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Become A Principal Design Engineer

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Working As A Principal Design Engineer

  • Interacting With Computers
  • Getting Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Drafting, Laying Out, and Specifying Technical Devices, Parts, and Equipment
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Mostly Sitting

  • $115,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Principal Design Engineer Do

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, or power generation equipment. Electrical engineers also design the electrical systems of automobiles and aircraft.

Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, such as broadcast and communications systems, from portable music players to global positioning systems (GPSs). Many also work in areas closely related to computer hardware.

Duties

Electrical engineers typically do the following:

  • Design new ways to use electrical power to develop or improve products
  • Perform detailed calculations to develop manufacturing, construction, and installation standards and specifications
  • Direct the manufacture, installation, and testing of electrical equipment to ensure that products meet specifications and codes
  • Investigate complaints from customers or the public, evaluate problems, and recommend solutions
  • Work with project managers on production efforts to ensure that projects are completed satisfactorily, on time, and within budget

Electronics engineers typically do the following:

  • Design electronic components, software, products, or systems for commercial, industrial, medical, military, or scientific applications
  • Analyze customer needs and determine the requirements, capacity, and cost for developing an electrical system plan
  • Develop maintenance and testing procedures for electronic components and equipment
  • Evaluate systems and recommend design modifications or equipment repair
  • Inspect electronic equipment, instruments, and systems to make sure that they meet safety standards and applicable regulations
  • Plan and develop applications and modifications for electronic properties used in parts and systems in order to improve technical performance

Electronics engineers who work for the federal government research, develop, and evaluate electronic devices used in a variety of areas, such as aviation, computing, transportation, and manufacturing. They work on federal electronic devices and systems, including satellites, flight systems, radar and sonar systems, and communications systems.

The work of electrical engineers and electronics engineers is often similar. Both use engineering and design software and equipment to do engineering tasks. Both types of engineers also must work with other engineers to discuss existing products and possibilities for engineering projects.

Engineers whose work is related exclusively to computer hardware are considered computer hardware engineers.

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How To Become A Principal Design Engineer

Electrical and electronics engineers must have a bachelor’s degree. Employers also value practical experience, so participation in cooperative engineering programs, in which students earn academic credit for structured work experience. Having a Professional Engineer (PE) license may improve an engineer’s chances of finding employment.

Education

High school students interested in studying electrical or electronics engineering benefit from taking courses in physics and mathematics, including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. Courses in drafting are also helpful, because electrical and electronics engineers often are required to prepare technical drawings.

In order to enter the occupation, prospective electrical and electronics engineers need a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, electronics engineering, or electrical engineering technology. Programs include classroom, laboratory, and field studies. Courses include digital systems design, differential equations, and electrical circuit theory. Programs in electrical engineering, electronics engineering, or electrical engineering technology should be accredited by ABET.

Some colleges and universities offer cooperative programs in which students gain practical experience while completing their education. Cooperative programs combine classroom study with practical work. Internships provide similar experience and are growing in number.

At some universities, students can enroll in a 5-year program that leads to both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. A graduate degree allows an engineer to work as an instructor at some universities, or in research and development.

Important Qualities

Concentration. Electrical and electronics engineers design and develop complex electrical systems and electronic components and products. They must be able to keep track of multiple design elements and technical characteristics when performing these tasks.

Initiative. Electrical and electronics engineers must be able to apply their knowledge to new tasks in every project they undertake. In addition, they must engage in continuing education to keep up with changes in technology.

Interpersonal skills. Electrical and electronics engineers must be able to work with others during the manufacturing process to ensure that their plans are implemented correctly. This collaboration includes monitoring technicians and devising remedies to problems as they arise.

Math skills. Electrical and electronics engineers must be able to use the principles of calculus and other advanced math in order to analyze, design, and troubleshoot equipment.

Speaking skills. Electrical and electronics engineers work closely with other engineers and technicians. They must be able to explain their designs and reasoning clearly and to relay instructions during product development and production. They also may need to explain complex issues to customers who have little or no technical expertise.

Writing skills. Electrical and electronics engineers develop technical publications related to equipment they develop, including maintenance manuals, operation manuals, parts lists, product proposals, and design methods documents.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as electrical and electronics engineers. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam can be taken right after graduation from a college or university. Engineers who pass this exam commonly are called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After getting work experience, EITs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.

Several states require engineers to take continuing education courses to keep their license. Most states recognize licensure from other states if the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements.

Advancement

Electrical and electronic engineers may advance to supervisory positions in which they lead a team of engineers and technicians. Some may move to management positions, working as engineering or program managers. Preparation for managerial positions usually requires working under the guidance of a more experienced engineer. For more information, see the profile on architectural and engineering managers.

