Table of Contents

Software Product Manager VS Hardware Product Manager: What’s the Difference?

Whether you are already a Product Manager or you are just getting into product management, you will want to know the difference between hardware and software product management to decide which is the best fit for you. Depending on your goals as a Product Manager, you may be more interested in salary differences or the comparison of day-to-day life of both product management positions. If you are looking to transition from hardware product management to software product management, we can show you what that may look like as well. 

What’s the Biggest Difference?

In both hardware and software product management, mistakes are bound to happen. The biggest difference between the two is the cost of those mistakes. Unfortunately, your mistakes as a hardware Product Manager are going to be much more expensive than mistakes made as a software Product Manager.

The job market for both hardware and software product management is another major difference to consider. There are more software product management jobs available than hardware product management jobs. Similar to the difference in mistake costs, the difference in job market is also related to the expense of hardware products. 

Hardware product ideas require much more funding to get started than software product ideas. Additionally, the cost of manufacturing is significantly more expensive on the hardware side. Most of the time in hardware product management there is still a software component to the product. For example, a fitness smart-watch may be a hardware product, but the app used to track your activity and set your goals is a software product. This product idea would require both hardware and software product management. These differing costs between hardware and software contribute of the cost of mistakes and the number of jobs available in both markets. 

What’s the Salary Difference?

The salary of a hardware Product Manager is pretty comparable to that of a software Product Manager. The caveat is the barrier to entry as a hardware Product Manager. As our senior members have proved after completing our program, you can break into software product management from any field.

It does not matter if you have product management experience or coding know-how because a lot of what you do as a software Product Manager requires soft skills such as understanding the customer and managing stakeholder expectations. We will teach you how to market yourself, and the education and experience you do have, to land that software Product Management job. 

While breaking into hardware product management is possible, it is a bit more difficult. It could even cost you more money in the way of education and certifications. Most people who become hardware Product Managers have some sort of educational engineering background. However, nothing is impossible and we have certainly helped people into hardware product management positions as well. 

Being that the salaries are about the same as both a hardware and software Product Manager, one big question to ask yourself would be, “which problems will you have more fun solving?” When salary does not work as a tie-breaker for deciding which product management position is right for you, enjoyment and fulfillment can.

If you’re choosing between a hardware vs software company to work for, consider the company culture, the team of people you’d be working with, and the product itself: is it something you’re passionate about? All of these factors will play into your sense of fulfillment on the job, regardless of whether you’re in software or hardware.

How to Transition From Hardware to Software Product Management

Oftentimes, the people who are researching the difference between software and hardware product management are current hardware Product Managers who are looking to transition into software. These Product Managers are usually experiencing imposter syndrome and are unsure if they can move from hardware to software successfully. Realistically, your experience as a hardware Product Manager is much more aligned with software product management than members who are coming from backgrounds in analytics and customer success. You are already familiar with the day to day tasks of a Product Manager.

The key to becoming a software Product Manager, regardless of what field you are coming from, is to set up your resume to highlight your relevant skills. It is so important to play to your strengths when applying and interviewing for product management jobs. Similarly to the way you will solve problems as a Product Manager, you need to look for what you do have to offer instead of focusing on what you may lack.

Schedule a free call with us to do a skills, background, and experience assessment. Our career coaches will help you identify what to highlight, what to work on, and where to best spend your time so that you can land the Product Manager job of your dreams.