How can I become a Product Manager after graduating from college?

Hello all! I’m new to Prowess and have been through the site quickly. Love the community section and am quite impressed with the discussions. I just wanted to ask a few quick questions about product management.

How does someone who is in college get to be a Product Manager after I graduate, like what major should I pick to help me out in getting a job working on products?

Also do I need to be a deep techy person not just tech savvy but also understanding the basics of coding if I want to work for a tech company or is it just the business side?


@PouyaTaaghol, Welcome to the Prowess Community. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your stay here as much as we all enjoy being here. Coming to your question:

You should be able to write, communicate, collaborate, and be decisive. IMO these are the most transferrable ‘soft’ skills. hard skills and specific toolsets as far as development goes will be more or less dependent on the industry you work in.

At a software startup, you may be asked to have some tertiary knowledge of some java or json if you are going to be working with a lot of APIs. I use a lot of SQL in my role since I work with a lot of user data and backend stuff. It’s not an absolute requirement, but it’s helped me take on some new responsibilities, and I have learned a new skill. I also help write a lot of technical integration documents, which means a lot of Visio flowcharts and a working knowledge of our data.

You may also be asked to do some design work for wireframes, so knowing some basic Photoshop or illustrator will never hurt.

If you work in health insurance, or for some big manufacturing conglomerate, you may have to understand a lot of industry-specific skills and be able to learn a lot of legalese, whereas you may not have to be so technical. Other roles may be more sales-focused, so you may have to understand the ins and outs of product marketing and be able to deliver great presentations.

No matter your job or field, the best advice I’ve ever been told is to be an expert at something that no one else is able to do or wants to do, this will make you an invaluable asset to your organization.

Whether you are a PM or BA, you will be asked to do a lot of things and work with many types of people from C-level execs to front-line customer support staff and everyone in between. Be able to adapt and communicate more than anything else.

As far as education goes, any combination of communications, marketing, finance, or computer science-related majors/minors will get you started on the right path.

TLDR: Become a Dentist :grinning:


@DhirajMehta, Thanks for the warm welcome and for the advice, I was thinking of working with smartphone companies like Samsung or Snapchat or an automobile industry. I don’t understand the last sentence, why would I want to be a dentist :smiley: lol, although it was one of my options.


@Pouya, Yeah excellent opportunities in those fields, don’t be afraid to use LinkedIn to message people at those companies with roles you’d be interested in to pick their brain.

I was just joking about the dentist, there’s a lot of variability and uncertainty in this field. dentists have a lot of challenging academic work, but you make a fantastic, steady living without too much stress.


@Dhiraj, Yeah I figured it was a joke haha, I would be a dentist but it’s too much school for me, plus I would have plenty of ideas for the dental field to improve the dental experience, any industry really lol.

In the long run I really just want experience in bringing a product to fruition so that I can start my own company one day. Specifically a smartphone company.


Great post. How have you balanced between keeping a job and interviewing for other PM roles on-site? I imagine it’s challenging to take time for 2 or more on-sites within 3 weeks.


Best TL;DR I’ve seen in ages :laughing:


It depends on the type of product management. It’s not atypical to find a lot of computer engineering or computer science grads in Product. This will definitely give you an advantage when it comes to interacting with developers, or anyone technical.

But there are multiple areas that a product manager needs to interact with and have influence in. As a result, I’ve seen very successful PMs who have come from various undergraduate domains: English, Economics, Biology, Psychology, Philosophy, etc. I’ve even seen some with no degree at all.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • A good PM must be a strong communicator. You need to be able to present well, converse well and write well. You must be able to communicate ideas effectively and to explain technical or non-technical details to non-technical or technical people, respectively.
  • You must be able to formulate hypotheses, and test ideas. Understanding the value of quantitative and qualitative results, and how they work together to prove a hypothesis is essential. You must also be able to perceive data objectively and draw conclusions, even if they don’t agree with your hypothesis. Data literacy is essential.
  • You must be able to draw conclusions from disparate fields or understand how systems interact and function. High-level knowledge of psychology and economics is valuable.
  • While you may have design and UX resources, it’s often helpful to be at least somewhat well-versed in these fields. Being able to quickly throw together wire frames or lo-fi mockups can go a long way when communicating an idea.
  • Product Management exists at the intersection of development, marketing, finance, operations and more. Understand the basic needs of these groups and you will be more effective as a PM.

Finally, you should know that there is no one discipline that will help you, but ensuring that you can learn and are curious about new things will increase your odds of becoming a successful PM. Hope that helps!


@MichaelYoffe, It does help a lot, thank you. I have an interest in most of the topics you are talking about and I feel like I am skilled in some topics. I am focusing on marketing, economics, psychology, finance and much more business related subjects. I might need to focus more on my writing and communication, but I feel like that won’t be a major issue, I just have to experience it in person to know my strengths and weaknesses.


The correct answer to this is… There’s no correct answer to this. PM’s come from all walks of life. I have both English majors and Engineers on my team. My advice is to stick to something you enjoy and be awesome at it. Then once you’re in the working world, you can start to find your path. Just remember that PMs are the cream of the crop—smart, visionary, organized, great communicators, etc. It’s those things that will lead you to, and earn your way into the field. For now, just be awesome at whatever you’re doing. Good luck!


