I recently spent a day down a rabbit hole researching the various educational options for people hoping to pursue a career in product management. My search was inspired by a conversation with Greg Coticchia for a profile I wrote on the master in product management degree program he runs at Carnegie Mellon University, the apparent first of its kind in the world.
I found it hard to believe academia could be so far behind in educating students for one of the most promising and highest paying technology jobs of 2018. Turns out, he’s mostly right. Formal education around product management typically stops at individual courses within engineering or MBA degree programs.
The majority of product managers still happen upon their role—their training is on the job. But Greg is convinced there’s enough subject matter unique to the role of product manager for this to change. In fact, a handful of universities are addressing the need in their own ways. And accelerated education programs are beginning to train up aspiring PMs too.
Note that this list does not include product management conferences—I highlighted those earlier this year. It also leaves out those one-off courses at universities or online, as well as short-term workshops, most of which are geared toward PMs already in their roles.
This is the list you send to an aspiring tech company CEO, a college student curious about careers in technology, or the talented young engineer or designer at work with a passion for product.
Carnegie Mellon University: Master of Science in Product Management
This one-year degree program pairs leadership and business strategy curricula from the Tepper School of Business with programming, design, and agile/scrum methodology coursework from the College of Engineering to supplement in-depth product management and design training and summer internships. Launched in January 2018, the program aims to equip aspiring product managers with a well-rounded business, technical, and design education before they enter the field.
New York University: MBA with Product Management specialization
Recognizing that many product managers seek MBA degrees, NYU developed a product management specialization within its own MBA program. Courses change regularly but generally cover how to build and defend a brand, collect and analyze market research data, and develop and introduce new products based on that work. This specialization is not specific to technology products, so courses sometimes include selling strategies and innovation and design in hardware or consumer products.
*NYU also offers a one-year Tech MBA, with product management as part of the curriculum. Students frequently work on product management projects as part of industry immersion.
University of Wisconsin: MBA with Specialization in Brand and Product Management
The university’s Center for Brand and Product Management combines traditional business education with data science, marketing research, leadership/team-building, new product development, and a variety of relevant electives to help aspiring product leaders build their own education in product management over two years.
The Institute of Product Leadership: Executive MBA in Product Leadership
An 18-month program with locations in Cupertino and Bangalore, the institute helps convert senior managers into C-suite product leaders, providing leadership training as well as strategic decision making and execution. It’s geared toward experienced workers with full-time jobs—courses take place on weekends. The application process includes an online product innovation aptitude test and an in-person interview. The institute also offers a year-long executive post-graduate program and a 20-week product management and marketing certification.
University certificate programs may be the best option for those who need to work while they pursue an education. Here are some that we like:
University of Washington: Certificate in Software Product Management
In three courses held in downtown Seattle or Bellevue, students will study the lifecycle of technology products and learn how to manage each step of the process. Geared toward people already in the tech industry, subject matter includes product strategy and validation, product design and development, financial modeling, and go-to-market strategy. Most students attend classes two to three nights a week and complete the certification within nine months.
Cornell University: Customer-Focused Product and Service Design
The College of Engineering at Cornell offers a six two-week online courses aimed at helping students master a systems design process that puts the customer at the center of product development. The focus is on the earliest stages of product design, training students on how to turn customer needs and feedback into technical requirements, and then how to test assumptions and iterate.
Accelerated education programs offer an intensive but fast track to learning product management and landing a job in the field.
General Assembly: Become a Product Manager in 10 Weeks
The title says it all. The New York-headquartered education company promises a complete PM education in less than a business quarter as part of its career accelerator program. Offered at many of its global campuses, the program covers core skills and concepts like market research, agile and scrum methodology, building an MVP, user-centered design and collaboration/communication techniques, with real-world projects to apply the skills learned. As with any General Assembly immersive program, there’s the promise of an entry-level job after the program is complete.
Practitioner-teachers are a lure of these eight-week part-time courses taught on 16 campuses in 11 tech-centric regions around the world. Courses are taught by product leaders from some of the world’s top tech companies, and offerings include Product Management, Coding for Managers, Data for Managers, and Blockchain for Managers. The first three programs can be combined to earn a Full Stack Product Management Certificate.
The promise of Product School is to learn best practices, methodologies, tools and collaboration/communication strategies through building a product in a classroom setting, and then receiving mentorship and connections to find a job in the field.
Product management education at this school in Tel Aviv covers the “Lean Startup” product development process, metrics, marketing and pricing, how to develop a product roadmap and the feedback loop. It’s aimed at high-tech industry professionals, specifically those in programming or design.
UpGrad: Product Management Certification Program
Product professionals in India and Silicon Valley co-created this five-month online program that covers the foundations of product management: user research, product design, product analytics, go-to-market strategy, user engagement, and how to build a minimum viable product. The curriculum includes 1:1 mentorship and live Q&A sessions with experts, career support and the opportunity to build a product portfolio based on real-world challenges.