Product Management Certifications

Or, why they don't really help you in getting that job

Product Management Certifications
Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

Let me begin by saying clearly that I am not opposed to certifications for “product management”. It is a complex field, and that formal training and recognition of that training is a net “good thing”.

But that doesn’t mean that a certification in Product Management is something that will help you land that first, or subsequent job.

There are several reasons why, but if you read my original post on certifications, I explain why and how certifications are used and useful to job seekers, to recruiters, and to hiring managers.

In summary, certifications provide a documented level of skills, knowledge, and abilities that a person who achieved (and maintained) a certification has. This reduces the risk of hiring said person. Think of it as an external coding exercise that is common for jobs around software engineering.

For a certification to be useful, what it is certifying needs to be a corpus of the above-mentioned knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA’s). But for product management, there is rarely any uniformity between different product manager roles, even within the same company.

Product management seems like it is well defined - identify a market problem, document that problem, work with a development team to build a solution, and then effectively market it - in reality, it has a billion variations. Is it more of a business owner where you have P&L responsibility? Are you more of a glorified developer who has some wider goals slapped on (aka the Google or Meta APM?) Are you more of a marketing focused product manager? Are you a product manager that is the default dumping ground of all the shit jobs that need to be done but have no explicit owner. Or is it something else altogether.

Regardless, the role of product manager is not crisply defined across many organizations. Every org will have its own expectations.

And that is why a “Product Manager” certification is not likely to get you a job. Seeing a Blackblot, or an AIPMM, or a Pragmatic “certification” on your resume will not let a recruiter filter your CV to the top over others without it. The recruiter will need to dive into the details, your experience, your professed domain knowledge, and while a cert might be a cherry on top, it is hardly the foundation that gets you the call.

The exception that proves the rule

There is a “however” though. If the company uses some framework that has defined roles, such as Scaled Agile Framework, and there are certifications for things like Agile Product Manager, and Product Manager/Product Owner, then having one of these certs will get you the call for a job.

The one thing to note is that this is a very narrow exception, and from my experience, the rigor required to attain one of these certs is nowhere near as arduous as attaining a Cisco Certified Network Associate.

Summary and take aways

Except for very narrow swim lanes, product management certifications are not going to land you that first or subsequent role. There is just too much variability in the role, and the expectations around it, tailored to each scenario, that a certification isn’t the equalizer it is in other parts of tech such as IT.

That said, if you are new, or interested in moving into a product role, the training that supports these certifications does provide a good working knowledge of what a product manager position will entail and builds skills that will be broadly applicable.

The training is good and worth it (especially if you can get your employer to cover the tuition). Just do not expect it to make you instantly qualified.

A final note: When I was hiring new product managers, as in new to the role, I would send them to the Pragmatic Marketing “Product Manager” training. At the end of the training, the instructors would leave the students with the knowledge that is helpful, but they would tell them explicitly that their mileage may vary, each organization is different, and to be a product manager means to be adaptable to what is required, not to try to force the role to conform to their expectations.

Wise final words.