@NaomiNwosu, I feel like I’m mostly skilled with the ideas and planning for the future of a company. I have a habit of looking at products and seeing if I can improve on it, something that I feel is very helpful to my path on becoming a PM.


@PouyaTaaghol, I think the key to being a good product manager or any other job with that level of responsibility is to have experience. Don’t expect to land a PM role straight out of college, you’ll need experience in a relevant field first. Junior/Associate PM roles are rare, so your most likely way in is to work in a role that contributes to the product, express your desire to want to get into a product role and make your development is focused around that role.


@Nathan, So I’m guessing marketing would be a good fit, what else do you think would be a good fit?


@Pouya, It depends on the product itself. In my experience, marketing aren’t the most knowledgeable when it comes to the product itself, more how to present it. This can vary depending on if you are working with B2B or B2C products.


As others have mentioned really a Great product manager has a range of skills and is often considered a very wide experience but not a deep experience in any one sector. Meaning, they understand the business side, technical side, user needs, etc and can also be very organized and focused to put it all together into a single roadmap and vision that they lead forward.

You can really move into product management from a variety of backgrounds because the skills needed are so wide it allows you to move into it from any of those as your strength as long as you are willing to pick up a little bit of depth in each area needed.


It really depends on what you’re looking for, I’m assuming by your post that you’re interested in being a product manager for a tech company. I currently work as a product manager for a high growth SaaS company and I can tell you that our team comes from all kinds of different backgrounds, from political science to supply chain management and back to engineering. However, IMO, you will have the best shot of having your resume put in the short list for a PM job if you have some kind of CS degree with a business minor or a business degree with a minor in CS. If you’re working for a small startup (<10 ppl) then you will probably have to fairly comfortable doing with some dev work, however if you’re working with a larger company you will need to feel comfortable speaking to developers to understand technical issues and translate those issues into business impact. However I think it’s worth noting that the key to getting hired is typically making a positive impression. Most people like speaking with a positive individual who is open to learning new things and has done research on the company. It is worth noting there are some cult classic blog articles in the product world, it’s probably best to familiarize yourself with them. I’ve come across a list of helpful articles at Slinky I’d recommend reading through them.


Thanks for the info, will also check out that link.

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Background: I’m a PM for an app with 1 Million + downloads on both Android and iOS, completed my BS in CS with 7 internships (4 in R&D doing more mechanical type work, 1 in software dev, 2 in Product Management (yea I started in high school))

My 2 cents is that Computer Science has taught me more about how computers and systems work. (I also learned to code which is essential to see how tech products are made, but actually coding not as useful for a PM role). This peaked my interests into how other things in the tech world worked and made me wander off into learning how things like RFID and Credit Cards worked (things you probably won’t learn in school but actually could be useful in the real world). For my interviews they asked those old type of obscure Google interview questions that Google used to use (never got one on my Google interview) but were actually useful to gauge your ability to become a product manager and think of the things that aren’t always thought about. From my interests in other subjects I was able to answer these questions because I had an interest into how things worked beyond what was taught in school. This is super important because if they taught everything a product manager would need to know there wouldn’t be so many questions on how to get into PM. The other part of this is that if you know a lot about an area of technology like mobile apps, you will probably be a better mobile apps PM than a ML/AI PM. So for example, for me I keep up with mobile news every day that includes jailbreaking and rooting, not just new product announcements and things like that.

Also design is a huge thing I make sure to take into account. You’re ultimately going to be voice of the customer. Please don’t give them something ugly that’s hard to use.

I had to really prove myself as a PM intern, I was working with 2 other PM interns my first internship (I was a junior) and they were MBA and CS masters students. I was the only one asked back because when we gave presentations on the work we did I was the one answering the questions for projects I wasn’t even assigned. So don’t be afraid to help those around you and try to know what’s going on so you can be a better PM for your product.

Lemme know if you have questions!

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@RichardsonEva, Awesome I wish I could have started in high school, how did you manage to land an internship for product management? That could be very beneficial for me since I want to work as a PM mostly on smartphones, but anything tech related is fine.

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I actually was applying for a software development internship and there were 2 check boxes, one for product management intern and one for software developer intern. I checked both thinking it couldn’t hurt. Didn’t get the interview for software development but for the PM intern role I had an absolute blast in the interview because I wasn’t doing whiteboard coding and was able to answer fun questions about technology that most people wouldn’t know because they just didn’t ever wonder how credit cards numbers worked or or why airlines have different configurations or why does Facebook keep WhatsApp around when they have Facebook messenger. That knowledge of random facts literally from keeping up with tech blogs (not even coding apps) made me just know more about how the industry works as a whole. Mine is definitely a weird case but I have stood in those career fair lines to only be told they are looking for someone with an MBA or more.

The other thing that I think helped me was being able to show that I have a bunch of side projects under my belt that I basically made the criteria for and executed myself. A really easy way to do this is participate in hackathons and create winning projects (don’t have to win overall but winning a company prize or something else shows it was actually better than other people’s) make sure you take a product manger’s role and have the ability to backup your reasoning and show how decisions you made lead to the success of that product. Hackathons are generally a weekend so not too much time but honestly all my hackathons projects are really what I talked about in interviews and are what people seemed interested in (it helps that I won something for all of them). Also if you haven’t done senior design, that is a great place to practice your PM skills.

I also made a website for myself to show off my projects and wrote a blurb on why I would be a good product manager. I think it helped because PM is not as generic a role as development.

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