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What is an Associate Product Manager and How to Become One

By Ibrahim Okunade

Published:

Making headway in the field of product management can be challenging, especially if you’re unsure where to begin.  This article breaks down what an APM does, the skills and qualifications needed, and how to get started on this career path. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to make a career switch, this article is the practical guide you need.

Career Summary

Associate Product Manager Salary Breakdown

Associate Product Manager Salary

Glassdoor provides a breakdown of an associate product manager salary as follows:

  • Entry Salary: US$84K
  • Median Salary: US$103K
  • Senior Salary: US$127K

Compared to the average annual salary in the United States, associate product managers are high-income earners.

What is an Associate Product Manager?

An Associate Product Manager is an entry-level role in product management typically responsible for supporting the development, launch, and management of products or services within a company.

What Does an Associate Product Manager Do?

Associate Product Managers assist in various aspects of the product lifecycle, including market research, competitive analysis, user testing, and feature prioritization. They collaborate with engineering, design, marketing, and sales teams to define product requirements. APMs also monitor product performance, analyze user feedback, and tweak features to continuously improve the product and enhance the customer experience.

Associate Product Manager Career Progression

  • Associate Product Manager: As an Associate Product Manager, you start your career in product management, supporting senior product managers in various tasks such as market research, requirements gathering, and project coordination.
  • Product Manager: In this position, you take on greater responsibility for managing specific products or product lines, including defining product strategy and leading cross-functional teams.
  • Senior Product Manager: Senior product managers oversee larger product portfolios, drive strategic initiatives, and play a more significant role in shaping the overall product vision and roadmap for the organization.
  • Director of Product Management: Senior leadership role where you work closely with the CEO and other C-level executives to align product strategies with company goals and market needs.
Associate Product Manager Career Progression

Best Aspects of Working as an Associate Product Manager

  • High demand for product managers across various industries.
  • Product managers are well-remunerated.
  • Diverse projects keep work engaging and challenging.
  • Encourages creative problem-solving and innovation, especially in product development.
  • Success may lead to swift progression into higher-level roles.
  • Even in an associate role, there’s an opportunity to lead projects or features. 

Worst Aspects of Working as an Associate Product Manager 

  • They often face high-pressure situations due to tight deadlines.
  • Limited authority may hinder decision implementation.
  • Cross-functional collaborations pose communication and priority challenges.
  • APMs navigate ambiguity, including shifting priorities and customer demands.
  • Their associate status may lead to overlooked opinions in favor of experience.

Top Associate Product Manager Skills 

  • Communication
  • Problem-Solving
  • User-first Mindset
  • Market Awareness
  • Technical Aptitude
  • Adaptability
  • Leadership

Popular Product Management Specialties

  • Technical Product Management
  • Growth Product Management
  • Data Product Management
  • UX/UI Product Management
  • Marketing Product Management
  • Enterprise Product Management
  • Strategic Product Management

How to Become an Associate Product Manager

Associate Product Manager 4 Steps to Career

Complete a Bachelor’s Degree

To take the first step toward an Associate Product Manager career, you typically need to start with a solid educational foundation, usually in the form of a bachelor’s degree. Ideally, this degree should be in computer science, business, marketing, or design.

Do I need a degree to become an Associate Product Manager?

A degree is not strictly necessary to become an Associate Product Manager, but it is often desirable. Many employers value the theoretical knowledge, critical thinking, and discipline that come with completing a degree. Thus, a degree helps position you better for the role.

Why is it important to get a degree in Computer Science or other related fields?

