GUIDE 2024

What Does an Associate Product Manager Do?

One of the best ways to break into the field of product management is to start as an associate product manager (APM).

After all, the associate product manager role is set up as an apprenticeship that leads to a future senior product manager role.

We have put together this guide to dive deep into the associate product manager role. If you’re looking to learn more via video, then watch below. Otherwise, skip ahead.

This article covers the following:

  1. What is an associate product manager, and what do they do?
  2. Why do organizations even have associate product managers?
  3. How does the associate product manager fit into the broader PM career trajectory?
  4. How much does an associate product manager make?
  5. How can you best position yourself to get this role?
  6. When can you expect to be promoted to a full Product Manager?

Let’s dive in!

What Does an Associate Product Manager Do?

An associate product manager is responsible for collecting product data, doing customer research, coordinating with stakeholders, and developing new product features. They work closely with one or more product managers and with tools that enable them to do their work more effectively.

Associate product manager responsibilities include many of the responsibilities that product managers have, such as:

  • Collecting quantitative product data and metrics through market research
  • Synthesizing customer research
  • Gathering product requirements and aligning them with business goals
  • Coordinating with stakeholders to achieve the product vision
  • Developing new product features
  • Working on developing a product strategy

In some organizations, associate product managers do not directly work with any engineers for product development. In other organizations, APMs join sprint rituals with the product manager that they are associated with.

And in other organizations, associate product managers will even have a dedicated product team that they work with directly.

In terms of product responsibility, associate product managers generally work on new features for a mature product, instead of working on the entire product itself.

Looking to become an associate product manager? Check out our certification courses to help you do just that.

Product Manager Certification

Now that we have this understanding of APM responsibilities, let’s shed some light on why the associate product manager role even exists in the first place.

Associate Product Manager Role and Responsibilities

There are two main reasons why an organization would want to hire associate product managers:

  1. When an organization is mature enough, it’ll start focusing on how to capture talent early on. Since qualified product managers are difficult to acquire, organizations use the associate product manager role to bring junior talent into the company. From there, they then train them into the product manager that they need.
  2. In other cases, organizations may find that their existing PMs don’t have enough bandwidth, but that filling an additional product management role is overkill. In these instances, hiring an associate product manager makes sense from an output and a budgetary perspective.

Let’s be clear – not all organizations have associate product manager roles.

Some companies have a career track where product analysts become PMs instead.

Other companies, given their product strategies and current stage of growth, simply don’t need an associate product manager.

What is an Associate Product Manager Job Description?

The preparation for this role is very similar to the preparation you’d need for a full product manager role.

The following are some of the skills and qualities that you’d need to demonstrate to land a job as an associate product manager – and succeed in your career:

1. Communication Skills

Since you’ll be responsible for rallying, managing, and guiding entire product management teams, you need strong communication skills to keep everyone on the same page. This also involves interpersonal skills, which will help you a lot when you work cross-functionally with different teams.

2. Analytical Skills

As an APM, one of your primary responsibilities will be to conduct market research. This will help you figure out new product ideas, features, and ways to improve the user experience of existing products. Naturally, this would involve doing user research, analyzing trends, and running tests – all of which require good analytical skills.

3. Time Management Skills

All great PMs don’t mind working with time constraints. Considering that you should have a knack for meeting deadlines.

4. Decision-Making Skills

An APM should know how to ship a product/handle product launches, as well as, how to prioritize conflicting needs and requests. Ultimately, they should be able to make difficult decisions quickly.

Furthermore, you’ll want to showcase previous experiences where you learned quickly from past failures. You’ll also want to highlight your technical skills and ability to empathize with customers, engineers, and other stakeholders.

You can demonstrate these soft skills, in many ways, whether it’s through resumes, cover letters, portfolios, or coffee chats.

Generally speaking, the APM program is targeted at candidates coming right out of college (with bachelor’s degrees in computer science, business, marketing, or any other relevant field), since APMs are compensated less than product managers.

It’s easier for an organization to hire an associate product manager who has no previous work experience, and thus, is a blank slate that can easily be “reprogrammed” according to the organization’s vision, goals, and needs.

Some of the most well-known associate product and program manager, and APM programs are the following:

  • Google
  • Amazon
  • Slack

For more information, this resource from Product Management Insider provides direct links to 15+ associate product manager job applications at well-known companies.

Note that just because an associate product manager program is “famous” or “prestigious” doesn’t mean that it’s the best fit for you! These programs are generally quite difficult to get into due to their highly competitive application process and requirements for a technical background.

Instead, by heading to a startup and demonstrating impact there, you may wind up learning a lot more and positioning yourself better.

Remember that the more structured a rotational program is, the less likely you will be able to drive outsized impact that exceeds expectations.

Final Remarks

The associate product manager position is a coveted, yet rare role. If you can secure the position, your chances of becoming a full-fledged product manager increase dramatically.

Still, roles are just roles.

Just because you have a particular title doesn’t mean you have the skill sets needed to succeed.

If you can convincingly show employers that you have what it takes to become an amazing product manager, they’ll be more than happy to recruit you – no matter what role you’re currently in.


Here are answers to the questions that aspiring associate product managers ask:

How much does an associate product manager make?

Unfortunately, the answer is “it depends,” similar to how product managers themselves are compensated. ​

Associate product manager salaries​​​ can vary dramatically based on physical location, industry, and the maturity of the company.

Speaking at a high level, APMs tend to make more if they are based in the San Francisco Bay Area – though the high costs of living there may not be worth it. Also, generally speaking, mature companies tend to offer higher salaries and lower equity, whereas newer companies tend to offer lower salaries and higher equity.

The only guarantee is that associate product managers are compensated less than product managers since they have fewer responsibilities, and don’t require as much experience as product managers.

How long until I get promoted?

Some companies promote their associate and senior product leaders or managers based on tenure, e.g. after 2 years or after 3 years.

Other companies promote based on outcomes. For example, some associate product managers are promoted once they successfully shipped their first full product and demonstrated long-term viability in the marketplace.

At other organizations, associate product leaders and managers are promoted when new product opportunities appear. This means that associate product managers might “sit on the bench” until the organization determines that there is a new need for a dedicated product manager.

At the end of the day, remember that you should keep two goals as your highest priorities as an associate product manager:

  1. To learn
  2. To deliver impact

As long as you achieve both goals – you will naturally be given new opportunities!

Is the associate product manager higher than the product manager?

No, an Associate Product Manager (APM) is a more junior role compared to a Product Manager (PM). APMs often focus on learning and gaining experience in product management, while PMs have more responsibility and autonomy in managing products. The PM role generally involves greater strategic oversight and leadership.

What level is an associate product manager?

An Associate Product Manager (APM) is an entry-level position in the product management hierarchy. At companies like Google, APMs are often at Level 3 (L3) or Level 4 (L4), where they focus on learning and developing foundational skills under the guidance of more senior product managers.

What is the salary of an associate product manager role?

In the United States, the salary ranges from $70,000 to $100,000 per year. Total compensation can increase this figure to between $90,000 and $120,000.

Is an associate product manager a leadership role?

An Associate Product Manager (APM) is not a leadership role. It is an entry-level position focused on learning and gaining experience in product management.

If you are new to product management and are looking to break into your very first product manager role, we recommend taking our Product Manager Certification Courses, where you will learn the fundamentals of product management, launch your product, and get on the fast track toward landing your first product job.