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Become A Principal Engineer

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Working As A Principal Engineer

  • Interacting With Computers
  • Getting Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Mostly Sitting

  • $110,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Principal Engineer Do

A Principal Engineer leads the engineering projects for an organization. They are responsible for ensuring that the projects are completed in a cost-effective and timely manner.

How To Become A Principal 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.


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.


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 Engineer jobs

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Real Principal Engineer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Principal Engineer Coriant Advanced Technology, LLC San Bruno, CA Apr 04, 2016 $313,050
Principal Engineer Coriant Advanced Technology, LLC Scottsdale, AZ Apr 04, 2016 $313,050
Principal Engineer Process BW Offshore USA Management Inc. Houston, TX Feb 02, 2015 $260,000 -
Principal Engineer Yourpeople, Inc. San Francisco, CA May 27, 2016 $225,000
Principal Engineer Samsung Semiconductor, Inc. San Diego, CA Aug 26, 2016 $209,937
Principal Engineer Cisco Systems, Inc. San Jose, CA May 25, 2016 $200,000 -
Principal Engineer Mattermark, Inc. San Francisco, CA Feb 24, 2016 $200,000
Principal Engineer Paddle8 Inc. New York, NY Sep 26, 2016 $200,000
Principal Engineer Futurewei Technologies, Inc. San Diego, CA Sep 30, 2016 $200,000
Principal Engineer Shoretel, Inc. New York, NY Dec 31, 2015 $195,500
Principal Red Team Engineer Palo Alto Networks, Inc. Santa Clara, CA Aug 08, 2016 $192,000
Principal Engineer Flexton, Inc. San Francisco, CA Sep 08, 2016 $190,000
Principal Engineer Autodesk, Inc. San Francisco, CA Aug 29, 2016 $139,473
Principal Engineer DET Norske Veritas (U.S.A.), Inc. Katy, TX Aug 07, 2015 $139,164
Platform Software Principal Engineer Dell Products L.P. Austin, TX Sep 16, 2016 $139,000
Principal Engineer In Test Blue Talon, Inc. Redwood City, CA Jan 02, 2016 $138,445 -
Principal Engineer In Test Blue Talon Data Systems, Inc. Redwood City, CA Jan 21, 2016 $138,445 -
Principal Engineer XULU, Inc. San Francisco, CA Nov 04, 2016 $138,445 -
Principal Engineer In Test Bluetalon, Inc. Redwood City, CA Feb 02, 2016 $138,445 -
Principal Engineer, Security MacYs.Com, Inc. San Francisco, CA Aug 03, 2015 $138,445 -
Principal Engineer 1-Software (Oracle BRM) Hughes Network Systems LLC Germantown, MD Oct 12, 2015 $120,000
Principal Engineer, Software Carefusion Resources, LLC San Diego, CA Jul 19, 2016 $119,915
Principal Engineer, Software Carefusion Resources, LLC San Diego, CA Jul 19, 2016 $119,915
Principal Engineer-Software Devlpmt (Lead System Consultant) MCI Communications Services Irving, TX Nov 17, 2016 $119,758
Principal Engineer Emulex Corporation Austin, TX Jul 10, 2015 $119,746 -
Principal Engineer Samsung Austin Semiconductor, LLC Austin, TX Dec 02, 2016 $119,745 -
Principal Engineer, Software Quality Omnicell, Inc. Mountain View, CA Feb 05, 2016 $119,626
Principal Engineer, SQE Omnicell, Inc. Mountain View, CA Jul 07, 2016 $119,350

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Top Skills for A Principal Engineer


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Top Principal Engineer Skills

  1. Product Development
  2. Hardware
  3. Architecture
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Worked across multiple development teams and business units and spear headed efforts across product development and product strategy and business stakeholders.
  • Directed a team of 15 in hardware development and installed based engineering of a large Distributed Control System.
  • Designed the entire subsystem which included the subsystem architecture, requirements, interfaces and the actual component design.
  • Developed marketing collateral, trained Sales and developed platform cost models for quote database.
  • Integrate government procurement of plant and safety system components.

Top Principal Engineer Employers

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