Is product management the right career for you?

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Product management is a growing field. Determining if product management is the right career for you involves a combination of self-assessment, research, and practical experience.

With more than 100,000 jobs posted and a median salary of $133,000*, there are plenty of opportunities to discover or advance your career in this booming field. The online Master of Science in Product Management (MSPM) from Hawaiʻi Pacific University can help position you as a top applicant and enhance your growth potential. Let's take a closer look at this exciting field so you can better decide if it is right for you.

*According to Lightcast. August 2023.


Product manager, product owner, project manager: What’s the difference?

The management of projects and products involves cross-functional teams and transferable skills. Sometimes it can take effort to distinguish the roles of project managers, product managers, and product owners within an organization. But each has its responsibilities and focus.

Let's take a closer look at the key differences across these roles:

Product Manager: Product managers are primarily responsible for the overall roadmap, development, and successful product or service launch. They conduct market research and analysis to identify customer needs. They work closely with different teams, including engineering, design, and technology to market the product. They are ultimately accountable for the product’s success or failure. Strong strategic thinking, market analysis, communication, and leadership skills are essential for product managers to succeed.

Product Owner: Often seen as visionary leaders, product owners are typically part of agile development teams and serve as a bridge for cross-functional stakeholders. They ensure the team is building the right features, defining detailed requirements and acceptance criteria. They oversee the entire journey of a product, from the initial idea to its launch and ongoing optimization. You need a deep understanding of the product to excel in this role, strong communication skills, and critical thinking.

Project Manager: Project managers are responsible for planning, executing, and delivering projects within a defined scope, schedule, and budget. They supervise the execution of projects to ensure the team completes tasks efficiently and effectively. Project managers are also responsible for reporting status updates to key stakeholders and ensuring collaboration across workstreams. Project managers need strong organizational, communication, and problem-solving skills.


What challenges might product managers face?

Product managers are at the forefront of innovation. In today’s increasingly digital landscape, product managers face unique challenges. Check out a few examples below:

  1. Communication between different teams: Product managers work with teams specializing in other areas of product development, spanning market research to engineering and beyond. Effective communication across teams is crucial to ensure timely communication and understanding. At HPU, the MSPM program teaches how to improve communication within cross-functional groups, promoting teamwork while executing the product roadmap.
  2. Getting people to use new products: Convincing users to adopt a new product can be challenging. Product managers must create easy-to-follow processes and design a user experience that encourages people to try the product – and then stick with it. The MSPM program provides insights into developing user-friendly experiences and strategies to boost product adoption.
  3. Gathering user feedback and understanding behavior: User feedback is invaluable for improving products. However, gathering this feedback can be difficult. MSPM students learn how to incorporate the user's perspective in the development and marketing of the product. The program also develops data analysis and research skills, helping students understand user behavior and feedback to enhance products.


Where can a career in product management take you? 

The scope of a product management career has expanded with the ongoing development of our digital landscape. Your career direction will ultimately depend on your interests, skills, experience, and education. Below are some potential career paths that you may be interested in exploring further.

Careers in creative fields: 
If you are drawn to creative sectors like consulting, marketing, or advertising, a role in product management can help you turn ideas into actual products and services.
Some roles in this area include:

  • Product Designer: Create designs for products, putting together high-fidelity concepts and prototypes based on user testing and market research.
  • Consultant: Formulate and execute a robust roadmap, collaborating with companies to improve their product strategies, services, and processes.
  • User Experience Specialist: Produce wireframes and visual designs with clear information architecture, user interaction models, and user flows. 

Organizational, leadership, or administrative roles:
If you're skilled in operations and project management, you can find job opportunities in product management that suit you across many sectors. Some positions in this area include:

  • Marketing Director: Develop and execute an organization’s strategy to drive brand awareness for their products and services.
  • Program Manager: Plan, manage, and implement a program from concept to completion. 
  • Product Owner: Be the voice of the customer to the development team, maximizing the value of the products created by the team. 

E-commerce and entrepreneurial paths:
Are you someone who can see opportunities and possibilities in the digital landscape that others may overlook? Are you willing to take calculated risks? Then you might be interested in the following roles:

  • E-commerce Manager: Develop and execute the e-commerce strategy, including website management and online sales initiatives.
  • Chief Product Officer: Oversee the product portfolio, set the vision, and align strategies with organizational goals.
  • Product Manager: Define and execute the product strategy, prioritizing features and working with cross-functional teams to develop and launch successfully.

What do these careers have in common? They are perfect for people who enjoy experimenting and solving problems and who can bridge the worlds of digital and physical spaces to drive innovation from conception through the entire life cycle.


Is the Master of Science in Product Management purely technical?  

A Master of Science is undoubtedly a highly specialized and technically oriented degree. Typically, this type of program consists of a combination of coursework, research, and experiential components.

 Regarding the master’s in product management at HPU, the program is designed to strike a balance between the creative, human-centric aspects, and the technical, analytical components. The Master of Science in Product Management at Hawaiʻi Pacific University incorporates design thinking principles, balancing creativity with business acumen to help you learn how to deliver a product that meets market demand while satisfying business objectives.

Whether you’re interested in working with start-ups or established companies, you can take courses that equip you with design, tech, research, and leadership skills. It's about embracing all sides of product management. Once you’ve completed your degree, you can work in an exciting range of fields and roles: e-commerce, manufacturing, health care, technology, administrative, customer support, and retail.

Are you ready to dive into the dynamic world of product management? Visit our online Master of Science in Product Management overview to discover how HPU can help you master the art and science of this exciting field.

*All salary estimations are from

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