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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

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 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 Engineer jobs

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Principal Engineer Career Paths

Principal Engineer
Senior Manager Director Of Information
Chief Information Officer
11 Yearsyrs
Senior Project Manager Program Director Operations Director
Chief Operating Officer
11 Yearsyrs
Engineering Director Vice President Of Engineering
Chief Technology Officer
11 Yearsyrs
Principal Consultant Senior Manager
Director Of Information
10 Yearsyrs
Product Manager Sales Manager Director Of Sales
Director Of Sales, Americas
13 Yearsyrs
Principal Consultant Solutions Architect Program Manager
Engineering Director
13 Yearsyrs
Chief Technology Officer Chief Executive Officer Project Leader
Engineering Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Vice President Of Engineering General Manager Account Manager
Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Project Manager Senior Product Manager
Product Management Director
12 Yearsyrs
Vice President Of Engineering Chief Technology Officer Technical Consultant
Product Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Chief Engineer Project Manager
Program Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Architect Project Manager Engineering Manager
Senior Engineering Manager
12 Yearsyrs
Chief Technology Officer Technical Consultant Information Technology Manager
Senior Information Technology Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Principal Systems Engineer Program Manager
Senior Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Engineering Director Senior Project Manager
Senior Product Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Information Technology Project Manager
Senior Project Manager
12 Yearsyrs
Senior Manager Marketing Director General Manager
Vice President & General Manager
12 Yearsyrs
Chief Engineer Engineering Director
Vice President Of Engineering
13 Yearsyrs
Product Manager Director Of Product Development
Vice President Product Development
12 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Business Developer
Vice President, Business Development
13 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Advisory Engineer 6.5 years
Principal Engineer 5.0 years
Marine Engineer 5.0 years
Aerospace Engineer 4.6 years
Principle Engineer 4.5 years
Nuclear Engineer 4.4 years
Staff Engineer 4.3 years
Senior Engineer 4.3 years
Head Engineer 3.8 years
Optical Engineer 3.5 years
Lead Engineer 3.4 years
Team Lead Engineer 3.4 years
Controls Engineer 3.4 years
Firmware Engineer 3.3 years
Advanced Engineer 3.3 years
Microwave Engineer 3.3 years
Engineer 3.2 years
Division Engineer 3.2 years
Software Engineer 3.2 years
Station Engineer 3.0 years
Signal Engineer 2.9 years
Research Engineer 2.9 years
Device Engineer 2.8 years
Junior Engineer 2.1 years
Top Employers Before
Engineer 7.7%
Consultant 4.8%
Top Employers After
Consultant 9.0%
Engineer 4.7%
Manager 3.2%

Principal Engineer Demographics

Gender

Male

86.7%

Female

8.0%

Unknown

5.3%
Ethnicity

White

68.3%

Asian

19.4%

Hispanic or Latino

8.1%

Unknown

3.5%

Black or African American

0.7%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

23.4%

German

12.0%

Carrier

10.2%

French

8.4%

Italian

7.2%

Japanese

6.6%

Chinese

6.0%

Russian

5.4%

Korean

4.2%

Mandarin

3.6%

Arabic

2.4%

Vietnamese

1.8%

Dakota

1.8%

Hindi

1.2%

Ukrainian

1.2%

Portuguese

1.2%

Gothic

1.2%

Polish

1.2%

Swedish

0.6%

Turkish

0.6%
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Principal Engineer Education

Schools

Northeastern University

9.9%

Johns Hopkins University

6.6%

University of Phoenix

6.4%

Georgia Institute of Technology -

6.2%

Pennsylvania State University

6.0%

University of Massachusetts - Lowell

5.7%

Purdue University

5.3%

University of California - Berkeley

4.9%

Arizona State University

4.9%

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

4.8%

University of Southern California

4.5%

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

4.5%

Carnegie Mellon University

4.1%

Rochester Institute of Technology

3.9%

University of Houston

3.9%

University of Texas at Austin

3.8%

University of Florida

3.8%

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

3.6%

George Washington University

3.6%

University of California - Los Angeles

3.6%
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Majors

Electrical Engineering

26.1%

Mechanical Engineering

15.0%

Computer Science

11.2%

Business

9.2%

Civil Engineering

5.5%

Computer Engineering

4.9%

Chemical Engineering

4.1%

Engineering

3.3%

Physics

3.3%

Management

2.4%

Mathematics

2.2%

Engineering And Industrial Management

2.0%

Computer Information Systems

1.9%

Finance

1.6%

Electrical Engineering Technology

1.4%

Project Management

1.3%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

1.3%

Chemistry

1.2%

Aerospace Engineering

1.1%

Computer Networking

1.1%
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Degrees

Masters

38.3%

Bachelors

36.7%

Doctorate

11.3%

Other

9.0%

Certificate

2.1%

Associate

1.9%

Diploma

0.6%

License

0.0%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

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 Mattermark, Inc. San Francisco, CA Feb 24, 2016 $200,000
Principal Engineer Cisco Systems, Inc. San Jose, CA May 25, 2016 $200,000 -
$245,300
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 Tessera Intellectual Property Corporation San Jose, CA Jan 23, 2016 $190,000
Principal Engineer Tessera Intellectual Property Corporation San Jose, CA Nov 01, 2016 $190,000
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 Lendingclub Corporation San Francisco, CA Aug 09, 2016 $138,362
Principal Engineer Autodesk, Inc. San Francisco, CA May 13, 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 Navteq North America, LLC Burlington, MA Feb 09, 2015 $138,000
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

ProductDevelopmentHardwareArchitecturePlatformSafetyWindowsFacilityProjectManagementRFWebReliabilityRLinuxSQLServerC/C++SoftwareDevelopmentCADTcp/IpFpgaTechnicalSupport

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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

Principal Engineer Videos

John - Amazon Senior Principal Engineer

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Career Advice on becoming a Manufacturing Engineer by Lloyd M (Full Version)

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