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Are Product Management Bootcamps worth it?

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Throughout my career, I've worked with hundreds of product people. I've also been involved in hiring quite a few and firing a handful as well.

From my perspective, there are two main reasons why you might consider enrolling in a Product Management bootcamp:

  1. You want a certificate: You're looking for proof that you've completed some formal Product Management training to add to your CV.
  2. You want to learn: You're already working in the tech industry in a different role but are looking to switch to Product Management. You have an idea of what a PM does, either from working directly or indirectly with one. You're seeking a structured learning program, possibly preferring cohort-based learning and networking with like-minded individuals. For you, the certificate is a bonus, but not the primary reason.

What do Product Management bootcamps cost?

Prices range from $399 to $15,000.

Like other fields, Product Management bootcamps offer various ways to earn your certificate. There are "self-paced" bootcamps, typically consisting of pre-recorded video material, where an instructor walks you through a PowerPoint presentation, a bunch of case studies to read, and perhaps some optional practical exercises, like filling out a business model canvas or a SWOT template.

Then there are the "traditional," instructor-led, cohort-based bootcamps. Since COVID-19, I've rarely seen companies offering in-person classes; almost all lessons now happen online. For many learners, there are key selling points when opting for a traditional bootcamp:

  • Learners prefer cohort-based learning and studying with peers, often feeling they need this group pressure.
  • Learners perceive instructor-led courses as higher value due to the mentorship and personalized help lecturers can provide. Additionally, well-branded bootcamps can boast lecturers from well-known companies like Google, Amazon, and Meta, which is an added benefit.
  • Great networking opportunities.

A few example of the costs of instructor-led Product Management Bootcamps:

Do hiring managers care about your Product Management certificate?

They do, to some extent, but prioritize other factors when screening candidates:

  • Industry-specific product experience
  • Non-industry-specific product experience
  • Industry-specific university or equivalent degree
  • Industry-specific non-product experience
  • Industry-related personal projects
  • Non-industry-specific projects or businesses
  • Certificates

While this list is not exhaustive and each company has its own set of priorities, it gives you a general idea.

Why aren't certificates highly valued by hiring managers?

You might wonder why hiring managers don't value such certifications as much, especially when they can cost thousands of dollars. The answer is simple: because they can be bought. The vast majority of bootcamps in any field will not expel you for failing to reach the expected skill level. These courses usually lack periodic assessments to check skill acquisition. The only reason for expulsion is typically non-payment of tuition fees.

A certificate might show hiring managers your dedication, indicating that you took the time to complete an X-month-long course. However, in most cases, there's no guarantee that you've also acquired the necessary skills.

Do Product Management bootcamps teach practical skills for the job?

At its core, product management is about ensuring that what's being built is what the users want and that it also generates value for the company.

More often than not, the focus of bootcamps isn't on teaching how to effectively build what your customer wants, but rather on providing content to fill the 4 to 6 months. They often walk you through different popular frameworks and "mind tools," explaining their use and essentiality on the job. However, if you've worked as a product manager, you'll quickly realize that these tools often can't be applied as intended in practice.

The problem is that sometimes the people who design and teach the curriculum either:

  1. Have never worked as a real product manager building real products, or
  2. Teach how they managed products in a specific industry at a specific company, which may not be universally applicable.

Are Product Management Bootcamps Worth It?

In conclusion, in my opinion, Product Management Bootcamps are only worth it if your goal is to earn a certificate and this certificate has tangible value to you. If you already have prior Product Management experience or are actively working in the field, an extra certificate in a specialized field could definitely help advance your career. Especially if your employer covers the cost as part of a training budget or career development plan, I would recommend choosing a traditional, instructor-led, cohort-based bootcamp.

However, if you are an aspiring product manager without work experience, my recommendation is to focus on learning the hard skills and popular frameworks that are useful at work and can help you pass interviews. I believe the content taught in such bootcamps is worth learning, but not at the price they often charge. Here are a few free or low-cost resources I recommend: