Principal scientists are responsible for planning and performing experiments and investigations. They mostly operate from laboratories and are expected to maintain a high degree of scientific prowess.

Principal scientists perform experiments in areas such as medical research, geoscience, biological research, chemistry research, or pharmacology. The ultimate objective for a principal scientist is to provide new information or to explain reasons for various phenomena.

Principal scientists work closely with professionals in their field of work. They can work in universities, government laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, research organizations, chemical companies, or environmental agencies.

Successful principal scientists must have excellent communication skills, research and report-writing skills, analytical skills, and the relevant technical skills. They should also have in-depth knowledge of the legal and regulatory laws in their area of work.

Principal scientists mostly work in a laboratory setting. They work 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Occasionally, they may be required to work late hours and over the weekends when they are handling urgent projects.

What Does a Principal Scientist Do

When it comes to the most important skills required to be a principal scientist, we found that a lot of resumes listed 7.0% of principal scientists included oncology, while 6.4% of resumes included data analysis, and 5.0% of resumes included drug discovery. Hard skills like these are helpful to have when it comes to performing essential job responsibilities.

Learn more about what a Principal Scientist does

How To Become a Principal Scientist

If you're interested in becoming a principal scientist, one of the first things to consider is how much education you need. We've determined that 50.7% of principal scientists have a bachelor's degree. In terms of higher education levels, we found that 14.2% of principal scientists have master's degrees. Even though most principal scientists have a college degree, it's impossible to become one with only a high school degree or GED.

Learn More About How To Become a Principal Scientist

Principal Scientist Career Paths

Average Salary for a Principal Scientist

Principal Scientists in America make an average salary of $119,982 per year or $58 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $169,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $84,000 per year.
Average Principal Scientist Salary
$119,982 Yearly
$57.68 hourly
10 %
90 %

What Am I Worth?

How To Become a Principal Scientist
How To Become a Principal Scientist Career Overview

States With The Most Principal Scientist Jobs

Mouse over a state to see the number of active principal scientist jobs in each state. The darker areas on the map show where principal scientists earn the highest salaries across all 50 states.

Average Salary: Job Openings:

Number Of Principal Scientist Jobs By State

RankStateNumber of JobsAverage Salary
2New York2,267$107,142
9North Carolina1,475$91,807
11New Jersey1,005$124,466
25South Carolina386$67,083
27New Hampshire293$94,142
28New Mexico289$92,579
40South Dakota122$81,791
42West Virginia112$82,445
44North Dakota101$81,794
45Rhode Island88$120,600

Principal Scientist Education

Principal Scientist Majors

35.3 %
11.9 %

Principal Scientist Degrees


50.7 %


32.7 %


14.2 %

Top Colleges for Principal Scientists

1. Duke University

Durham, NC • Private

In-State Tuition

2. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition

3. Harvard University

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition

4. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI • Private

In-State Tuition

5. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition

6. University of California - Los Angeles

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition

7. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC • Private

In-State Tuition

8. Yale University

New Haven, CT • Private

In-State Tuition

9. Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD • Private

In-State Tuition

10. Vanderbilt University

Nashville, TN • Private

In-State Tuition

Top Skills For a Principal Scientist

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 7.0% of principal scientists listed oncology on their resume, but soft skills such as communication skills and observation skills are important as well.

Choose From 10+ Customizable Principal Scientist Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Principal Scientist templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Principal Scientist resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

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Principal Scientist Demographics

Principal Scientist Gender Distribution


After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among principal scientists, 23.2% of them are women, while 76.8% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among principal scientists is White, which makes up 56.6% of all principal scientists.

  • The most common foreign language among principal scientists is Russian at 20.3%.

Work Experience Programs For Principal Scientists

Virtual work experience programs replicate work at top companies and help you gain the skills to be successful when applying and working there. In only a few hours, learn the relevant tools necessary to complete a typical work day at that company. Virtual work experience programs are 100% free, open-access, and self-paced. No experience or application is required!

