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Become A Principal Engineer

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Working As A Principal Engineer

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

  • Make Decisions

  • $113,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Principal Engineer Do

Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers research, design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

Duties

Mechanical engineers typically do the following:

  • Analyze problems to see how mechanical and thermal devices might help solve a particular problem
  • Design or redesign mechanical and thermal devices or subsystems, using analysis and computer-aided design
  • Develop and test prototypes of devices they design
  • Analyze the test results and change the design or system as needed
  • Oversee the manufacturing process for the device

Mechanical engineers design and oversee the manufacture of many products ranging from medical devices to new batteries.

Mechanical engineers design power-producing machines, such as electric generators, internal combustion engines, and steam and gas turbines, as well as power-using machines, such as refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.

Mechanical engineers design other machines inside buildings, such as elevators and escalators. They also design material-handling systems, such as conveyor systems and automated transfer stations.

Like other engineers, mechanical engineers use computers extensively. Mechanical engineers are routinely responsible for the integration of sensors, controllers, and machinery. Computer technology helps mechanical engineers create and analyze designs, run simulations and test how a machine is likely to work, interact with connected systems, and generate specifications for parts.

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How To Become A Principal Engineer

Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. Mechanical engineers who sell services publicly must be licensed in all states and the District of Columbia.

Education

Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. Mechanical engineering programs usually include courses in mathematics and life and physical sciences, as well as engineering and design courses. Mechanical engineering technology programs focus less on theory and more on the practical application of engineering principles. They may emphasize internships and co-ops to prepare students for work in industry.

Some colleges and universities offer 5-year programs that allow students to obtain both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Some 5-year or even 6-year cooperative plans combine classroom study with practical work, enabling students to gain valuable experience and earn money to finance part of their education.

ABET accredits programs in engineering and engineering technology. Most employers prefer to hire students from an accredited program. A degree from an ABET-accredited program is usually necessary to become a licensed professional engineer.

Important Qualities

Creativity. Mechanical engineers design and build complex pieces of equipment and machinery. A creative mind is essential for this kind of work.

Listening skills. Mechanical engineers often work on projects with others, such as architects and computer scientists. They must listen to and analyze different approaches made by other experts to complete the task at hand.

Math skills. Mechanical engineers use the principles of calculus, statistics, and other advanced subjects in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.

Mechanical skills. Mechanical skills allow engineers to apply basic engineering concepts and mechanical processes to the design of new devices and systems.

Problem-solving skills. Mechanical engineers need good problem-solving skills to take scientific discoveries and use them to design and build useful products.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a mechanical engineer. 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, typically at least 4 years
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering.

Several states require engineers to take continuing education to renew their licenses every year. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the other state’s licensing requirements meet or exceed their own licensing requirements.

Several professional organizations offer a variety of certification programs for engineers to demonstrate competency in specific fields of mechanical engineering.

Advancement

A Ph.D. is essential for engineering faculty positions in higher education, as well as for some research and development programs. Mechanical engineers may earn graduate degrees in engineering or business administration to learn new technology, broaden their education, and enhance their project management skills. Mechanical engineers may become administrators or managers after obtaining the requisite experience.

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Principal Engineer Jobs

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Principal Engineer Career Paths

Principal Engineer
Project Manager Engineering Director
Senior Director Of Engineering
15 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Information Technology Director Chief Technology Officer
President & Chief Technology Officer
13 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Senior Project Manager
Director Of Software Development
12 Yearsyrs
Engineering Manager
Manager, Systems Engineering
9 Yearsyrs
Engineering Manager Information Technology Project Manager Engineering Program Manager
Senior Program And Engineering Manager
13 Yearsyrs
Manager Production Manager Engineering Manager
Director Of Manufacturing Engineering
15 Yearsyrs
Project Engineering Manager
Plant Engineering Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Project Engineering Manager Technical Project Manager
Technical Product Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Project Engineering Manager Plant Engineering Manager Manufacturing Engineering Manager
Product Engineering Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Manufacturing Engineering Manager
Test Engineering Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Lead Mechanical Engineer
Mechanical Engineering Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Lead Systems Engineer
Lead Engineer And Project Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Principal Engineer Lead Engineer Senior Engineering Technician
Engineering Laboratory Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Team Lead Engineer Engineering Supervisor Senior Process Engineer
Engineering Group Leader
7 Yearsyrs
Supervisor Unit Manager Section Manager
Manager Of Engineering Department
7 Yearsyrs
Team Lead Engineer Senior Engineering Technician Senior Design Engineer
Senior Engineering Team Leader
8 Yearsyrs
Technical Manager Manufacturing Manager Product Engineering Manager
Global Engineering Manager
11 Yearsyrs
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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Principal Engineer 5.0 years
Principle Engineer 4.5 years
Senior Engineer 4.3 years
Staff Engineer 4.2 years
Lead Engineer 3.4 years
Team Lead Engineer 3.3 years
Top Careers Before Principal Engineer
Engineer 8.2%
Consultant 4.4%
Top Careers After Principal Engineer
Consultant 9.4%
Engineer 5.1%
Manager 3.5%

Do you work as a Principal Engineer?

