A Beginner's Guide to the 9 Most Common Types of Product Managers

CareerFoundry contributor Dr. Anneke Schmidt

In today’s post-pandemic job market, the demand for specialized roles has surged. Why? The Covid-19 pandemic really shook things up for businesses, pushing them to quickly adapt, innovate, and fully embrace digital transformation. This shift unearthed the need for niche expertise to navigate the new digital landscape.

For sectors like product management, this evolution means an increased demand for highly skilled professionals who understand both the business and technology sides of product development. If you’re an aspiring product manager (PM) or considering a career change into a related tech role, understanding the various types of product managers and their responsibilities is more important than ever.

This guide discusses the most common PM types, helping you align your skills and career ambitions with the right fit. 

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. 9 of the most common types of product managers
  2. How to learn product management
  3. Next steps

9 of the most common types of product managers

Generalist PMs juggle myriad responsibilities, from understanding user needs to coordinating with cross-functional teams. While mastering broad product manager skills offers versatility, specializing can sharpen your edge in specific domains.

If you’re just starting out, you might wonder: “Why niche down early?” But there are good reasons to do so, such as the fact that understanding these nuances can better position you in the competitive landscape. Beyond the all-rounder PMs, specific roles are tailored to distinct strengths and interests.

So, which PM hat fits you best? Discover the variety and find your match.

1. Digital product manager

Digital product managers drive the strategy for web-based products. Navigating apps, websites, and digital services, they focus on creating seamless user experiences. While digital terrain constantly evolves, DPMs keep pace by optimizing products for changing online behavior. If pixels and user interfaces fascinate you, this is your turf.

Key skills: Understanding user behavior, UX/UI principles, A/B testing, product strategy, and data analytics.

Dive deeper into this role in our full digital product manager guide.

2. Product marketing manager

Crafting narratives and defining brand voices, product marketing managers are storytellers at heart. They delve deep into market research, ensuring products resonate with target customers. Beyond identifying market trends, these types of PM orchestrate the go-to-market (GTM) plan. If branding excites you, this could be your niche.

Key skills: Market segmentation, GTM strategies, buyer persona development, achieving product-market fit (PMF), and sculpting product vision.

To learn more, explore our complete guide on product marketing managers.

3. Growth product manager

Growth product managers specialize in amplifying business expansion by harnessing product features as sales tools. They function predominantly in product-led growth (PLG) businesses where the product itself spurs growth. By scrutinizing user behaviors and identifying growth pockets, growth product managers enhance metrics collaboratively. If scaling businesses intrigues you, this might be your call.

Key skills: User behavior analysis, cross-functional team collaboration, A/B testing, data-driven decisions, and product strategy.

Here is everything you need to know about growth product managers.

4. Technical product manager

Where software meets strategy, the technical product manager stands tall. Charged with overseeing niche products for developers and tech enthusiasts, they meld technical proficiency with product vision. These PMs ensure that technology not only functions but thrills its specialized audience. If coding and crafting intersect in your passions, this role is for you.

Key skills: Deep technical understanding, product vision, collaboration with engineers, and feedback loop establishment.

To learn more, check out our comprehensive guide on technical product managers.

5. AI product manager

If algorithms and neural networks are your playground, consider the relatively new position in AI product management. Balancing technical AI knowledge with product strategy ensures AI-powered products are not just smart but monetizable. Given the intricacies of AI, these types of product managers often boast a background in data-rich disciplines. Those wanting to be at AI’s forefront might find a fit here.

Key skills: AI expertise, data analysis, product-market fit (PMF), monetization strategies, and customer-centric design.

Interested in learning more about the role? You can read our full guide on AI product managers.

6. Product analyst

Sifting through heaps of data, product analysts turn numbers into narratives. Specializing in data-driven insights, they suggest product tweaks and ensure continuous improvement. By decoding patterns and making informed recommendations, they help create superior products. If data storytelling appeals to you, this role awaits.

