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Product Manager vs Project Manager: Skills, Salary & Courses


In the world of tech and business, two roles often get mixed up: Product manager vs. Project manager. 

At first glance, they sound pretty similar, and it’s easy to see why some might find it hard to tell them apart. 

However, the main difference boils down to their core focus:

Product managers are the visionaries who decide WHAT to build and WHY, aiming to meet customer needs and achieve business goals. 

Project managers are the doers, focusing on the WHO, the WHEN, and the HOW. They ensure projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the required standards.

Both roles, while not completely different, require different skills and handle different tasks – which is what this article explores.

You’ll also learn:

  • What certifications are needed for both roles (with links)
  • How the salary expectations differ
  • Project manager resume example
  • Product manager resume example

Product manager vs. Project manager: What do they do?

In any organization, both Product managers and Project managers play crucial roles, but their paths diverge significantly when it comes to their daily tasks and overall objectives. 

Let’s break down what each role entails in simple terms.

What does a product manager do?

Think of Product managers as the people who decide WHAT a product should do and WHY it should be made.

To make sure a product hits the mark and is successful, they work with:

  • the tech team;
  • the business side;
  • the customers.

They need to understand tech stuff, like how software is made, what customers want, and also how the business works. Then, it’s up to the product manager to balance the competing agendas of functional partners and leverage their support to develop successful products. 

Their main goal is to make sure the product is something people find useful and want to use.

What does a project manager do?

Project managers are the ones who make sure everything runs smoothly and stays on track. You can think of them as the COO of the project. They’re in charge of making sure the project is finished on time and doesn’t go over budget. 

But it’s not just about sticking to schedules and budgets. They also need to keep the team working well together, sort out any issues that come up, and talk to clients and bosses. 

Their main goal is to clear any roadblocks that might slow down the project, whether those are technical problems, team issues, or anything else that gets in the way.

TL;DR: product manager vs. project manager

Product managers are all about what a product should be and why, while Project managers focus on making sure the project gets done right, on time, and within budget.

Both roles are super important for making sure things go smoothly in any tech or business setting.

product manager vs project manager skills

Key skills: Product manager vs. Project manager

When we talk about Project managers vs. Product managers, it’s clear they share some important skills, especially when it comes to the soft skills.

However, there are also some key differences in the skills each role needs to be successful. 

Let’s take a closer look at what sets them apart and what brings them together:

Product manager skills

  • Market assessment. Evaluating market trends, competitor analysis, and identifying market opportunities to position the product for success.
  • User Experience knowledge. Designing product features that enhance user satisfaction by addressing user needs and improving the overall usability of the product.
  • Basic business knowledge. Understanding the fundamentals of business, such as revenue models, cost structures, and marketing strategies, to ensure the product contributes to the company’s financial goals.
  • Data analysis. Interpreting data to guide product strategy, such as user engagement metrics or conversion rates, helping to understand market demands and product performance.
  • Visionary/creative. Crafting a compelling vision for the product that anticipates future market trends and customer needs, driving innovation and setting the product apart from competitors.

Project manager skills

  • Budgeting and resource allocation. Allocating financial and human resources wisely to maximize efficiency and meet project objectives within budget constraints.
  • Project management methodologies (Agile, Scrum, Waterfall). Implementing the right framework to efficiently manage and execute projects, ensuring adaptability and timely delivery.
  • Risk management. Anticipating potential setbacks and preparing strategies to mitigate them, minimizing their impact on the project timeline and budget.
  • Project management tools (e.g., Asana). Utilizing software to track project progress, assign tasks, and ensure deadlines are met.
  • Monitoring. Continuously assessing project performance against objectives, timelines, and budgets to ensure project milestones are achieved as planned.

While these five skills are crucial for project managers, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. There are several other project manager skills to put on a resume.

Now, let’s look at the skills that both Product managers and Project managers need to succeed.

Skills they share

  • Strong communication skills. Essential for effectively sharing ideas and information with team members, stakeholders, and clients to ensure clarity and alignment on objectives.
  • Collaborative work. Involves engaging with diverse teams across departments, fostering an environment of shared ideas and collective effort toward common goals.
  • Problem-solving. Identifying issues quickly and devising effective solutions is critical to maintaining progress and achieving success in any project or product development.
  • Leadership. Leading cross-functional teams with a vision, guiding them through challenges, and keeping them motivated toward achieving project and product goals.
  • Decision-making. Making timely, informed decisions that impact the course of the project or product development, considering both short-term and long-term effects.