Principal Engineer Demographics

Gender

Male

82.1%

Unknown

10.2%

Female

7.7%
Ethnicity

White

53.2%

Asian

18.8%

Hispanic or Latino

13.2%

Black or African American

9.3%

Unknown

5.4%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

27.4%

German

11.9%

Carrier

8.3%

Chinese

8.3%

French

6.5%

Italian

6.5%

Japanese

6.0%

Russian

5.4%

Mandarin

4.2%

Korean

3.6%

Arabic

2.4%

Vietnamese

1.8%

Portuguese

1.8%

Hindi

1.2%

Ukrainian

1.2%

Dakota

1.2%

Swedish

0.6%

Turkish

0.6%

Dutch

0.6%

Finnish

0.6%
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Principal Engineer Education

Schools

Northeastern University

8.8%

Pennsylvania State University

6.6%

Georgia Institute of Technology -

6.1%

University of Phoenix

5.9%

Purdue University

5.6%

University of California - Berkeley

5.4%

Johns Hopkins University

5.4%

University of Massachusetts - Lowell

5.0%

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

4.9%

Arizona State University

4.7%

University of Houston

4.7%

New Jersey Institute of Technology

4.5%

University of Texas at Austin

4.5%

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

4.5%

University of Florida

4.2%

George Washington University

3.9%

Stanford University

3.8%

University of Southern California

3.8%

San Jose State University

3.8%

Texas A&M University

3.5%
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Majors

Electrical Engineering

25.9%

Mechanical Engineering

15.3%

Computer Science

11.3%

Business

8.7%

Civil Engineering

6.2%

Computer Engineering

5.5%

Chemical Engineering

4.0%

Engineering

3.3%

Physics

3.2%

Management

2.5%

Engineering And Industrial Management

2.0%

Mathematics

1.9%

Finance

1.6%

Electrical Engineering Technology

1.5%

Computer Information Systems

1.5%

Aerospace Engineering

1.2%

Project Management

1.2%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

1.1%

Chemistry

1.1%

Information Technology

1.0%
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Degrees

Bachelors

37.3%

Masters

36.9%

Doctorate

12.0%

Other

9.1%

Associate

2.1%

Certificate

2.0%

Diploma

0.7%

License

0.1%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$113,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$86,000
Min 10%
$113,000
Median 50%
$113,000
Median 50%
$113,000
Median 50%
$113,000
Median 50%
$113,000
Median 50%
$113,000
Median 50%
$113,000
Median 50%
$147,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Nvidia
Highest Paying City
San Francisco, CA
Highest Paying State
Washington
Avg Experience Level
4.9 years
How much does a Principal Engineer make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Principal Engineer in the United States is $113,208 per year or $54 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $86,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $147,000.

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 Yourpeople, Inc. San Francisco, CA May 27, 2016 $225,000
Principal Security Engineering Architect Informatica LLC Redwood City, CA Jun 13, 2016 $215,000
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 -
$245,300
Principal Engineer Futurewei Technologies, Inc. San Diego, CA Sep 30, 2016 $200,000
Principal Engineer Paddle8 Inc. New York, NY Sep 26, 2016 $200,000
Principal Engineer Mattermark, Inc. San Francisco, CA Feb 24, 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 Tessera Intellectual Property Corporation San Jose, CA Jan 23, 2016 $190,000
Principal Cloud Engineer Ruckus Wireless, Inc. Sunnyvale, CA Jul 13, 2015 $190,000
Principal Engineer DET Norske Veritas (U.S.A.), Inc. Katy, TX Aug 07, 2015 $139,164
Principal Engineer, Security MacYs.com, Inc. San Francisco, CA Aug 03, 2015 $138,445 -
$200,000
Principal Engineer XULU, Inc. San Francisco, CA Nov 04, 2016 $138,445 -
$150,000
Principal Engineer Pinterest, Inc. San Francisco, CA Jun 09, 2016 $138,362
Principal Engineer Autodesk, Inc. San Francisco, CA May 13, 2016 $138,362
Principal Engineer Lendingclub Corporation San Francisco, CA Aug 09, 2016 $138,362
Principal Engineer Successfactors, Inc. South San Francisco, CA Nov 05, 2016 $138,362 -
$155,000
Principal Engineer Here North America, LLC Burlington, MA Sep 20, 2016 $138,200 -
$174,447
Principal Engineer Emulex Corporation Austin, TX Jul 10, 2015 $119,746 -
$154,816
Principal Engineer Samsung Austin Semiconductor, LLC Austin, TX Dec 02, 2016 $119,745 -
$141,169
Principal Engineer, SQE Omnicell, Inc. Mountain View, CA Jul 07, 2016 $119,350
Principal Engineer DET Norske Veritas (U.S.A.), Inc. Katy, TX Aug 29, 2015 $119,328 -
$170,000
Principal Engineer Analog Devices Inc. Chelmsford, MA Sep 21, 2015 $119,246 -
$139,500
Principal I&C Engineer I CB&I Inc. Houston, TX Apr 28, 2016 $119,059
Principal Engineer Cavium, Inc. San Jose, CA Aug 07, 2016 $119,055 -
$129,055
Principal Engineer Cavium, Inc. San Jose, CA Jul 08, 2016 $119,055 -
$129,055

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Top Skills for A Principal Engineer

  1. Business Development
  2. Architecture
  3. Platform
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Guided new business development activities involving ventures into the CD-R, medical imaging, computer-to-plate and photo initiator markets.
  • Provided evaluation and direction in both operational processes and technical network architectures.
  • Worked on integration of equipment onto different vehicle platforms including remote controlled and semi-autonomous.
  • Project management, including scheduling and resource assignments through engineering implementation and coding.
  • Developed powered, non-destructive testing equipment for service in the power generation industry.

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Top 10 Best States for Principal Engineers

  1. Washington
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Massachusetts
  4. New Mexico
  5. Texas
  6. Colorado
  7. Idaho
  8. District of Columbia
  9. Rhode Island
  10. Virginia
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  • (609 jobs)
  • (2,654 jobs)
  • (340 jobs)
  • (5,708 jobs)
  • (2,134 jobs)
  • (174 jobs)
  • (649 jobs)
  • (211 jobs)
  • (3,255 jobs)

Top Principal Engineer Employers

Jobs From Top Principal Engineer Employers

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