The product management guide

Aha! helps product managers get their mojo back

What is a typical product manager salary?

According to the Wall Street Journal, product management is one of the most coveted career tracks for M.B.A. candidates. And, according to recent data, product managers are also among the highest-paid roles in Silicon Valley.

So, how much does a product manager typically make? There are many different salary ranges. It largely depends on the seniority, the industry, and the experience level of the product manager.

According to salary sites like Glassdoor and Payscale, typical salaries among product managers can range anywhere from $38,000 to $200,000-plus, depending on where they are in their career.

So what is the difference between an associate product manager who makes $38,000 and a senior product manager who makes $200,000? There are a few key components that hiring managers weigh when making a salary offer. Experience, geographic location, education, and industry expertise are all going to impact product management salaries.

Senority

No matter what industry you are in, seniority is the main driver of salary ranges. Product management is no different. However — outside of very senior PM roles — in fast-growing tech sectors seniority does not usually require a decade of experience.

Associate product manager salary: $38,000 – $105,000

The average salary for an associate product manager is $70,000. The easiest way for a new graduate or someone making a major career change to break into product management is to join an organization as an associate product manager. Most companies will require a college degree and anywhere from none to two years previous work experience. Since this is an entry-level role, larger companies have even started recruiting out of colleges and universities to fill their associate product manager positions.

Product manager: $55,000 – $160,000

Three to five years as an associate product manager or related role (such as an engineering, sales, or product marketing manager) is generally enough experience to be considered for a product manager role. And that experience will likely come with a salary increase as well. Product managers average $110,000 nationally. New graduates with an M.B.A. or advanced degrees in technology may be able to bypass the associate product manager role entirely and start their careers as product managers. However, those without relevant work experience will likely fall on the lower end of the salary range -- which is still higher than most jobs available to new grads.

Senior product manager: $100,000 – $160,000

Product managers are usually eligible to become senior product managers after about five to eight years of experience in a product management role. Senior product manager salaries average $130,000, and job responsibilities may include managing multiple products or an entire product portfolio.

Director of product management: $105,000 – $190,000

Most companies require a director-level product manager role to have more than seven years of both product management experience and personnel management experience. And many times companies are looking for industry-specific expertise. For example, a business-to-consumer SaaS company will look for a director who has experience delivering a SaaS product to consumers. The director of product management leads a team of product managers, and in smaller companies they can take a place on the overall leadership team. These positions take in an average of $145,000.

VP of product management: $145,000 – $245,000

The VP of product management is almost always a member of the leadership team and owns the product vision for the company. In addition, they are responsible for mentoring and growing the product team. Most hiring companies require previous experience leading a team of product managers and look for industry-specific expertise. The salary for this most senior product role can vary widely. Startups and smaller companies may not be able to offer sizable salaries, but they can offer equity. Of course, enterprise companies usually offer generous salaries and packages that include performance bonuses.

Location, company size, and amount of experience are all going to impact the salary of a product manager. But few careers can match the pay at each stage.

Location

Location impacts salary in two ways. Cost of living is the first factor. Simply put, a product manager in Silicon Valley is going to make more than a product manager in Houston, TX. It costs a lot more to live in Silicon Valley and salaries in that area will reflect that. The second way location can impact salary is demand. In cities where the demand for experienced product managers outpaces the supply, salaries naturally go up.

In the U.S., the median salary for product managers is $80,000. However, salaries are highest in major metros on the east and west coasts. But when cost of living is factored in, most of the metro areas that offer the highest effective pay (meaning the salaries are higher and the cost of living is lower) are in the middle part of the country.

Like other competitive career tracks, companies will often pay to relocate outstanding product management candidates. Product management roles are often well above the median salaries.

However, it is worth considering general median salaries and cost of living when reviewing product manager salary* offerings:

U.S. West Coast

Median salaries for product managers:

  • Palo Alto: $108,000
  • San Francisco: $104,223
  • Seattle: $88,797

The average cost of living in California is 15 percent above the national average.

  • San Francisco: 53 percent above
  • Los Angeles: 20 percent above

The average cost of living in Washington is only 1 percent above the national average.

