Poll: What degree is most helpful to becoming a Product Manager?

  • 13 January 2022
  • 3 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +4

I thought it would be interesting to open up the discussion here in our community.   What degree do you think is most helpful to becoming a Product Manager?


What degree do you think is most helpful to becoming a Product Manager?

3 replies

Userlevel 6
Badge +11

This is always a little bit of a hot topic in the product management space, isn’t it? 

Disclosure: I have a Master’s Degree in Mathematics and a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. 

Even with the above stated, I would have to say that you do not require a degree to get into product management. The assumption is that you need a strong technical (computer science) or business (MBA/Business) background in order to be a successful product manager. While both of these can, undoubtedly, help you with some of the foundations of each (as a PM will juggle/bounce between the two) - I believe that you can take the same inititive it takes to be a PM to explore these topics on your own time. 

I’ve studied/learned a lot about the business side of a company in my “spare” [sic] time. I did this, primarily, with the goal of being a more knowledgable product manager. If I didn’t have a strong technical background, I would have done the same in that space as well. While this may not apply to all PMs, I do think think that majority of us are constantly learning and re-evaluating our skill sets. That same mindset can be applied to the two “degrees” that some may believe are required or most helpful. 

Userlevel 5
Badge +2

Like @david.morgan above, my intuitive answer would be no degree needed.

Or rather, any degree. Reasoning: a PM should be able to analyze a non-trivial problem, keep that up for an extended period of time and show original thinking (i.e. not just summarizing what you find). There’s no specific degree for that, rather this is what an academic education (in any field) should prove. So my assertion would be: you need an academic degree or otherwise prove that you display the skills described above.

💜 I’m aware this assertion can be seen as elitist and I’m sensitive to the fact not everyone is in the same privileged position I was when I got to do my studies. I’m absolutely looking for contradiction here.

Other thought - the requirement for qualifications could change depending on the stage of your product.

  • Pre-product/market fit: you need a generalist with a clear focus on getting into the customer’s shoes, your CTO will handle engineering matters and you’re not yet ‘building a business’
  • Post-product/market fit: now you’re actually building a business and growing the (product) team. So naturally, roles will become more specialized. Here, you might want PMs that have strong affinity with Computer Science (especially if you’re making a highly technical product) or business (when in growth stage).
Userlevel 1

I don't think a degree is necessary. The majority of PM task can be accomplished by anyone who has a high degree of analytical/critical thinking skills. Add a layer of patience for empathy and knowledge of current trends and you have someone that is capable of being a competent PM.