Careers In Electronics Logo

Principal Engineer

Ever been to a mountain climbing adventure where you, along with the team, follow an experienced lead? You can think of the team lead as the principal engineer who leads a group of new and experienced engineers throughout the project. 

They inspect and manage resources and budget, communicate the progress and put all their efforts to increase profitability.

They are the science people who practice the art of managing their team and project and complete project within provided resources. So many engineers pursue a master’s in management sciences to polish their administrative skills, but that’s not a must; instead, most principal engineers earn higher degrees in their relevant field.

Principal Engineer

What does a Principal Engineer do?

Principal Engineer

A principal engineer is a highly experienced engineer who oversees a variety of projects from start to finish. Since they have been in their field for a while, they tend to take on more of a leadership role where they offer support and guidance to their team members.

A principal engineer is responsible for monitoring the overall design phase of the construction process, including coordinating with the client for progress and updates, as well as performing adjustments as needed based on clients’ specifications and requirements. 

Principal engineers also inspect the materials and resources used to ensure that the project stays within the budget goals and set timeframe. They should have excellent communication and organizational skills, especially in preparing reports and training new staff.

  • Team Management

    Principal engineers work with engineering teams to oversee warranty reviews and product return reviews. They schedule engineering meetings to discuss new ideas, issues and status.

  • Analysis Knowledge

    They evaluate existing engineering processes and recommend improvements. They may also recommend new technologies to improve system performance and reliability.

  • Project Management

    Principal engineers provide technical guidance in planning and executing assigned projects. They also participate in project analysis, design, implementations and commissioning phases.

  • Provide Support

    These engineers provide support in system acceptance testing and validation activities. They prepare user requirements, technical specifications, design specifications and commissioning plans.

Senior Principal Engineer

As a senior principal engineer, you will deliver products and improvements for the changing world. You will also serve as the testing consultant to be an IT leader in the organization and functional user groups. You will be in charge of changes in methodology, architecture, or programming procedures. You will also act as the prime consultant on large projects that affect the organization’s long-term goals and objectives. Similarly, you will acquire detailed specifications from business users and development to ascertain specific output.

Staff Engineer

Staff engineers are professionals who occupy a leadership role in a variety of industries. They are responsible for managing and providing technical assistance to other engineers. They also frequently provide mentorship to junior engineering staff, using extensive experience to manage the prioritization, development and completion of technology projects. Staff engineers may coordinate several projects at the same time, typically under their area of expertise such as civil, mechanical, industrial or electrical engineering.

Research Engineer

Research engineers develop, investigate and evaluate new products and equipment to be used in engineering industries. They are involved in a wide range of research activities and the development of new technologies. They are also responsible for improving existing technical processes and creating new innovative technologies. Research Engineers find improvement solutions in response to specific problems.




Principal engineers earn an average yearly salary of $132,000.

0 - 1 Years

Starting-level principal engineer earnings begin at:

$47 per hour
$97,000 per year
7 - 9 Years

Senior-level principal engineer earnings begin at:

$74 per hour
$154,000 per year
4 - 6 Years

Mid-level principal engineer earnings begin at:

$64 per hour
$132,282 per year
10+ Years

Top-level principal engineer earnings begin at:

$86 per hour
$178,000 per year
1 - 3 Years

Junior-level principal engineer earnings begin at:

$54 per hour
$112,000 per year

These are 2021 national salary averages and may fluctuate based on location.

What does the workplace for a Principal Engineer look like?

Most principal engineers work in offices, although some may also work in research laboratories and industrial production plants or at construction sites. Most electrical engineering and engineering managers work full time and some work more than 40 hours a week. These managers are often under considerable pressure to meet deadlines and budgets. 

How to Become an Principal Engineer?

Principal Engineer

Principal engineers must have at least a bachelor’s degree in their field of engineering. During your undergraduate program, you will learn engineering fundamentals, advanced mathematics and physics. Your program may also involve more hands-on experiences that allow you to fully immerse yourself into your particular field of engineering. 

While it may not be necessary to get the job, you may choose to also earn a master’s degree or even a doctoral degree. When earning additional education, you can show employers that you are a true expert in your field. By specializing in your knowledge of engineering, you can more effectively lead projects and solve problems.

You may find that experience in other jobs will help you become a principal engineer. In fact, many principal engineer jobs require experience in a role such as senior engineer. Meanwhile, many principal engineers also have previous career experience in roles such as senior software engineer or software engineer.

Similar Careers

Subscribe to become an industry insider!

© 2023 Careers In Electronics

Powered by IPC Education Foundation

Terms & Conditions