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Product Owner Career Path

Product Owner Career Path in 2024: Roles, Duties and Salary

The product owner (PO) role is very rewarding. What does the product owner career path look like, and how do you get started? We’re here to answer these questions and more.

Dan GinnBrett DayIgor Kurtz

Written by Dan Ginn (Writer, Script Editor)

Reviewed by Brett Day (Writer, Editor)

Facts checked by Igor Kurtz (Fact-checking editor)

Last Updated: 2024-05-20T11:36:00+00:00

All our content is written fully by humans; we do not publish AI writing. Learn more here.

Key Takeaways: Product Owner Role
  • This article highlights how to obtain an entry-level product owner position and details the potential career path.
  • The role of a product owner can be very rewarding, especially for those who like developing products and supporting external clients.
  • A product owner may go on to work in closely linked roles as a Scrum Master or software developer.

Facts & Expert Analysis About Product Owner Jobs:

  • Average salary: Depending on their experience, a product owner can expect to earn between $60,000 and $175,000.1
  • PO certification: You don’t need official certification to be a product owner, but obtaining a Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) certification can help.
  • Career growth: Many product owners go on to build their own companies, spearheading new software products for commercial use.

Working as a product owner is very rewarding. It gives you the opportunity to bring software products to life and satisfy the end user’s needs. What does the product owner career path look like, though, and how do you get there? We’ll explain all of this and more. Additionally, our article on how to prepare for product owner interviews will help you land your dream role.

Everyone has to start somewhere. This article will take you through everything from entry-level junior product owner positions to senior product owner roles. Keep in mind that a project owner is not the same as a product manager. People often confuse these two roles, but they are different. We’ll explain this in more detail later in the article.

If you’re looking for software to help you with product management, we have you covered. Our selection of the best project management software includes tools to help product owners do their best work alongside software development teams. Without further ado, let’s dive into the heart of the article and help you embark on your own project owner career path.

What Is a Product Owner?

A product owner works on a product and software development team and is responsible for relaying what the product should look like to the developers. A senior product owner will become a product expert, liaising with the end users to understand why they need the product and how it should function.

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What Do Product Owners Do?

Product owners have multiple responsibilities. They mainly serve as a point of contact for the end user (the person/company that needs the product). Depending on the Scrum Master’s responsibilities, the product owner may also create the product backlog (the features the development team needs to create to build the product).

Other responsibilities include:

  • Collecting information about the product from the end user
  • Building a product roadmap
  • Communicating the vision to the Scrum team
  • Gathering contentious feedback from the end user
  • Building a product strategy 
  • Attending daily feedback meetings

Product Owner Career Path

In this section, we’ll provide an outline of the trajectory you can expect to follow throughout your career as a product owner. We’ll also touch on other roles that a product owner can aspire to, giving you a clear idea of the paths your career could take.

Junior Product Owner

A junior product owner holds an entry-level position. For the most part, they shadow a more experienced product owner and support them. Their responsibilities tend to include helping prioritize tasks during sprint planning, liaising with the end user to better understand their needs and taking care of miscellaneous tasks the senior product owner assigns them.

Associate Product Owner

Another entry-level position is that of an associate product owner. An associate product owner’s responsibilities often overlap with those of a junior product owner. However, they may also need to act as a point of contact for multiple teams, including internal and external stakeholders, and help develop roadmaps.

Senior Product Owner

A senior product owner is responsible for taking control of the product and overseeing product development from start to finish. They are the senior point of contact for the end user and are expected to consistently provide updates about product development. This role also entails creating the product backlog, which is a to-do list of the tasks required to build the product.

jira backlog
Product owners are responsible for creating and refining the product backlog.

Other responsibilities include developing a strategic vision and creating a layout of everything that needs to happen to reach the end goal. More experienced product owners may be responsible for managing multiple products at once. In this case, they may be referred to as portfolio owners.

Scrum Master

A product owner’s career path may end up deviating towards the role of a Scrum master. You may also hear of this referred to as a “professional Scrum product owner.” However, though closely related, these are two different roles.

The Scrum Master is there to assist with the Agile process for software development. They take data relating to product strategy and ensure the development team has everything they need to build the product. A Scrum Master leads daily Scrum meetings, constantly assesses and reflects on the work the development team is doing and attends to any issues along the way.

If you are a Scrum Master and are in the market for some new software, we suggest checking out our selection of the best Agile tools available.

Agile Coach

In some cases, a product owner may go on to become an Agile coach. This involves promoting Agile practices and teaching others how to implement them in order to build a product to the highest standards. An Agile coach may also come in to analyze and improve Agile practices that are already in place on an Agile team.

Junior vs Mid-Level vs Senior Product Owner

Many of these responsibilities are shared among the various product owner roles. Your experience will be the main factor determining the types of product owner positions you hold. For example, junior product owners will take on less complex products or smaller clients.

Mid-level and senior product owners will likely work with more complex products. For example, they could take on software requests from local or national governments, or collaborate with large-scale brands and enterprises.

Project Manager

It is fairly common for a product owner to go on to become a project manager. This entails managing a range of projects, not just those pertaining to product management. A project manager will also use a wider range of project management methodologies that go beyond those relating to Agile software development. 