Entering the field of product management, particularly in a role like an associate product manager, demands a unique blend of skills and knowledge. A degree in Computer Science or related fields stands out as a critical stepping stone for this career path, not just for the technical knowledge it imparts but for a variety of deeper, more nuanced reasons:

  • Technical Understanding: A background in Computer Science provides a fundamental understanding of the technical aspects of product development. This knowledge is crucial in effectively communicating with engineering teams, understanding the capabilities and limitations of technologies, and making informed decisions about product features and roadmaps.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: Computer Science and related fields emphasize analytical thinking and problem-solving, skills that are essential for product managers. These skills enable you to approach complex product challenges systematically and devise effective solutions.
  • Innovation and Creativity: Courses in these fields often encourage innovation and creativity, which are vital for developing new products or improving existing ones. Understanding the latest technological trends and how they can be applied to solve real-world problems is a key aspect of product management.
  • User-Centered Design: Many tech-related programs include elements of user experience and design thinking, which are integral to product management. Understanding how users interact with products and what makes a user experience engaging and intuitive is crucial for creating successful products.
  • Data-Driven Decision Making: A strong technical background equips you with the ability to understand and interpret data, an increasingly important aspect of product management. Being able to make data-driven decisions is critical in today’s tech-driven business environment.

How long does it take to get a degree in Computer Science?

A typical bachelor’s degree in Computer Science takes about four years of full-time study. The duration can, however, vary depending on whether the student is attending part-time or chooses an accelerated program.

How much does it cost to study Computer Science at university?

The cost of studying Computer Science at a university can vary widely based on factors like the type of institution (public vs. private) and whether you’re studying in-state or out-of-state. According to College Tuition Compare, a bachelor’s degree program in Computer Science can cost between $9,934 and $32,635.

Can I Become an Associate Product Manager Through Online Education?

Yes, you can become an Associate Product Manager (APM) through online education. The field of product management has become increasingly accessible through a variety of online learning platforms and resources.

Here’s how online education can help you on this career path:

  • Online Courses and Certifications: Many reputable online platforms offer courses specifically in product management. These courses often cover essential topics like market analysis, product lifecycle management, user experience design, and agile methodologies. Certifications from these courses can add significant value to your resume.
  • Degree Programs: Some universities offer online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in fields related to product management, such as business administration, marketing, or information technology. These programs provide a comprehensive education that can be directly applicable to a career in product management.
  • Specialized Product Management Programs: There are online programs and boot camps specifically designed for aspiring product managers. These programs often include hands-on projects, mentorship, and sometimes even placement services.

Relevant Certifications for Associate Product Managers

If you’re making a career switch to product management, having relevant certifications can provide you with a structured foundation of knowledge and skills that may help you bridge the gap between your previous experience and the requirements of a product management role.

Here are a few certifications you should consider: 

While the list is not exhaustive, you shouldn’t just sign up for any random product management certification you find online. Research and evaluate the certification programs carefully to ensure they are reputable, relevant to your career goals, and aligned with industry standards.

What are Some Web Resources to Learn Skills to Become an Associate Product Manager?

As an aspiring Associate Product Manager (APM), there are several online resources and platforms that can provide valuable knowledge and insights into the field.

Here’s a curated list of websites and platforms dedicated to helping people become better Associate Product Managers:

  • The Product Manager: This platform offers a comprehensive career guide for Associate Product Managers, focusing on essential skills like documentation, user interview techniques, analytical abilities, time management, technical skills, decisiveness, and adaptability.
  • Silicon Valley Product Group (SVPG): Founded by Marty Cagan, SVPG offers insights into product development practices.
  • Department of Product: This platform provides training and a wealth of content for product managers, including explainers on technical topics.
  • Bring the Donuts Blog: Operated by Ken Norton, the blog is focused on product management insights and best practices, offering valuable perspectives gleaned from Norton’s extensive experience in the field. 
  • One Knight in Product Podcast: This helpful podcast for experienced and aspiring product managers is dedicated to sharing knowledge and insights from around the world of product management.
  • Product Thinking: With over 100 episodes, the Product Thinking podcast by Melissa Perri stands as a treasure trove for product managers. Melissa expertly hosts industry leaders, fostering insightful discussions and offering practical advice. Moreover, listeners have the opportunity to engage directly by sending their product management-related questions, enriching the podcast’s interactive and informative environment.

