In January 2018, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) will welcome the first class of a new master of science in product management program. The new program is a joint degree offered by the university’s School of Computer Science and its Tepper School of Business. It was designed to meet a need felt by technical organizations, which have found that employees with strong skill sets in engineering and computer science would also benefit from training in product management.
“We heard repeatedly from employers how much difficulty they have recruiting good technical product managers,” explained Robert Monroe, co-director of the new degree program at Tepper. “The program fills a gap in the market and provides focused, relevant education to help software developers move into being an effective product manager, quickly.”
Product managers at tech companies are the individuals who need to know their products from inception to completion—better than anyone else. They have to reconcile the engineering requirements along with customer demands to develop a successful product on time and within budget. It’s a role that requires interpersonal skills, business acumen, and technical knowledge.
About the MS in Product Management Program
The new product management master’s degree is a 12-month program that delves into both the technical and business aspects of this role. It was designed for early-career professionals with technical undergraduate degrees in computer science, computer engineering, or software engineering.
“The traditional training path for a high-tech product manager is for a software developer to get an MBA or to learn on the job as they transition from a technical role to a more business-oriented role,” said Monroe. “We saw an opportunity to help software engineers learn the key business skills they needed to be effective product managers, as well as the cutting edge technical skills they need to work at the world’s leading tech companies, in a focused one-year program that requires half the investment of time and money that a typical MBA requires.”
This intensive program is divided into two semesters and includes a required summer internship. The first semester, running from January to May, requires students to complete eight courses for a total of 60 units. Two required courses—one in business fundamentals and a second in digital service innovation—last for the duration of the semester. The remaining six courses last for one quarter each, with students taking three of these courses at a time.
Some of these half-semester courses include “Principles of Product Management,” “Marking to High-Tech Product Management,” and “Business Communications for Complex Decision-Making.”
Between May and August, a program-approved internship helps students integrate their course lessons in a real-world work environment. Students will also participate in a three-unit online course that meets weekly via video. This course will provide students with the opportunity to work with an instructor and other students on some of the challenges they’ll face over the course of their internship.
The final semester, beginning in August and ending in December, requires students to take at least 48 units, or four courses, with an additional 12 units of optional free electives available. The final courses include a Capstone Project as well as a full-semester “Service Design” course and a “Technical Depth” elective.
“Students in this program will cover the business material that is most relevant to success as a product manager and dive deep into the advanced technical topics they need to drive exciting new tech products to market,” said Monroe. “Our students will develop the skills, knowledge, and insights they need to do the job much more quickly in this program than through trial and error learning on the job.”
Applying to the MS in Product Management
Students planning to apply to the MS in product management program should have a technical background, including an undergraduate degree in computer science, computer engineering, or software engineering. At a minimum, applicants must have sufficient programming and computer science skills to pass a graduate-level CS class.
The school also recommends at least one year of work experience.
To apply, candidates are required to submit a current resume, transcripts, GMAT or GRE scores, three essay question responses, and three letters of recommendation. The cost of the new program is less than $65,000 (tuition only).
What Makes the MS in Product Management Unique?
“As far as we know, this is the only focused, one-year master’s degree program in product management offered by any leading university,” said Monroe.
Carnegie Mellon’s location in Pittsburgh is a plus for aspiring product management professionals. Pittsburgh is home to offices of such big tech companies as Google, Facebook, Uber, and Apple, as well as tech startups like Duolingo, a language-learning platform.
“The big tech firms, along with their highly skilled, highly paid workers, have made Pittsburgh younger and more international and helped to transform once-derelict neighborhoods like Lawrenceville and East Liberty,” writes the New York Times.
To learn more about the new MS in product management program visit the Carnegie Mellon website.