to take a step further to prove their expertise. While Yang doesn’t think it’s necessary to get certifications to enter product management, it can help to advance your career.
“If you’re looking to move into a higher-level position or get more experience, then it’s worth investing in some certifications,” said Yang. “But this isn’t something that should be rushed or taken lightly; it’s about what you want and need out of your career, and nothing else matters if that’s not what you want.”
Top 5 product management certifications
There is a wide variety of certifications available, each with its own focus.
Let’s review some of the most commonly talked-about certifications in the product management community and gauge which is best for each stage of a product manager’s career.
1. Product Strategy by Northwestern Kellogg
Northwestern University hosts this online product strategy course aimed at helping students learn about each stage of the product life cycle. The Kellogg School of Management is one of the most recognized business schools in the U.S., so this product strategy certification gives PMs and aspiring PMs an opportunity to learn from world-renowned experts.
Students do more than just take notes and exams, though. The certification also includes applied learning opportunities. Throughout the program, students gain hands-on experience by completing real-world exercises. Successful students walk away with valuable skills to demonstrate their product management expertise.
- Designed for business leaders and managers involved in the product life cycle
- Teaches students skills they can use in product management
- Designed and endorsed by an established university
2. Pragmatic Institute product management certification
The Pragmatic Institute has one of the most well-known product management certification programs. The certification includes eight courses.
While you can opt to take individual courses that interest you, the product management certification requires completion of four courses: Foundations, Build, Design, and Focus. Alternatively, you can pursue the product marketing certification, which encompasses the Foundations, Launch, Market, and Price courses.
To obtain the product master certification, you must take all seven of the aforementioned courses, plus the Insight course.
While pursuing certification can help a product manager’s case for a salary increase, experienced professionals may also choose to take a specific course to improve their skill set.
- Best certification for experienced product managers looking to boost their resumes or learn about a specific product management area
- Great for taking a deep dive into product management
- Companies such as Microsoft, Salesforce, and Equifax have used Pragmatic Institute training
3. Product Management: Accelerated by Stanford
Because it is a cohort program, this product management certification gives students the opportunity to network with their peers and receive personalized, live feedback.
Stanford claims this certification is for aspiring or junior product managers. While it may provide a great overview of product management, it’s also an expensive investment. This certification may be best for students who are already sure of their career path in product management.
- Live cohort option allows students to meet and network
- Can receive nine Continuing Education Units upon successful completion
- Best for people who want a more in-depth look into product management and are confident in their career path
4. Product Management Foundations by Reforge
Reforge combines cohort programs and memberships to create Product Management Foundations. It begins with 4–6 weeks of cohort-based learning and then turns into ongoing access to training, community events, and hands-on exercises to promote active learning.
Reforge claims the program is perfect for product managers with fewer than three years of experience. It’s also suitable for people who are looking to switch careers and worked previously in marketing, design, or engineering. Experienced product managers may want to look into Mastering Product Management to refine their skills.
- Best for early-career product managers or professionals looking to switch careers
- Evolves into a product management program for more experienced PMs
- Provides a community to focus on learning about product management
5. Real-World Product Management Specialization by Coursera
Not everyone is 100 percent convinced that product management is the right career path for them. If you’re still determining whether product management is something you want to pursue, you should look for a course that covers the basic knowledge and skills of a product manager.
- Great for beginners looking to explore product management as a career path
- Courses for every budget
- Opportunity to learn about the foundations of product management
Product management, especially if you are in tech, is constantly evolving. Product managers need to stay adaptable to keep up with the changing tides and deliver fresh, crowd-pleasing products and features.
There is a product management course for every stage of the PM’s career, whether you’re thinking of switching careers or have several years of experience in product management. Evaluate courses carefully and consider your time commitment, investment, and career stage to determine which product management certification program is best for you.
Featured image source: IconScout
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