Key skills: Data analysis, A/B testing, pattern recognition, user behavior understanding, and product strategy insights.

Here is a detailed exploration of the product analyst role.

7. Product owner

But what about the day-to-day product details? Enter the product owner. Strategically aligned with the product manager, they ensure daily tasks mirror the bigger picture. Rooted in the Scrum framework, they prioritize and align tasks with overarching goals. Those who thrive in practical decision-making might lean toward this role.

Key skills: Scrum framework knowledge, strategic alignment, user story creation, backlog management, and collaboration.

Dive deeper by reading our article on the product owner role.

8. Platform product manager

Beyond individual products lies the domain of the platform product manager. They prioritize work and maintain a cohesive user experience by ensuring synergy across multiple products. Their panoramic view helps them see products from an overarching perspective, often dealing with internal technical challenges.

If weaving multiple product threads together entices you, this is your space.

Key skills: Tech stack understanding, cross-product strategy, internal stakeholder management, build vs. buy decisions, and scalability.

9. Product operations manager

Product operations managers support the entire product team, creating an efficient environment for PMs to thrive. While traditional PMs center on users, the main clientele for product operations managers is the product team itself.

Their crucial tasks include streamlining systems and processes, fostering transparent communication, and using data insights to aid product management. If orchestrating behind-the-scenes operations and facilitating a seamless product journey resonates with you, consider this role.

Key skills: systems optimization, clear communication, data synthesis, task delegation, and cross-functional collaboration.

2. How to learn product management

So, you’ve found a product manager role that suits your strengths and skills. But where do you begin learning the discipline? Here are our top three tips:

Harness online resources

Start by exploring a diverse range of online resources dedicated to product management. From podcasts to specialist blogs, there’s a wealth of information tailored to both beginners and seasoned professionals. Some standout resources to embark on your journey include:

Network strategically

Engaging with industry experts can offer unique insights. Remember, no matter which type of product manager you’re aiming for, the product management career isn’t just about knowledge; it’s about understanding industry nuances, staying updated on trends, and learning from real-life experiences.

Connect with PM professionals, attend seminars, or join online forums. The deeper you immerse yourself in the PM community, the more you learn.

Take an online course

With the increasing prevalence of digital learning, enrolling in an online product management course is a strategic move for aspiring professionals.

These courses, often curated by industry experts, provide a structured path to mastering the fundamentals and nuances of product management. Here’s why they stand out:

  • Flexibility: Learn at your own pace and fit lessons around your schedule.
  • Practicality: Engage with real-life case studies and hands-on assignments.
  • Credentials: Boost your CV with recognized certifications.
  • Global Expertise: Gain insights from international product managers.

Want to explore the best course options? Check out our curated list of the best product management courses, both free and paid.

3. Next steps

In this article, we’ve navigated through the myriad types of product managers, as well as the intricacies of the product management space. While this is not a complete list of PM roles, it provides a roadmap to explore some of the best career opportunities today. 

Diving deeper into each job profile helps you pinpoint where your passion and strengths truly lie. If you’re keen on identifying the niche that resonates with you, reflect on the patterns and environments that appeal to you most. Then, consider the skills you possess and the ones you need to develop to succeed.

Want a head start? Jump into CareerFoundry’s free 5-day product management short course.

Or, if you’re hungry for more insights, read our related articles to deepen your understanding:

What You Should Do Now

  1. Get a hands-on introduction to product management with a free, self-paced short course made up of 5 short tutorials.

  2. Take part in one of our FREE live online product manager events with industry experts, or check out CareerFoundry graduate Farley’s product management portfolio project.

  3. Become a qualified product manager in 3-6 months—backed by the CareerFoundry job guarantee.

  4. This month, we’re offering a partial scholarship worth up to $1,365 off on all of our career-change programs to the first 100 students who apply 🎉 Book your application call and secure your spot now!

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