Practical Experience

The practical experience aspect of the path to becoming an Associate Product Manager is an important one. It is particularly more important for individuals without a Computer Science, Marketing, or Business Administration background, as it is their opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge and skills essential for this role. 

This experience helps bridge the gap between theoretical understanding and real-world application, allowing them to develop a comprehensive view of product management. It’s not just about understanding the technical aspects but also about grasping the nuances of market trends, customer needs, and effective communication strategies. 

What Are Internship Opportunities for an Associate Product Manager?

  • Technical Product Management Internship: Internships with technology companies or startups focusing on software development, hardware products, or technical solutions. Interns may work closely with engineering teams, assist in product development, and gain exposure to technical aspects of product management.
  • Growth Product Management Internship: This type of internship is typically found at companies focused on user acquisition, engagement, and retention strategies. Interns may work on data analysis, A/B testing, and experimentation to identify growth opportunities and optimize user experiences.
  • Data Product Management Internship: Internships with companies specializing in data analytics, business intelligence, or data platforms. Interns may assist in data analysis, dashboard development, and understanding user behavior to inform product decisions.
  • Marketing Product Management Internship: Internships with companies focusing on market research, branding, and product positioning strategies. Interns may assist in market analysis, competitor research, and developing marketing campaigns to promote products.
  • UX/UI Product Management Internship: Internships with companies emphasizing user experience and interface design. Interns may collaborate with designers, conduct user research, and contribute to creating intuitive and user-friendly products.
  • E-commerce Product Management Internship: Interns may work on optimizing the online shopping experience, analyzing consumer behavior, and implementing digital sales strategies.

What Skills Will I Learn as an Associate Product Manager?

Essential associate product manager skills encompass a wide range of competencies, from technical know-how to interpersonal abilities.

  • Technical Proficiency: Technical proficiency is one of the key associate product manager skills. This requirement doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be an expert coder, but having a solid understanding of the technology behind your product is essential. This knowledge helps in communicating effectively with engineering teams and understanding the technical constraints and possibilities.
  • Analytical Thinking: As an associate product manager, you will develop strong analytical skills. This includes the ability to dissect complex problems, conduct market research, and analyze data to make informed decisions. You’ll learn to use data to understand customer behavior and preferences, which is crucial for successful product development.
  • Customer-Centric Approach: Developing a customer-centric mindset is a core APM skill. You will learn to empathize with users, understand their needs and pain points, and use this insight to inform product decisions. This skill is crucial for creating products that truly resonate with users.
  • Market Sensing and Competitive Analysis: An analysis of associate product manager skills isn’t complete without mentioning competitive analysis and market sensing. This means staying abreast of market trends, understanding the competitive landscape, and identifying opportunities and threats. You’ll learn how to gather and analyze market intelligence to inform strategic decisions and keep your product competitive.
  • Financial Acumen: Understanding basic financial concepts such as budgeting, pricing strategies, and cost-benefit analysis is essential for making informed decisions about product investments, profitability, and resource allocation.
  • Agile and Scrum Methodologies: Familiarity with Agile and Scrum methodologies is crucial for success in associate product manager roles. These methodologies are widely used in product development for their flexibility and efficiency. You’ll learn how to work in sprints, prioritize tasks, and adapt to changes quickly, ensuring that the product development process is responsive and efficient.

What is the work-life balance of an Associate Product Manager?

The work-life balance of an Associate Product Manager can vary based on the company, product lifecycle stage, and market demands. Typically, it’s a demanding role that may require additional hours during product launches or critical project phases.

Many tech companies and startups, where associate product manager roles are common, offer flexible working hours and the possibility of remote work. This flexibility can be beneficial for maintaining a healthy work-life balance, as it allows for better management of personal and professional responsibilities.

What’s the Career Outlook for Associate Product Managers?

