AI Product Manager Jobs and Salary Guide

Written by Scott Wilson

ai product manager job

If there seems to be one thing that everyone agrees on in government, private industry, and the press, it’s that artificial intelligence is the next big thing. You hear people talking about it in coffee shops, on airplanes, at the grocery store. It’s all over the internet, in your search engines, news articles, and social media.

But artificial intelligence is just a technology. It’s the equivalent of a clever sorting algorithm or a faster screen rendering technology or a new video game physics engine. A fast and eloquent new GPT model may blow the doors off previous models, but it’s just a chunk of code and data until you put it in something useful. By itself, it’s actually kind of boring.

AI can do amazing things, but those things have to be defined and built.

AI product managers are responsible for turning AI into useful tools. They help imagine, design, develop, and fine-tune AI-based products for market. Artificial intelligence may be a world-shaking technology. But whether it becomes something you find useful from day to day will depend on the imagination and skill of AI product managers.

What Is an AI Product Manager?

presenting to colleaguesProduct managers are the proud parents of the technological world. It’s a role that exists behind the scenes, but plays a big part in defining the tools and products that are available in the market today.

The role isn’t new. There have always had to be visionaries, big-picture thinkers, and expert coordinators that shepherd the large teams of programmers, illustrators, marketers, and manufacturers that turn ideas into things that can be bought.

But for many decades, that was simply a department manager, business owner, or hard-charging developer who had an idea and wanted to see it through to market.

Product managers emerged as specialists who could:

Artificial intelligence is a field that is badly in need of product managers today. While a lot of very cool capabilities are on display in demos or beta tests, the real world manifestations of AI have been pretty underwhelming. Cars that can’t actually drive themselves, chatbots that babble, search engines that lie… it’s not a great track record for a technology that is advertised as the greatest thing since the invention of fire.

Facing the Social Challenges of AI Product Management Positions

futuristic vr cityAI product managers will be the people who step up and take responsibility for envisioning and bringing to life AI products that are truly earth-shaking.

The role takes responsibility for the details of design, market-alignment, and production of AI or AI-integrated products.

In itself, that’s no different than any technology product manager. But AI brings in new levels of challenges to the role:

Traditionally, product managers look to comparable tools and services to estimate their resources requirements, timelines, and functionality. But product managers in AI are short on examples in all those categories. And because of the unique nature of every model, comparables are hard to come by.

What Do Project Managers in AI Do on the Job?

ai innovationAI/ML product managers spend their days solving problems and overcoming obstacles.

It’s a management role in the sense of coordinating between stakeholders, executives, production teams, and outside users. It doesn’t always come with a lot of authority, however. So product managers have to rely on their breadth of expertise and their knowledge of every part of the production process to make the stars align.

That is a task that revolves around communication. Much of the day will be spent on Slack, on the phone, or working through emails to stay on top of what is happening in all the different worlds the product manager must tie together.

Managers also have to stay on top of what is going on in the industry and with the competition. They may be responsible for last-minute adjustments to keep an AI product up with the state-of-the-art. Or, they may have to make the hard call to shut a project down if it’s not bearing fruit.

For all that, they need a keen sense of:

It’s a fast-paced position that requires a lot of day-to-day diplomacy and an ability to negotiate agreements between competing interests.

How to Become an AI Product Manager

Product managers have a lot of different hats to wear. From marketing to creative design to the depths of coding, details matter in product development.

That means that the best product managers are generalists. An ideal AI product manager will have some experience with:

This kind of flexibility and expertise requires a college education. So your first stop will be earning at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field.

But product management goes well beyond what you will learn in the classroom. The realities of people-handling, corporate politics, and the up and down nature of AI development all come only through hands-on experience.

Product management jobs are not an entry-level role, especially not in artificial intelligence.

So getting a job, preferably somewhere within the field of AI, is your next step. That position can be in almost any area related to production or marketing, however:

Finally, it’s a good idea to build up a high level of expertise in the market sector and industry where you plan to work. Great products come from a combination of understanding what AI technology has become capable of combined with a clear view of what companies and users really need. You won’t be a good product manager until you can put those together, and you won’t put those together without high levels of experience and empathy in the field.

The ways that AI will be used in different industries really influences the day-to-day tasks and the overall education needed in project management.

A Netflix AI product manager, for instance, will have to be tight with the norms of the entertainment industry and to understand social trends and viewership markets. Someone working in product management for generative AI in a healthcare setting, on the other hand, must understand patients, clinicians, and the stringent regulatory environment they operate in.

With product management roles popping up for AI specialists everywhere from transportation to traditional software manufacturers, you’ll need to tune your training to the demands of your industry.

What Is the Typical AI Product Manager Salary?

filling out checksAs with most things in the world of artificial intelligence, there’s really no typical yet! The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the go-to source for salary data, doesn’t even keep a category for product managers, let alone those in AI.

We discuss the challenges and available data further on our AI Salary page. The closest that BLS seems to come to product management roles is in the blanket category of management occupations.

For 2022, the top ten percent of individuals in that category earned $163,710 per year.

What Kind of Education Is Needed for AI Product Manager Jobs?

There’s no single degree or position that can really give you the depth of skills in each of those fields that you need. The exception would be other than similar jobs. If you are an AI product manager at Netflix already, you are golden.

But a college education is an absolute requirement. The standard liberal arts basis that underlies the American university experience is packed with general skills in:

These are the kind of qualities that come with a bachelor’s in AI formatted as a Bachelor of Arts in Artificial Intelligence or a Bachelor of Science for Artificial Intelligence in Business.

Since product management in AI has so many layers, though, you’re not really restricted to AI or ML degrees to get qualified. A Bachelor of Arts in Marketing or a BBA, Bachelor of Business Administration, are other paths in.

There are also dedicated product management degrees at the master’s level. A Master of Science in Product Management is focused on the advanced skills needed to perform at high levels in AI product management.

Many product managers hold MBAs, the Master of Business Administration. A Master of Business Administration in Business and Artificial Intelligence will also cover much of the ground you need to bring the two fields together.

If you’re coming into AI from a non-technical background, or even with a computer science degree behind you, you may need a different approach to get up to speed in the technical details. Something like a Graduate Certificate in Artificial Intelligence may be your ticket. These programs come with only the dedicated coursework you need in AI to get a good overview.

AI Product Manager Courses to Look for in College Degrees

On the AI side of the spectrum, the kinds of courses you want to see are high-level overviews. An Introduction to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning course is a good start. Other classes that could be valuable include those in subjects like:

But the real gold in degrees for product managers is coursework that ties AI technology together with business acumen. So you’ll look for classes like:

Can You Earn an AI Product Manager Certification?

Product management has been around for a long time. Professional certification, a system of validating your skills and competency, is available from several independent vendors and professional groups.

The most widely-known and respected is the CPM (Certified Project Manager®) from the Association of International Product Marketing and Management (AIPMM). Training is available through a variety of vendors to help you pass the test that covers:

Product Manager Certification™, from The Product School also offers training and certification for the role. Even more relevant, the Product School offers an Artificial Intelligence for Product Certification (AIPC)™ class for current professionals building their AI skills.

Certification may be down the road, however, because there is plenty of demand for AI product managers today. The world is waiting. Come up with something amazing.

2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Management Occupations reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed December 2023.