Transition from Business Analyst to Product Management Career

Product Management
Exponent TeamExponent TeamLast updated

Thinking of making the transition from business analyst to product manager? We've got you covered.

Spending your days as a business analyst means you are constantly problem-solving, communicating with your team, creating solutions and working to improve the product. Researching strategies, working on enhancements and adjusting the product along the way to satisfy stakeholders is part of your daily grind.

Product managers, on the other hand, spend their days searching for pain points, looking for solutions and making plans to implement changes and improvements. They cycle through using customer feedback to motivate strategy.

The focus of a business analyst is typically internal and a product manager is mostly external. However, the positions are very similar.

So the question is: even though your job title says Business Analyst, are you already doing the same things as a Product Manager? Maybe.

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Switching careers is a big step, even when job functions can appear the same on paper.

But each position has its own unique focus and function while also retaining responsibilities distinct to each role.

Moving from a business analyst to a product manager is a common job change.

Below, we'll look at what it takes to transition from business analyst to product management.

Table of Contents:

Can I Transition from Business Analyst to Product Manager?

Many successful and hard-working business analysts do make the switch to a product management position.

Those that transition away from business analyst roles can expect to use some of the skills used in their current jobs when they swap to a PM position.

But just like any career move, those considering this change should think about a few key questions to evaluate their personal readiness before attempting to make the switch.

  • Is communication a strong skill? Regular, focused communication with users is a big part of a PM position. Product managers should also be able to communicate across departments as well as within their own team effectively and easily.
  • Are goal setting and strategy management something you are comfortable with?  PMs will continuously work on strategies to move their team towards goals. They work strategically, create and manage a team’s focus, and understand how to guide the team towards goals.
  • Are you a proven leader? Working with a team is part of the product management role, so those interested in transitioning to this position should be either experienced leaders or comfortable in leadership roles.
How to Become a Product Manager: The Ultimate Career Path Guide
Many tech professionals follow a product manager career path because it blends responsibilities. Take a closer look at product management as a career from APM to Director of Product.

How Do You Transition from Business Analyst to Product Manager or Product Owner?

If you'd like to make the move from business analyst to product manager, first evaluate your current strengths and skills.

Give yourself time to learn if you're prepared for the new role. Are there skills you need to brush up on?

Soft Skills

Soft skills are ones that transfer with a person from job to job.

These types of skills are not career-specific. They define a personality and the employee’s ability to work with others in a job.

Most soft skills are honed and developed over time. Some, like leadership, may come naturally to some people.

Job postings often include clear references to soft skills desired in a qualified candidate. Although, they are difficult to quantify and don’t come with certifications as hard skills can.

Soft skills are what makes an otherwise-qualified candidate do well in a position when they have the concrete abilities, or hard skills needed to do the job. Some of the typically requested soft skills may be:

  • Business Analyst: communication, critical thinking, proactive mindset, problem-solving, team leadership
  • Product Manager: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, demonstrate empathy, influencing/leading, problem-solving, team leadership

Hard Skills

Unlike soft skills, hard skills are job- or field-specific skills that an employee must know to complete their job.

Many hard skills can be used in different careers. These types of abilities may be quantifiable or be verifiable with a certification or portfolio of work to prove the employee’s experience or abilities.

Job descriptions usually clearly define the hard skills a candidate should bring to a position to be fully qualified.

But when transitioning from business analyst to product management, job seekers may discover that experience in similar hard skills in some cases may substitute as adequate experience since so many similarities between the careers exist.

  • Business Analyst: advanced data analysis, leading internal and external meetings, project management, Excel or database knowledge
  • Product Manager building platforms, plan/manage a portfolio of features, product demo to groups, specific platform admin experience, using data-driven methodology
How to Write the Perfect Product Manager Resume
Your product manager resume can help you stand out from a crowded field of applicants. Learn what you should and shouldn’t include in your resume to help it stand out.

Internal vs External Career Moves for Business Analysts

One of the easiest ways to transition from business analyst to product management is to look for internal job opportunities.

By sticking with your current company, you can more easily ask for new job responsibilities. This will not only prepare you for a new role but also indicate to management that you are willing and able to learn and grow professionally.

Moving up to a PM role internally is a great way to get started on this new career path.

Job opportunities as a PM outside of your current business analyst position employer also provide excellent potential career path moves.  

But those interested in looking outside of their current company will need to be prepared to compete with others who already have PM experience.

Transitioning to a PM position from a business analyst job does happen frequently.

Frequently, PMs list business analyst as their previous job before taking on this new role. Having a business background is also a great way to transition to being a technical program manager later in your career as well.

Another proven way to transition into an outside PM position is to look for an Associate Product Management (APM) program to join.

Many companies like Google, Facebook (Meta) and Twitter all have APMs and may lead to a permanent PM position within these or other similar organizations since the 2-year program provides a comprehensive, learn-on-the-job opportunity for those seeking a product manager job.

One of the unique traits of APM programs is they operate through a cohort system that relies heavily on expert modeling and training across all departments.

APM participants learn all aspects of a product manager position alongside other APMs, creating an unmatched environment where they can learn from each other while also training under experts in their respective fields.

APM programs also typically pay very well, making this option very attractive to those who can land this transition opportunity.

The Best Associate Product Manager Programs
This guide provides an explanation of the associate product manager role and an overview of the 15 most popular APM programs.

What is the Difference Between a Business Analyst and Product Manager?

While job responsibilities as a business analyst may bear many similarities to a product manager, the jobs are distinctly different from each other in a few ways.

