How to become a product management associate (with skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 August 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Product management associates work in product manufacturing organisations to secure high-quality talent and support product managers. Product managers of all kinds have a duty to assist in the development and analysis of various products, using analytics and data to ascertain market trends and successful features. This position has many opportunities for career progression, so it's helpful to know how to obtain this role and eventually become a product manager. In this article, we look at what a product management associate is and how to become one, alongside the typical requirements and expectations.

What is a product management associate?

Product management associates occupy a similar role to product managers, who lead teams to design product development road maps. The associate position is usually a precursor to this position, allowing them to support the product manager when they're overwhelmed with multiple tasks. The role allows candidates to further develop their skill set by taking on new responsibilities and learning first-hand how a product manager operates, using their abilities to deliver excellent returns for their organisation.

Associate product managers support product development in several key ways, such as collecting user data and using these metrics to determine how an audience responds to a certain product before or after its final release. Market research is vital for any future product's success, as this helps product teams figure out what's likely to work or which features might be redundant. Associate product managers also develop working strategies to ensure their products stay true to the organisation's overall aims, bringing stakeholder visions to life.

Related: Product manager career path (with duties, skills and tips)

How to become an associate product manager

There are various routes you may take to become an associate product manager, all of which help you attain the necessary abilities to succeed in this job. Employers often look for people with a mix of useful skills and relevant experience. Any jobs you apply for might have dozens of other candidates, so the aim is to make yourself more competitive. Even with multiple possible paths, there are still a series of common steps to take to help your chances of getting this job. These steps include:

1. Acquire strong qualifications

This isn't an absolute requirement, as some associate positions are entry-level, but qualifications and even a university degree may make you a more capable candidate. Depending on the available options, you may apply for work experience at nearby organisations during your studies, allowing you to gain practical experience in the industry. Otherwise, any qualifications in product management and design, such as the one-day Chartered Institute of Marketing course in Product Management Principles, may boost your CV.

There are several A-levels or university degrees that may help you become an associate product manager, with product design and marketing being amongst the most common options. The latter is particularly helpful, as this teaches you the importance of analytics and how to interpret them to deliver strong products for customers and organisations. For this reason, a business studies qualification may also provide a broad range of relevant skills. Some candidates pursue a master's degree in marketing or product design, proving their commitment to the field.

Related: 9 popular marketing degree jobs (with essential skills)

2. Enrol in an apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are an excellent opportunity for anyone aged 16 or over to get both a working wage and useful practical experience. Product management apprenticeships are no exception, providing an entry-level look into the job and its many responsibilities. This gives candidates a chance to learn while working, allowing them to cultivate the necessary skills. After finishing the apprenticeship, you may have the option to stay with the firm and progress even further. You may move on to a degree apprenticeship, providing a structured learning programme that gives you a deeper understanding of product management principles and how to apply them.

It's common for apprenticeships to last for around a year, though degree apprenticeships might last for 18 months or even two years. Sometimes, a typical apprenticeship may serve as a requirement for getting onto a degree apprenticeship. Whichever type you apply for, they usually also require several GCSEs, including maths and English.

Related: What is a degree apprenticeship? (Definition and benefits)

3. Directly apply for the role

If apprenticeships aren't for you due to availability or personal preference, try applying directly for an associate product manager position. Use websites like Indeed to facilitate this, as these allow you to seek out roles based on your requirements. Alternatively, try searching for jobs by location or within a specific salary range. These websites also act as an application portal, so it's possible to upload your CV to a job posting fairly easily.

Your application's success not only depends upon your previous experience in similar positions and the skills at your disposal but also on how you communicate these through your CV. That means it's paramount that you know how to write a good CV that easily demonstrates your suitability for the position. It usually helps to study each posting and tailor your applications accordingly, such as by emphasising certain skills that an employer prioritises.

Related: How to write a product manager CV in 10 steps (with example)

4. Prepare for the interview

If you apply for an associate product manager role and your application's successful, the next step is usually an interview with a hiring manager to determine whether you fit the position and the organisation. Expect questions about your experience and your strengths and weaknesses. They might even ask you to recall specific scenarios from past roles and how you solved any emerging problems.

Studying the job posting again before the interview is useful for figuring out what questions they might ask. For example, they might want an associate product manager with experience in agile methodology, which may form the basis of several questions. Take your time when responding, and remember the STAR method. This involves recounting a situation you were in, a task you had, the action you took to remedy a problem and the positive result it had for everyone involved.

Related: Product manager interview questions (with sample answers)

Requirements for becoming an associate product manager

The specific requirements for the role vary depending on the organisation, but the skills you accumulate across entry-level positions, apprenticeships and qualifications are paramount for any good associate product manager. This usually involves a combination of soft (interpersonal) and hard (technical) skills which form most of the requirements, including:

  • Data analytics skills: The ability to interpret data and use it to direct a product's features or design is a big part of the associate product manager position. This helps them figure out how the audience might respond to a product, allowing them to improve upon any issues.

  • Agile methodology: Agile development breaks a project into numerous smaller tasks that might be easier to complete, streamlining the management processes without cutting corners. Knowledge of, and experience in, agile methodology shows that you may potentially speed up the organisation's product design while delivering a better product.

  • Communication skills: Associate product managers work alongside senior product managers and the whole product design team, so being able to convey your own ideas and interpretations of a product and its features is essential. The feedback you give and the atmosphere you contribute to may shape the future of a product.

  • Time management: As an associate product manager, it's your duty to help keep team members on task and on time. This also means managing your own time and ensuring there's enough time left to make any necessary product changes before the final release date.

Related: Product manager skills: 15 essential hard and soft skills to develop

What to expect as an associate product manager

Product development and management often operate on strict deadlines to capitalise on current market trends. The job itself is relatively low-pressure as the product manager takes on most of the responsibility, but the environment typically involves working to fix issues as they emerge, making this position ideal for natural problem-solvers. There's also a strong chance of career progression, as associate product managers sometimes fill in for product managers and learn everything they do, preparing them for that role. The firm may even hire internally for their next product manager, making you a great candidate.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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