Wealth Management Program

Company: Goodbody

Cost: Free

Duration: 5-6 hours

Software Engineering Program

Company: Blackbird Australia

Cost: Free

Duration: 5-10 hours

Software Development Program

Company: Standard Bank

Cost: Free

Duration: 4.5-5.5 hours

Data Visualisation: Empowering Business with Effective Insights Program

Company: Tata

Cost: Free

Duration: 3.5-4.5 hours

Data Analytics Program

Company: Quantium

Cost: Free

Duration: 5-6 hours

Product Design Program

Company: Accenture North America

Cost: Free

Duration: 4 hours

Developer Program

Company: Accenture Nordics

Cost: Free

Duration: 2-3 hours

Data Analytics Program

Company: General Electric

Cost: Free

Duration: 5-6 hours

Commercial Banking Innovation Development Program Program

Company: JPMorgan Chase

Cost: Free

Duration: 8-12 hours

Marketing Analysis Program

Company: Wayfair

Cost: Free

Duration: 3 hours

Online Courses For Principal Scientist That You May Like

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Drug Discovery & Medicinal Chemistry
edX (Global)

Drug discovery is a challenging field, but the pathway most drugs navigate from concept to market is predictable and based upon repeated experimentation. The process requires scientists with expertise in chemistry, biology, and medicine. This course focuses on four aspects of drug development. regulation - approval protocols for government regulatory agencies pharmacodynamics - how a drug affects the body pharmacokinetics - how a drug flows through the body lead discovery/optimization - the...

Drug Development Product Management

Pharmaceutical and biotech companies are spending years and millions of dollars developing drugs or promising new biologics, all with the hopes of saving or enhancing patients' lives. This specialization will provide you with a 30,000 feet view of the entire process of drug discovery and development. In the first course you will begin with learning how scientists go from selecting a drug discovery target to filing an Initial New Drug application. In the second course you will learn the intricacy...

Drug Development

The University of California San Diego, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Drug Development course brings you lectures from both faculty and industry experts. With this course, recorded on campus at UCSD, we seek to share our access to top people in the field who bring an unprecedented range of expertise on drug development. In this course you will learn the different stages of clinical development as well as the regulatory including but not limited to, an Investigational New...

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Best States For a Principal Scientist

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a principal scientist. The best states for people in this position are California, Tennessee, Maine, and New Jersey. Principal scientists make the most in California with an average salary of $147,782. Whereas in Tennessee and Maine, they would average $141,492 and $138,422, respectively. While principal scientists would only make an average of $124,466 in New Jersey, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Montana

Total Principal Scientist Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:

2. Connecticut

Total Principal Scientist Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:

3. California

Total Principal Scientist Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Full List Of Best States For Principal Scientists

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Top Principal Scientist Employers

Most Common Employers For Principal Scientist

RankCompanyAverage SalaryHourly RateJob Openings
4Physical Sciences$128,576$61.8214
6Bristol-Myers Squibb$125,359$60.2742
8Allergan plc$123,311$59.2812
9Boston Scientific$120,957$58.1511

Becoming a Principal Scientist FAQs

Do You Need A Ph.d. To Be A Principal Scientist?

No, you need a Ph.D. to be a principal scientist. At a minimum, you'll need a master's degree, but employers may require a doctorate in some cases. It largely comes down to the industry and the amount of hands-on experience you have.

How Do You Get Promoted To Principal Scientist?

To get promoted to principal scientist requires putting in the time, standing out as a leader, going that extra mile, having good people skills, and understanding the relationship between the business and technical side of things.

How Much Do Principal Scientists Make?

Principal scientists make $125,000 a year, on average ($60.12 an hour). However, there is a considerable range in how much a principal scientist can make - starting from as little as $97,000 to as high as $160,000 a year. Factors such as location and industry impact how much a principal scientist can make.

Is A Principal Scientist Higher Than A Senior Scientist?

Yes, a principal scientist is higher than a senior scientist. The principal scientist is generally the person who runs their own research laboratory. A senior research scientist works in a principal scientist's lab, usually with a high degree of independence.

What Is The Hierarchy Of Job Titles For Scientists?

The hierarchy of job titles for scientists includes two to three levels of scientist roles followed by senior and principal roles. An entry-level position as a scientist is known as a Scientist I position.

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