What is a Principal Software Engineer

Are you the type of person who likes to analyze a problem and find a solution? That's just what you'll be doing if you become a principal software engineer. In this role, you will evaluate the end-user's needs and then develop the perfect software solution. More specifically, you'll look at a problem and the ultimate business goals. Based on these goals, you'll develop, document, and test software that meets those needs.

You'll also be expected to maintain and upgrade existing software or recommend new technologies that can help increase productivity. Since principal software engineers often oversee the technical aspects of the project, they are also asked to provide technical guidance to development teams.

To succeed in this field, you'll need to have basic programming knowledge, analytical skills, logical thinking, and specific knowledge of mathematics. Proven experience in software development methodologies along with high-level programming languages, like Java, is typically required as well.

To get into this field, principal software engineers most commonly study computer science, electrical engineering, or computer engineering. Must hold a bachelor's or master's degree

There is more than meets the eye when it comes to being a Principal Software Engineer. For example, did you know that they make an average of $65.69 an hour? That's $136,635 a year!

Between 2018 and 2028, the career is expected to grow 21% and produce 284,100 job opportunities across the U.S.

What Does a Principal Software Engineer Do

There are certain skills that many Principal Software Engineers have in order to accomplish their responsibilities. By taking a look through resumes, we were able to narrow down the most common skills for a person in this position. We discovered that a lot of resumes listed Analytical skills, Communication skills and Creativity.

Learn more about what a Principal Software Engineer does

How To Become a Principal Software Engineer

If you're interested in becoming a Principal Software Engineer, one of the first things to consider is how much education you need. We've determined that 68.9% of Principal Software Engineers have a bachelor's degree. In terms of higher education levels, we found that 24.4% of Principal Software Engineers have master's degrees. Even though most Principal Software Engineers have a college degree, it's impossible to become one with only a high school degree or GED.

Choosing the right major is always an important step when researching how to become a Principal Software Engineer. When we researched the most common majors for a Principal Software Engineer, we found that they most commonly earn Bachelor's Degree degrees or Master's Degree degrees. Other degrees that we often see on Principal Software Engineer resumes include Associate Degree degrees or Doctoral Degree degrees.

You may find that experience in other jobs will help you become a Principal Software Engineer. In fact, many Principal Software Engineer jobs require experience in a role such as Senior Software Engineer. Meanwhile, many Principal Software Engineers also have previous career experience in roles such as Software Engineer or Consultant.

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Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the right jobs to get there.

And if you’re looking for a job, here are the five top employers hiring now:

  1. Microsoft Jobs (340)
  2. Intuit Jobs (83)
  3. Broadcom Jobs (198)
  4. Walmart Jobs (167)
  5. Salesforce Jobs (171)
Average Salary
$136,635
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
21%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
353,626
Job Openings
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Average Salary for a Principal Software Engineer

Principal Software Engineers in America make an average salary of $136,635 per year or $66 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $176,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $105,000 per year.
Average Salary
$136,635
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12 Principal Software Engineer Resume Examples

Learn How To Write a Principal Software Engineer Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Principal Software Engineer resumes and compiled some information about how to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Principal Software Engineer Resume Examples And Templates

And if you’re looking for a job, here are the five top employers hiring now:

  1. Microsoft Jobs (340)
  2. Intuit Jobs (83)
  3. Broadcom Jobs (198)
  4. Walmart Jobs (167)
  5. Salesforce Jobs (171)

Choose From 10+ Customizable Principal Software Engineer Resume templates

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

Principal Software Engineer Resume
Principal Software Engineer Resume
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Principal Software Engineer Resume
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Principal Software Engineer Resume
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Principal Software Engineer Resume

Principal Software Engineer Demographics

Principal Software Engineer Gender Statistics

male

87.5 %

female

12.5 %

Principal Software Engineer Ethnicity Statistics

White

56.3 %

Asian

28.9 %

Hispanic or Latino

7.0 %

Principal Software Engineer Foreign Languages Spoken Statistics

Spanish

19.6 %

Chinese

13.0 %

German

13.0 %
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Principal Software Engineer Education