Courses and certifications 

As you’ve already seen, working as both a product and a project manager requires a lot of strong soft and hard skills

Some of these are really tough to learn, but others can be taught within a reasonable timeframe. 

But having certifications and skills on a resume isn’t just about filling in an empty space. 

There are three very pragmatic reasons why you should consider upskilling:

  • For once, you gain the actual knowledge you need to perform the tasks and duties of the product/project manager role. 
  • Secondly, with relevant courses and certifications, you can become a more credible job candidate. And this can lead to a higher salary.
  • And thirdly, it can make you stand out from the other job applicants who are also interested in the same position. 

Below, we’ve prepared a list of online courses and certifications that can get you closer to landing a job as either a product or a project manager. 

Product manager: Courses & certifications

To become a well-rounded product manager, you can enrol into these certification programmes:

  1. Certified Product Manager (CPM) offered by the Association of International Product Marketing and Management (AIPMM). 
  2. Product Management Certificate by Product School. 
  3. Product Marketing & Management by the Pragmatic Institute.  

These programmes offer comprehensive training in all things product manager. Plus, these institutions are respected worldwide. So your certificate will be appreciated by employers no matter where you go. 

But if you prefer to start with baby steps, you can look at some of the courses offered by the following online platforms: 

Project manager: Courses & certifications

If you want to become a project manager, there are several certifications you can take:

  1. Project Management Professional (PMP) by the Project Management Institute is the golden standard of project manager certifications. But to enter this programme you must have a  bachelor’s degree or 60 months worth of practical experience. 
  2. Instead, you can apply for Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) first, and then move up to the PMP. 
  3. Professional Scrum Master™(PSM) by Scrum.org also offers several levels of project manager certification.

But again, if you want to learn the basics before enrolling into a certification programme, you can try some of these online courses for project managers

Salary: project manager vs. product manager

Both product management and project management are quite universal. You can find job offers for these positions in basically any industry. 

This makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly how big a reward you can expect. It depends on several factors such as your location, experience, level of expertise, or size of the company. 

Product manager salary

In the USA, product managers can expect to earn between $90-160k per year. The average sum per year is nearly $130k

If you are still at an entry-level (1-3 years of experience), your salary can still be quite high –  $104k per year on average. 

Project manager salary 

Interestingly, project managers can expect a slightly lower income (in the USA) compared to product managers. They can make between $70-120k a year.

The average yearly salary amounts to around $96k. Plus, the average income of an entry-level project manager is $78k per year. 

Resume examples

Are you working as a product/project manager already? Or maybe you’ve just started your job search and you’re not sure how to make your resume so that it showcases your best qualities. 

Take a look at these resume examples. You can use them as the first drafts of your own resume. Just click the button and fill in your information. 

Product manager resume example 

What makes this product manager resume so good? 

  • The resume profile (also known as resume summary) serves as a teaser of what recruiters can expect. It also emphasizes the candidates top qualifications. 
  • Secondly, the work experience section is organized in reverse chronological order. Plus, each bullet point starts with an action verb.
  • Lastly, the skills section is further divided into sub-categories to improve readability and credibility.
  • Overall, the design of this resume works well with spacing of the text and makes the resume easy to read.  

But don’t forget that a great resume makes just a half of the effort. No job application is truly complete without a compelling cover letter

And, if you feel that you still need some more inspiration, you can breeze through our resume database (wink wink).

Key takeaways: Product manager vs. project manager

To conclude, even though the job titles product manager and project manager get often mixed up, these roles have different focuses. 

On one hand, product managers make the decisions about what gets built or made based on customer needs. 

On the other hand, project managers then make these ideas happen. They overlook the completion of the projects chosen by the product managers. 

However, there is a big overlap when it comes to skills shared by both the product managers and the project managers: 

  • Strong communication skills. 
  • Collaborative work. 
  • Problem-solving. 
  • Leadership. 

Still each of these roles asks for a specific and separate set of skills





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