Business Analyst

Because product ownership involves plenty of analysis, a product owner may eventually become a business analyst. In the product world, this role entails identifying products that can help a business improve its internal processes.

In addition to general guidance, a business analyst recommends types of software that can benefit a company, such as some of the best free project management software. They also identify areas where a business can scale in order to expand and increase its revenue.

Product Manager

In time, a product owner may become a product manager. In this role, you’re responsible for managing product owners. Product managers tend to work within scaled Agile frameworks, such as Scrum of Scrums and SAFe.

Chief Product Officer

A chief product officer tends to have responsibilities similar to those of other types of product owners. However, they have a closer relationship with the chief executive officer in the organizational structure. This includes helping shape what a product should like and how it should function, and determining why a given company needs the product.

How Much Does a Product Owner Make?

The big question is how much money you can expect to make during your career as a product owner. Salaries will differ depending on the seniority of your position and how much experience you have as a product owner. Naturally, each company will have its own salary scale, but we can offer an idea of the annual salary range you can expect.

The average annual salary for a junior product owner is in the region of $82,000. Some companies may go as low as $64,000, while others may pay as much as $142,000.1 Those with more experience, like a chief product officer, can potentially earn up to $175,000 per year 2, with some larger companies offering in excess of $200,000.5

How to Become a Product Owner

Now that you’re of the product owner career path and the opportunities this role can offer, let’s look at some practical steps you can take to get started on your journey.

Certification

People often ask if they need to obtain a product owner certification to begin their career. The official answer is no; product owner career progression doesn’t need to begin with taking courses.

However, some employers may prefer Scrum product owners to have Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) certification, which you can obtain from the Scrum Alliance. Though not essential, it may be worth obtaining the certification for the benefit of your own education and potential career development.

Project Assistant

If you’re unable to obtain a certification, there are other ways to get your foot in the door if you want to be a product owner. One of them is to take on the role of project assistant. This could include booking meetings for product owners and taking care of day-to-day administrative tasks. By doing so, you can learn about the role of a product owner on the job.

Project Management

If you’re already an experienced project manager, the path is paved for you to become a product owner. Having a history of using an Agile approach to project management will be beneficial, as will having a deep understanding of terminology such as “user stories,” “backlogs,” “sprints” and “sprint reviews,” “epics” and “sprint retrospectives.”

Software Developer

Product owners don’t necessarily need to have experience as software developers. However, if you have experience developing products, you will have more opportunities to transition to being a product owner.

Is Product Owner a Good Career Path?

If you enjoy working with high-level stakeholders and want to help bring their products to life, then yes, being a product owner is a good career. This role will help you build your interpersonal skills by working with different teams and team members. It will also help you improve your analytical skills thanks to constantly monitoring the development of products.

You can develop a lucrative career as a product owner, with the potential to earn more than double the average salary in the United States ($60,000).3 Even entry-level positions have great earning potential.

Community Feedback: Product Owner Career Path on Reddit, Quora and Other Social Media Sites

On social media, those working within the industry speak highly of the product owner role. The community is especially supportive of new product owners, offering first-hand experience of the realities of the position. One user on Quora wrote, “Product Owner roles involve more potential pressure and longer hours tied to product success…”4

You’ll find plenty of perspectives on Reddit, too. Many POs enjoy the responsibilities of the role and take great satisfaction in “owning the product.” Others resent that some Scrum Masters add to their workloads by making them perform Scrum Master duties, and the number of daily standups and Scrum ceremonies can certainly add to the stress of the position.

Comparing it to the role of a product manager, one Quora user said, “Product owner is paid better and has better career progression.”4 Of course, salaries will differ depending on the company you work for.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a clear idea of the steps you need to take to become a product owner, it’s time to go into the real world and take that first step. Building a product vision will no doubt be enjoyable, so make the most of your ambition to help customers access the best software products.

If you’re interested in the Scrum framework, take a look at our article explaining what Scrum is. We also have an article explaining what Agile is, which is useful if you want to learn more about the Agile process and the frameworks that exist within it.

Did you find this guide helpful? What has your journey as a product owner been like? What other career paths would you like us to break down? Let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading.

FAQ: Career Path for a Product Owner

  • A product owner has numerous options to choose from. They can move up to a senior product owner role, become a chief product officer or work as a project manager or business analyst.

  • Product ownership can be a very rewarding career for those who enjoy bringing products to life and satisfying the needs of the end user.

  • You can begin by obtaining Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) certification, though this isn’t essential. You can also learn on the job by working as an administrative assistant on projects. If you gain enough knowledge, you can become a junior product owner and eventually a senior product owner.

  • Being a product owner opens the door to a fascinating career path. You can go on to become a senior product owner or a chief product officer, or create your own company to build products to release for commercial use.

Sources:

  1. Junior Product Owner Salary – Glassdoor
  2. Product Owner Salary – Glassdoor
  3. Average Salary By State – Forbes
  4. I recently switched from Project Manager to Product Owner in IT. Which one has a better career path and is paid better? – Quora
  5. Chief Product Officer Salary – Glassdoor
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