  • Seattle: 14 percent above
U.S. Midwest/Rocky Mountains

Median salaries for product managers:

  • Chicago: $81,528
  • Denver: $76,510
  • Minneapolis: $87,768

The average cost of living in Midwest states tends to be below or near the national cost of living average.

  • Colorado: 7 percent above
  • Illinois: 4 percent above
  • Minnesota: 2 percent above
U.S. East Coast

Median salaries for product managers:

  • Boston: $77,669
  • New York: $87,802

The average cost of living in East Coast states tends to be above the national cost of living average.

  • New York: 49 percent above
  • Massachusetts: 17 percent above
Europe

Countries with the highest salaries in Europe are Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Germany. Salary data for product managers is not as widely available in Europe. The following examples are for specific job types, which are listed in parentheses.

Median salaries for product managers:

  • Germany (product manager, unspecified type): EU$57,324
  • Luxembourg (senior product manager): EU$86,800
  • Spain (product manager, software): EU$40,546
  • Switzerland (product manager, software): CHF$106,392
  • United Kingdom (product manager, software): GBP$43,042

European countries with some of the highest cost of living:

  • Luxembourg
  • Denmark
  • Sweden
  • Finland
  • Germany
Australia

Median salary for product managers: AU$82,138

The highest salaries are found in Western Australia. The average cost of living in Australia tends to be higher than the rest of the world. It is 10.54 percent higher than the cost of living in the U.S.

Worldwide, Melbourne ranks as the 21st and Sydney as the 20th most expensive city.

New Zealand

Median salary for product managers: NZ$65,194

The highest salaries are found in big cities like Wellington. Worldwide, Wellington ranks as the 42nd and Auckland as the 38th most expensive city.

Cities with lower costs of living include Whangarei and Napier.

*Unless otherwise noted, above salaries are for general product manager jobs (unspecified type). All salary information was reported by Payscale.com on October 28, 2016.

Education

Most product managers have a college degree and many have an advanced degree like an M.B.A. College majors probably won't have a large impact on salary, but they can affect chances of landing a job for new graduates. Along with relevant internships or co-op placements, a concentration in business or technology can help edge out other candidates.

College degrees

Getting a degree in finance, computer science, or business can serve as a helpful foundation for developing the analytical skills necessary to manage a product.

Some schools are even creating specialized tracks for a career in product management. A few such programs are available to students at Harvard Business School, Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Certifications

Beyond a relevant degree and some work experience, product managers can build out competitive skills by obtaining professional certifications and periodically enrolling in continuing education courses. Many colleges and universities offer continuing education tracks for product managers. These are just a few of the other programs available to deepen product managers’ understanding and mastery of their craft.

280 Group: This strategic consulting group offers courses and certifications in group settings as well as self-study courses and private custom trainings.

Association of International Product Marketing and Management: This professional association for product managers offers courses and study aids online and in-person worldwide.

General Assembly: Dedicated to offering educational and professional connections, General Assembly offers both a 10-week part-time course and intensive weeklong course in product management.

Pragmatic Marketing: Gain insights from six different certification levels designed for product managers and product marketing professionals.

Product School: Learn from other seasons product managers during a series of 8-week part-time courses offered in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, New York, and Los Angeles.

Project Management Institute: Although product management is different from project management, certification in specialized areas such as program management can be appealing to some employers.

Scrum Alliance: Scrum and agile trainings can edge out candidates in organizations that follow these methodologies.

Industry

If you have a lot of knowledge in a specific field, that is valuable and companies are willing to pay for it.

  • Aviation/aerospace
  • B2B SaaS
  • Biotechnology
  • Education
  • Hardware
  • Healthcare
  • Information services
  • Infrastructure
  • Finance
  • Legal
  • Logistics and supply chain
  • Marketing
  • Manufacturing
  • Networking systems
  • Non-profit
  • Operations
  • Recruiting
  • Transportation
  • Utilities and power systems

Yes, product management is currently one of the best-paying jobs in technology companies. But the best part of the job is not the money. The true reward of being a product manager comes from making ideas a reality.

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