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Become A Principal Scientist

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Working As A Principal Scientist

  • Getting Information
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Mostly Sitting

  • $97,216

    Average Salary

What Does A Principal Scientist Do

A Principal Scientist is focused on leading scientific teams and conducting research. They ensure that their teams have the resources to properly perform research tasks.

How To Become A Principal Scientist

Medical scientists typically have a Ph.D., usually in biology or a related life science. Some medical scientists get a medical degree instead of a Ph.D., but prefer doing research to practicing as a physician.


Students planning careers as medical scientists typically pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, or a related field. Undergraduate students benefit from taking a broad range of classes, including life sciences, physical sciences, and math. Students also typically take courses that develop communication and writing skills, because they must learn to write grants effectively and publish research findings.

After students have completed their undergraduate studies, they typically enter Ph.D. programs. Dual-degree programs are available that pair a Ph.D. with a range of specialized medical degrees. A few degree programs that are commonly paired with Ph.D. studies are Medical Doctor (M.D.), Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.), and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). Whereas Ph.D. studies focus on research methods, such as project design and data interpretation, students in dual-degree programs learn both the clinical skills needed to be a physician and the research skills needed to be a scientist.

Graduate programs emphasize both laboratory work and original research. These programs offer prospective medical scientists the opportunity to develop their experiments and, sometimes, to supervise undergraduates. Ph.D. programs culminate in a thesis that the candidate presents before a committee of professors. Students may specialize in a particular field, such as gerontology, neurology, or cancer.

Those who go to medical school spend most of the first 2 years in labs and classrooms, taking courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, microbiology, pathology, medical ethics, and medical law. They also learn how to record medical histories, examine patients, and diagnose illnesses. They may be required to participate in residency programs, meeting the same requirements that physicians and surgeons have to fulfill.

Medical scientists often continue their education with postdoctoral work. Postdoctoral work provides additional and more independent lab experience, including experience in specific processes and techniques such as gene splicing, which is transferable to other research projects.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Medical scientists primarily conduct research and typically do not need licenses or certifications. However, those who administer drugs, gene therapy, or otherwise practice medicine on patients in clinical trials or a private practice need a license to practice as a physician.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Communication is critical, because medical scientists must be able to explain their conclusions. In addition, medical scientists write grant proposals, because grants often are required to fund their research.

Critical-thinking skills. Medical scientists must use their expertise to determine the best method for solving a specific research question.

Data-analysis skills. Medical scientists use statistical techniques, so that they can properly quantify and analyze health research questions.

Decisionmaking skills. Medical scientists must determine what research questions to ask, how best to investigate the questions, and what data will best answer the questions.

Observation skills. Medical scientists conduct experiments that require precise observation of samples and other health data. Any mistake could lead to inconclusive or misleading results.

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Principal Scientist jobs

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Principal Scientist Career Paths

Principal Scientist
Investigator Data Analyst Clinical Data Manager
Clinical Project Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Principal Investigator Research Consultant Senior Clinical Research Associate
Clinical Study Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Principal Investigator Research Coordinator Clinical Research Coordinator
Clinical Trial Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Faculty Nurse Practitioner Clinical Assistant
Clinical Trials Specialist
8 Yearsyrs
Research And Development Manager Program Manager Senior Manager
Director Of Analytics
13 Yearsyrs
Senior Manager Service Director Nursing Director
Director Of Clinical Operations
13 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Product Manager
Director Of Product Development
11 Yearsyrs
Research And Development Manager Project Manager Program Manager
Engineering Director
13 Yearsyrs
Senior Manager Controller Project Manager
Engineering Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Nurse Practitioner Assistant Professor
Medical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Associate Director Program Director Operations Director
President Of Operations
11 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Consultant Senior Consultant
Product Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Director Of Product Development Engineering Director Technical Director
Research And Development Director
12 Yearsyrs
Quality Control Laboratory Manager Clinical Research Coordinator
Senior Clinical Research Associate
10 Yearsyrs
Director Of Product Development Purchasing Manager Product Developer
Senior Manager, Product Development
10 Yearsyrs
Associate Director Adjunct Professor Senior Project Manager
Senior Product Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Investigator Adjunct Instructor Research Scientist
Senior Research Associate
6 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Faculty Assistant Professor
Senior Scientist
9 Yearsyrs
Associate Director Of Development Senior Director Vice President, Business Development
Vice President Of Research And Development
12 Yearsyrs
Associate Director Of Development Development Director Vice President Of Engineering
Vice President Product Development
12 Yearsyrs
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Principal Scientist Demographics