For sales work, an engineering background enables engineers to discuss a product's technical aspects and assist in product planning and use. For more information, see the profile on sales engineers.

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Principal Design Engineer Career Paths

Principal Design Engineer
Engineering Director
Director Of Manufacturing Engineering
15 Yearsyrs
Engineering Director Technical Director
Director Of Systems Engineering
12 Yearsyrs
Design Engineering Manager Project Manager
Engineering Director
13 Yearsyrs
Design Engineering Manager Project Manager Product Manager
Product Development Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Design Engineering Manager Engineering Manager
Senior Engineering Manager
12 Yearsyrs
Engineering Manager
Engineering Operations Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Engineering Manager Construction Manager Quality Control Manager
Research And Development Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Principal Designer Design Manager Project Manager/Design Manager
Project Engineering Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Principal Designer Design Manager
Design Engineering Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Principal Designer Design Manager Project Engineering Manager
Manager, Systems Engineering
9 Yearsyrs
Manager Co-Manager Unit Manager
Section Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Manager Production Manager Manufacturing Manager
Product Engineering Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Manager Project Manager Program/Project Manager
Custom Project Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Electrical Engineer Lead Lead Engineer Engineering Supervisor
Manufacturing Engineering Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Electrical Engineer Lead Lead Engineer Project Lead Engineer
Lead Engineer And Project Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Electrical Engineer Lead Lead Engineer Senior Engineering Technician
Engineering Laboratory Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Principal Software Engineer Principal Engineer Manufacturing Engineering Manager
Test Engineering Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Principal Software Engineer Principal Engineer Engineering Director
Director, Hardware Engineering
14 Yearsyrs
Principal Systems Engineer Senior Scientist Senior Research Engineer
Engineering Group Leader
7 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Principal Design Engineer?

Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Principal Engineer 4.9 years
Staff Engineer 4.2 years
Top Careers Before Principal Design Engineer
Engineer 3.6%
Consultant 2.8%
Top Careers After Principal Design Engineer
Consultant 8.0%
Engineer 3.0%

Do you work as a Principal Design Engineer?

Average Yearly Salary
$115,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$85,000
Min 10%
$115,000
Median 50%
$115,000
Median 50%
$115,000
Median 50%
$115,000
Median 50%
$115,000
Median 50%
$115,000
Median 50%
$115,000
Median 50%
$158,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Microsoft
Highest Paying City
Mountain View, CA
Highest Paying State
Texas
Avg Experience Level
5.1 years
How much does a Principal Design Engineer make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Principal Design Engineer in the United States is $116,106 per year or $56 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $85,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $158,000.

Real Principal Design Engineer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Principal Rfic Design Engineer Morfis Semiconductor, Inc. Irvine, CA Jun 29, 2016 $220,000
Principal Rfic Design Engineer Morfis Semiconductor, Inc. Irvine, CA Mar 28, 2016 $220,000
Principal Design Engineer Volant Holding, LLC New York, NY Sep 14, 2015 $200,000
Principal Design Engineer Volant Holding, LLC New York, NY Jul 22, 2016 $200,000
Principal Engineer of Microprocessor Design Spreadtrum Communications USA Inc. San Jose, CA Feb 22, 2016 $180,000
Engineer, SR. Principal-IC Design Broadcom Corporation San Jose, CA Dec 07, 2015 $174,431
Principal Design Engineer Arm, Inc. Austin, TX Nov 04, 2016 $168,540
Principal Design Engineer Arm, Inc. Austin, TX Aug 18, 2015 $168,540
Engineer, SR. Principal-IC Design Broadcom Corporation Santa Clara, CA Jan 09, 2016 $167,146
Principal Design Engineer Arm, Inc. Chandler, AZ Sep 14, 2016 $166,984
Engineer, Principal-IC Design Broadcom Corporation Santa Clara, CA Apr 29, 2016 $165,000
Engineer, SR. Principal-IC Design Broadcom Corporation San Jose, CA Feb 22, 2016 $165,000
Engineer, SR. Principal-IC Design Broadcom Corporation Santa Clara, CA Nov 28, 2015 $164,047
Engineer, SR. Principal-IC Design Broadcom Corporation San Diego, CA Jan 09, 2016 $163,506
Engineer, Senior Principal-IC Design Broadcom Corporation Irvine, CA Oct 14, 2015 $146,000
Principal Design Engineer Applied Micro Circuits Corporation Sunnyvale, CA Feb 05, 2015 $145,881
Engineer, Principal-IC Design Broadcom Corporation Sunnyvale, CA Mar 16, 2016 $145,392
Engineer, Principal-IC Design Broadcom Corporation Santa Clara, CA May 05, 2016 $145,392
Engineer, Principal-Systems Design Broadcom Corporation Sunnyvale, CA Jul 03, 2016 $145,392
Engineer, Principal-Systems Design Broadcom Corporation Santa Clara, CA Aug 01, 2015 $145,000
Principal Design Engineer Cadence Design Systems, Inc. San Jose, CA Nov 12, 2015 $145,000 -
$174,200
Engineer, Principal-IC Design Broadcom Corporation Irvine, CA Dec 27, 2016 $145,000
Principal Design Engineer (Technical Lead) Cypress Semiconductor Corporation Lynnwood, WA Mar 21, 2016 $134,000
Principal Design Engineer (Technical Lead) Cypress Semiconductor Corporation Lynnwood, WA Sep 27, 2016 $134,000
Principal Engineer, Systems Design & Strategy T-Mobile USA, Inc. Bellevue, WA Jun 01, 2016 $133,900
Engineer, Principal-IC Design Broadcom Corporation Irvine, CA Feb 26, 2016 $133,385
Principal Design Engineer Jabil Circuit, Inc. McLean, VA Jan 12, 2016 $133,300 -
$182,800
Principal Design Engineer Cadence Design Systems, Inc. Cary, NC Nov 01, 2016 $132,994 -
$162,630
Principal Design Engineer Cadence Design Systems, Inc. Cary, NC May 11, 2015 $132,500 -
$162,630