One of the simplest ways to sum up those differences is to say that an analyst position is focused on a company’s internal usability of a product while a product manager is concerned with the product’s usage by users outside of the company.

Primary Duties as a Business Analyst

A business analyst is focused on making sure that an internally-used product or process is functioning to the best of its ability. They troubleshoot problems and concerns every day and help businesses optimize their workflows.

A business analyst may interview internal product users regularly to make sure that the product is working as intended and to uncover problems.

A BA will prioritize product concerns as they work toward solving problems with the product or process.

Regular duties also include researching strategies and methods to improve, enhance and adjust products for a business analyst.

The analyst will create materials for internal presentations about the product consistently and present them to different departments and teams.

A business analyst will answer to stakeholders for their product management rather than to customers or clients.

Primary Duties as a Product Manager

Product management is focused on understanding the outside user. PMs will regularly gather information to learn about the user’s experience with the product.

The PM is responsible for prioritizing and balancing product improvement with user experience. They also fully understand the product’s capabilities and challenges.

Leading the team, the PM will set goals and follow up successes and challenges that come with working towards solving uncovered problems with the product and the user experience.

A PM will also research ways to increase user retention and work toward applying those solutions to the product with the team.

Similarities Between a Business Analyst and Product Manager

  • Both positions require employees to become product specialists of sorts. The analyst’s job will focus on how the company utilizes the product while the PM looks at the outside user’s experience to guide changes.
  • Both positions seek out solutions to improve product or process experiences.
  • Both positions research ways to improve the product and prioritize strategies and solutions to implement.
  • Both positions require clear written and verbal communication skills.
  • Both positions necessitate excellent presentation skills and the ability to work with different teams and departments.

How Long Does It Take to Transition Between Business Analyst and PM?

Every job seeker wanting to change career paths, no matter how slight, will have a different experience than others wanting to make a similar change.

While job descriptions for business analyst positions may be generally similar on paper, the hard and soft skills a BA acquires during their time with a company may vary widely due to an employee’s drive, willingness to learn and grow as well as other hard and soft skills that employee brought with them to the job in the first place.

So potential transition between business analyst and project management may have a shorter or longer timeline based on the unique experience and skillset each candidate brings with them.

Transitioning within Your Current Company

Some may find that moving over to a project management position within the same company where they already work as an analyst is the fastest way to make a transition.

Current management will be well aware of your proven work ethic, willingness to grow professionally, and your proficiency with hard skills.

A current boss or manager may also see sparks of leadership ability. They may know of specific instances when you exhibited empathy and showed excellent communication skills that may not be verifiable on a resume but were revealed in the current job.

Larger companies may have available PM opportunities regularly while smaller businesses may not have as many pathways to pursue a new role within the same company.

How to Get Your First Product Management Job as a Business Analyst

For business analysts that work in a mid-to smaller-sized company, transitioning may not be so easy.

Instead, the potentially longer pathways to swapping out the BA role for a PM position are:

Jump to a Startup

New or small companies typically have employees that wear many hats. Taking a job at a startup could allow you to jump into the project management role with little or no experience while potentially also using your skills in an analyst position at the same time.

Many startups utilize employee skills sets in multiple ways while the company is just beginning. Completing some of the tasks you already have experience with along with a new role may be a perfect fit for someone wanting to transition to a new career path.

Apply to a Small Company

Like startups, businesses with fewer people may also require employees to complete tasks in multiple disciplines.

Working as a business analyst in a smaller company would allow you to take on small leadership roles within the company. You can request to work with a team or other employees to gain on-the-job experience while lending a hand at a small business where every task is critical.

Transitioning to a new role may create a longer timeline for switching careers. Real skills needed to be a successful PM might be honed and observed when working for a small company instead of a larger one where you are one of many analysts with little to no interaction with other product-facing positions.

Participating in an APM program

Associate Product Management Programs are an ideal way to transition into a PM position for business analysts. However, they do not present a quick way to move career paths. Most APMs are approximately two years in length.

Participants are likely to land an outstanding PM position after completing this comprehensive program that matches up participants with mentors as well as provides excellent pay during the sometimes-grueling program.

For business analysts wanting to learn as much as possible about the Product world as possible while getting paid to learn, this two-year commitment is a fantastic way to transition from business analyst to product management professional.    

Salary Comparison Between Business Analyst and Product Manager

Potential job titles and salary ranges for professionals within the BA career may be:

  • Business Analyst average salary (Entry-level) from $70, 000/year
  • Business Analyst average salary(Mid-Level) from $75,000/year
  • Senior Business Analyst average salary(Senior-Level) from $82,000/year

A starting position as a product manager may have an average starting salary a little bit higher than a BA job but product management positions can ultimately lead as high as the C-suite on par with CEOs and CFOs.

Potential product management positions and salaries are:

  • Associate Project Manager (entry-level) from $75,000/year
  • Product Manager (Mid-Level) from $90,000/year
  • Senior Product Manager (Senior) from $110,000/year
  • Director of Product Management (Director) from $140,000/year
  • VP of Product Management (Executive) from $170,000/year
  • Chief Product Officer (C-suite) from $190,000/year

Making the Transition

Competent, motivated employees wanting to transition from business analyst to product management positions can make the switch when they are ready to commit to a career change.  

Companies are always looking for nimble, energetic employees that want to improve their skillset and apply their knowledge and abilities in a new position because.

Candidates who also take the time to show management or hiring personnel how their talents and experience can transfer to a new role are likely to be recognized as motivated employees who could be a good fit as a candidate to fill a PM role.

A little intentional preparation and patience will help you successfully make the leap from spreadsheets to leading product decisions.

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