Become a Director of Product Development

Jul 14, 2018

Find out how to become a director of product development. Explore the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you'll need to advance your career in product development.

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  • 0:00 Directors of Product…
  • 0:56 Career Skills & Info
  • 1:43 Step 1: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2:46 Step 2: Entry-Level Work
  • 3:03 Step 3: Director's Position

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Directors of Product Development

Product developers, also known as commercial and industrial designers, create everything from cars to toys. They need a combination of artistic talent and business acumen, along with an awareness of products and understanding of materials. Directors of product development oversee the design, redesign, and implementation of products. They manage teams and evaluate user needs, in addition to matching their staff's product designs with business considerations, such as cost limitations and marketing data.

Most times, directors of product development work in an office environment, though they might also travel to testing facilities, exhibit sites, and product manufacturing facilities. They might have to work evening hours to accommodate meetings with potential clients or product users.

Career Skills & Info

Key skills for directors of product development include creativity and those related to critical thinking and problem-solving. A familiarity with computer-aided design (CAD), graphic design, and video creation software programs is also important. Directors of product development should understand how to look at blueprints and technical design plans. A knowledge of engineering principles, production processes, and related production machines is also key to working in the field. According to, in October 2016 directors of product development earned a median annual salary of $119,000. Next, we'll discuss the educational requirements for aspiring product developers.

Step 1: Bachelor's Degree

Beginning a career in product development usually requires a bachelor's degree in commercial, industrial, or product design; architecture; or engineering. Majors in business and marketing can also help students prepare for a career in this field.

Coursework in product development can help students learn how to analyze and forecast market trends. Communications courses that focus on interpersonal communication and writing skills can also help them develop the skills necessary to build relationships with both team members and customers.

Success Tips:

  • Create a design portfolio. A portfolio that showcases a student's best design projects can be used to demonstrate his or her abilities to prospective employers and clients.
  • Develop computer skills. Prospective product developers, particularly those in commercial and industrial design, need to be proficient in a variety of software programs, including CAD and computer-aided industrial design (CAID).

Step 2: Entry-Level Work

Nearly all companies that sell a product have some form of product development department. Prospective directors of product development may begin their careers as marketing specialists, while others, depending upon their expertise, may work as part of an engineering or production team.

Step 3: Director's Position

Directors of product development may find positions in companies that create technological products or those that design jewelry or watches. Experience requirements can vary from 2-3 years as a team leader to up to 10-12 years as a manager. Once employed, directors of product development are responsible for monitoring trends, overseeing production, and meeting product demands. Experienced designers at larger firms may be promoted to supervisory positions, such as chief designer or design department head. Working for a small firm may provide similar opportunities.

Success Tips:

  • Consider self-employment. Going into business as a self-employed product developer is one way to establish a reputation for an individual specialty and advance in the field.
  • Consider a Master of Business Administration. Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs are designed to help students understand complex business concepts, such as project bidding, in order to create successful and competitive business plans. Some schools may have MBA programs specifically designed for product developers, such as a management of innovation and product development track.
  • Consider a Master of Product Design Development. Master of Product Design Development programs typically last a year and cover topics in field-relevant materials and design, innovative methodologies, and integrated product development. Graduate students may also take courses in communication, team building, and organizational behavior.

Let's review. You'll need a bachelor's degree in commercial, industrial, or product design, or another relevant field, like architecture or engineering, and substantial experience in the field to qualify for a job as a director of product development. The median yearly salary for a director as of October 2016, was $119,000.

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