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Top Skills for A Principal Design Engineer

  1. Fpga
  2. Analog
  3. IP
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Generated LCCA requirements, specification, test plan, and lay out instruction for the board and CPLD/FPGA.
  • Developed analog and digital circuitry for patient monitoring devices.
  • Provided Engineering support for automated assembly/inspection equipment, zinc and plastic die-cast parts and machined parts.
  • Developed IBM Services Support & Systems Engineering Support.
  • Participate in writing ASIC characterization and production test procedures.

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Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Principal Design Engineers

  1. Texas
  2. Massachusetts
  3. New Mexico
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Washington
  6. Alaska
  7. California
  8. Rhode Island
  9. District of Columbia
  10. Virginia
  • (2,479 jobs)
  • (1,364 jobs)
  • (152 jobs)
  • (347 jobs)
  • (1,160 jobs)
  • (46 jobs)
  • (7,086 jobs)
  • (92 jobs)
  • (288 jobs)
  • (1,614 jobs)

Principal Design Engineer Demographics

Gender

Male

81.0%

Unknown

10.8%

Female

8.2%
Ethnicity

White

51.2%

Asian

20.4%

Hispanic or Latino

14.3%

Black or African American

7.6%

Unknown

6.5%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

40.0%

French

13.3%

Chinese

6.7%

German

6.7%

Ilocano

6.7%

Japanese

6.7%

Carrier

6.7%

Tagalog

6.7%

Italian

6.7%
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Principal Design Engineer Education

Schools

Arizona State University

11.2%

Northeastern University

10.4%

University of Massachusetts - Lowell

6.0%

San Jose State University

5.2%

Stanford University

5.2%

University of Southern California

5.2%

New Jersey Institute of Technology

5.2%

University of Florida

4.5%

Georgia Institute of Technology -

4.5%

Iowa State University

4.5%

Michigan State University

4.5%

University of Texas at Austin

4.5%

North Carolina State University

3.7%

Pennsylvania State University

3.7%

Johns Hopkins University

3.7%

University of Houston

3.7%

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

3.7%

Texas A&M University

3.7%

Cornell University

3.7%

Syracuse University

3.0%
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Majors

Electrical Engineering

42.2%

Mechanical Engineering

12.7%

Computer Engineering

9.4%

Business

5.7%

Engineering

5.7%

Computer Science

3.5%

Civil Engineering

2.2%

Drafting And Design

2.0%

Management

1.8%

Electrical Engineering Technology

1.8%

Graphic Design

1.8%

Physics

1.8%

Biomedical Engineering

1.5%

Engineering And Industrial Management

1.5%

Computer Networking

1.3%

Materials Science And Engineering

1.3%

Finance

1.1%

Aerospace Engineering

1.1%

Chemical Engineering

0.9%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

0.9%
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Degrees

Masters

37.4%

Bachelors

35.4%

Other

12.1%

Doctorate

9.0%

Associate

3.5%

Certificate

2.0%

Diploma

0.6%
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Top Principal Design Engineer Employers

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Principal Design Engineer Videos

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