  • Male

  • Female

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Asian

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Russian

  • Chinese

  • French

  • Spanish

  • German

  • Mandarin

  • Polish

  • Hindi

  • Ukrainian

  • Carrier

  • Dutch

  • Japanese

  • Marathi

  • Gujarati

  • Shan

  • Welsh

  • Georgian

  • Bengali

  • Thai

  • Italian

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Principal Scientist

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Principal Scientist Education

Principal Scientist

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Real Principal Scientist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Principal Scientist Wal-Mart Associates, Inc. San Bruno, CA Jul 16, 2015 $180,000
Principal Scientist APIO, Inc. Guadalupe, CA Apr 15, 2015 $159,135
Principal Scientist of Speech Wearable Intelligence, Inc. San Francisco, CA Aug 23, 2015 $155,000
Principal Scientist, Pharmacology & Toxicology Juno Therapeutics, Inc. Seattle, WA Mar 09, 2015 $155,000
Principal Translational Scientist Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals LP Waltham, MA May 09, 2016 $146,850 -
Principal Translational Scientist Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals LP Waltham, MA Sep 26, 2016 $146,850 -
Principal Modeling & Simulations Scientist Sunovion Phramaceuticals Inc. Marlborough, MA Jun 12, 2016 $145,000
Principal Scientist-Printed Electronic Materials TYCO Electronics Corporation, A Te Connectivity Ltd. Company Menlo Park, CA Aug 20, 2015 $145,000 -
Principal Scientist 1 (Modeling and Simulation) Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals LP Waltham, MA Apr 11, 2015 $141,650
Principal Scientist Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals LP Waltham, MA Sep 04, 2015 $141,650
Principal Scientist Amgen Inc. Thousand Oaks, CA Apr 06, 2015 $140,000
Principal Scientist/Head, Pharmacology Juno Therapeutics, Inc. Seattle, WA Sep 12, 2016 $140,000 -
Scientist Principal-Formulation TEVA Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. Weston, FL Sep 29, 2016 $139,050
Principal Scientist Uhana, Inc. Stanford, CA Nov 16, 2015 $130,000
Principal Scientist-Milk Powder Hilmar Cheese Company Turlock, CA Oct 13, 2015 $120,000 -
Principal Scientist, Bioinformatics Roche Sequencing Solutions, Inc. Pleasanton, CA Jul 09, 2016 $119,059 -
Principal Scientist I, Bioinformatics, Sequencing Roche Molecular Systems, Inc. Pleasanton, CA Sep 12, 2015 $118,331 -
Principal Scientist Pfizer Inc. San Diego, CA Apr 30, 2015 $118,000
Principal Scientist, Integrated Vehicle Systems Department Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North A Ann Arbor, MI Jul 19, 2016 $117,847
Principal Scientist, NDS Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Ridgefield, CT Sep 17, 2015 $116,355 -
Principal Scientist Waters Technologies Corporation Milford, MA Oct 01, 2015 $116,210 -
Principal Scientist, Biotherapeutics Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Ridgefield, CT Sep 18, 2015 $115,800 -
Principal Scientist, Sequencing Roche Molecular Systems, Inc. Pleasanton, CA Aug 20, 2016 $104,624 -
Principal Scientist, Sequencing Roche Sequencing Solutions, Inc. Pleasanton, CA Aug 20, 2016 $104,624 -
Principal Scientist KVK-Tech, Inc. Newtown, PA Sep 14, 2015 $104,582 -
Principal Scientist Instrumentation Laboratory Company Bedford, MA Feb 11, 2015 $101,325
Principal Scientist I, Bioinformatics Roche Sequencing Solutions, Inc. Pleasanton, CA Sep 19, 2016 $100,547 -
Assoc Principal Scientist Biostatistics Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. Rahway, NJ Aug 15, 2015 $100,422

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Top Skills for A Principal Scientist


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Top Principal Scientist Skills

  1. Analytical Methods
  2. Regulatory Submissions
  3. Drug Discovery
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Summarized analytical methods used in 100 articles focused on spatial analysis of elections.
  • Collaborated with cross-functional team members to support regulatory submissions of acquired medical devices.
  • Co-led Stem Cell Target team organized to develop uses for stem cells in cardiovascular drug discovery.
  • Supervised research efforts in the pulmonary inflammation laboratory.
  • Calculated high fidelity ballistic trajectory and signature profiles to analyze sensor performance.

Top Principal Scientist Employers