Management occupations, which could include roles similar to Associate Product Managers, are projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations from 2022 to 2032. This growth indicates a positive trend for those in or aspiring to be in management roles, suggesting that the demand for such professionals, including Associate Product Managers, is likely to be strong.

Associate Product Manager Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities for an Associate Product Manager?

The role of an APM often serves as a foundational step in a career in product management.

Here are some of the key job opportunities and career paths that an Associate Product Manager might consider:

  • Product Analyst: Product analysts focus on analyzing data and metrics related to product performance, user behavior, and market trends. They assist in identifying opportunities for product improvements, conducting competitive analysis, and generating insights to inform product strategy.
  • Market Research Analyst: Market research analysts gather and analyze data to assess market trends, customer preferences, and competitive landscape. They provide insights and recommendations to support decision-making related to product positioning, pricing, and market entry strategies.
  • UX Researcher: UX researchers conduct qualitative and quantitative research to understand user behavior, preferences, and pain points. They collaborate with product teams to identify usability issues, validate design decisions, and enhance the overall user experience of products and services.
  • Product Owner in Agile Teams: APMs with a strong understanding of Agile methodologies may transition into a Product Owner role. This position involves close work with development teams to manage the product backlog and guide the team on priorities for product development.
  • User Experience (UX) Design: If an APM has a strong interest in the design and user experience aspect of product development, they may move into UX design. This role focuses on creating products that provide a seamless and effective user experience.
  • Project Manager: Some APMs may find their skills and interests align more with project management, overseeing the planning, execution, and closing of projects.
  • Consulting: APMs can also transition into consulting roles, advising companies on product strategy and development.

What Type of Organizations Hire Associate Product Managers?

Organizations hiring Associate Product Managers cut across various industries.

They include:

  • Technology Companies: This is one of the most common sectors hiring APMs. Companies focusing on software, hardware, and internet services often have multiple product lines requiring management, making them prime candidates for hiring APMs. This includes giants like Google, Apple, and Microsoft, as well as numerous startups and mid-sized tech companies.
  • E-Commerce Companies: Online retail businesses, ranging from large platforms like Amazon to smaller niche online stores, hire APMs to manage and improve their product offerings, user experience, and online services.
  • Financial Services and Fintech: Banks, investment firms, and emerging fintech companies employ APMs to manage digital products like mobile banking apps, trading platforms, and financial management tools.
  • Healthcare and Biotech: With the growing emphasis on digital health solutions, companies in this sector hire APMs to oversee the development of medical devices, health apps, and other technology-driven products.
  • Consumer Goods Companies: Larger consumer goods companies, especially those with a significant digital presence or those looking to innovate their product lines, may hire APMs to manage product development and strategy.
  • Telecommunications Companies: These companies need APMs to manage products ranging from mobile services to broadband and digital solutions.
  • Media and Entertainment: Streaming services, gaming companies, and media platforms often hire APMs to manage digital products and enhance user experience.

Should I Become an Associate Product Manager?

An Associate Product Manager can be an excellent career move if you’re passionate about products and enjoy working at the intersection of technology, business, and user experience. It opens doors to different opportunities and equips you with valuable skills in a variety of roles. However, it’s also a role that demands adaptability, quick learning, and a willingness to juggle multiple responsibilities.

As an APM, you’ll be involved in various functions within a company. You’ll work closely with engineering teams, design, marketing, and even directly with customers. This role isn’t just about managing a product; it’s about shaping it from conception to launch. You’ll learn to balance user needs with your company’s overall business goals.

In terms of career progression, the APM role is perfect for individuals hoping to branch into bigger management roles in the future. From here, you could move into higher product management roles branch out into marketing, user experience design, or even strategic management roles. The exposure you get as an APM makes you a versatile candidate for various positions.

Careers Related to Associate Product Manager

  • Product Manager
  • Product Owner
  • Product Analyst
  • Product Marketing Manager
  • Technical Product Manager

Ibrahim Okunade

About the Author

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