Principal Software Engineer Majors

Principal Software Engineer Degrees

Bachelors

68.9 %

Masters

24.4 %

Associate

2.8 %

Top Colleges for Principal Software Engineers

1. California State University - Long Beach

Long Beach, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$6,798
Enrollment
31,503

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,832
Enrollment
4,550

3. Stanford University

Stanford, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,354
Enrollment
7,083

4. Purdue University

West Lafayette, IN • Private

In-State Tuition
$9,992
Enrollment
33,495

5. Harvard University

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$50,420
Enrollment
7,582

6. Duke University

Durham, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,695
Enrollment
6,596

7. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Pomona, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$7,353
Enrollment
24,841

8. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

9. Minnesota State University - Mankato

Mankato, MN • Private

In-State Tuition
$8,184
Enrollment
11,675

10. Western Carolina University

Cullowhee, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$3,926
Enrollment
9,835
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Online Courses For Principal Software Engineer That You May Like

Complete Software Engineering Course with Python
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Top Skills For a Principal Software Engineer

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, 11.5% of Principal Software Engineers listed Software Development on their resume, but soft skills such as Analytical skills and Communication skills are important as well.

Best States For a Principal Software Engineer

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a Principal Software Engineer. The best states for people in this position are Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho. Principal Software Engineers make the most in Washington with an average salary of $172,999. Whereas in Oregon and California, they would average $159,543 and $157,342, respectively. While Principal Software Engineers would only make an average of $138,820 in Idaho, 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. Washington

Total Principal Software Engineer Jobs:
7,149
Highest 10% Earn:
$221,000
Location Quotient:
2.3
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Oregon

Total Principal Software Engineer Jobs:
2,958
Highest 10% Earn:
$205,000
Location Quotient:
1.68
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. California

Total Principal Software Engineer Jobs:
19,860
Highest 10% Earn:
$203,000
Location Quotient:
1.6
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Principal Software Engineers

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Top Principal Software Engineer Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ Principal Software Engineers and discovered their number of Principal Software Engineer opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that Oracle was the best, especially with an average salary of $114,512. Dell follows up with an average salary of $142,943, and then comes Fidelity Technologies with an average of $139,024. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as a Principal Software Engineer. The employers include Microsoft, Dell, and Salesforce

Most Common Employers For Principal Software Engineer

RankCompanyZippia ScoreAverage Principal Software Engineer SalaryAverage Salary
1$214,981
2$179,787
3$177,206
4$167,902
5$165,320
6$160,498

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Becoming a Principal Software Engineer FAQs

Do principal engineers write code?

No, principal engineers do not write code typically. The software programming that they develop is given to programmers who write code.

It is the responsibility of the principal engineer to assess company needs and design software to address those needs. These individuals will oversee teams of programmers and instruct them during the code writing process.

All software-related issues fall under the supervision of the principal software engineer. In addition to training programmers and software engineers, these engineers will work to maintain and upgrade existing software and research and create solutions to technical issues.

A principal software engineer is considered a level four position and represents the next to highest engineer rank within an organization. Therefore, many of these engineers are focused on company-wide issues with other software engineers handling the day-to-day work of team oversight.

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How long does it take to become a principal software engineer?

It takes approximately six to eight years after graduation from college to become a principal software engineer. After earning the appropriate degree, candidates for this position must amass several years of relevant work experience.

Many principal software engineering candidates begin by earning an appropriate college degree. Computer science, computer engineering, and software engineering are the most popular bachelor's degrees sought by aspiring principal software engineers.

After entering the field, it is important to gain experience. Many candidates will work as entry-level coders or work in junior programming positions.

While working in these positions, learning high-level programming languages such as C+ is valuable. Working up to the L4 position of principal software engineer will require a minimum of six years of work experience in the field.

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