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Become A Principal Software Engineer

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Working As A Principal Software Engineer

  • Interacting With Computers
  • Thinking Creatively
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Getting Information
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Mostly Sitting

  • $112,018

    Average Salary

What Does A Principal Software Engineer Do

Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or another device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or that control networks.

Duties

Software developers typically do the following:

  • Analyze users’ needs and then design, test, and develop software to meet those needs
  • Recommend software upgrades for customers’ existing programs and systems
  • Design each piece of an application or a system and plan how the pieces will work together
  • Create a variety of models and diagrams (such as flowcharts) that instruct programmers how to write software code
  • Ensure that a program continues to function normally through software maintenance and testing
  • Document every aspect of an application or a system as a reference for future maintenance and upgrades
  • Collaborate with other computer specialists to create optimum software

Software developers are in charge of the entire development process for a software program. They may begin by asking how the customer plans to use the software. They must identify the core functionality that users need from software programs. Software developers must also determine user requirements that are unrelated to the functionality of software, such as the level of security and performance needs. They design the program and then give instructions to programmers, who write computer code and test it.

If the program does not work as expected or if testers find it too difficult to use, software developers go back to the design process to fix the problems or improve the program. After the program is released to the customer, a developer may perform upgrades and maintenance.

Developers usually work closely with computer programmers. However, in some companies, developers write code themselves instead of giving instructions to the programmers.

Developers who supervise a software project from the planning stages through implementation sometimes are called information technology (IT) project managers. These workers monitor the project’s progress to ensure that it meets deadlines, standards, and cost targets. IT project managers who plan and direct an organization’s IT department or IT policies are included in the profile on computer and information systems managers.

The following are examples of types of software developers:

Applications software developers design computer applications, such as word processors and games, for consumers. They may create custom software for a specific customer or commercial software to be sold to the general public. Some applications software developers create complex databases for organizations. They also create programs that people use over the Internet and within a company’s intranet.

Systems software developers create the systems that keep computers functioning properly. These could be operating systems for computers that the general public buys or systems built specifically for an organization. Often, systems software developers also build the system’s interface, which is what allows users to interact with the computer. Systems software developers are creating the operating systems that control most of the consumer electronics in use today, including the systems in phones or cars.

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How To Become A Principal Software Engineer

Software developers usually have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and strong computer programming skills.

Education

Software developers usually have a bachelor’s degree, typically in computer science, software engineering, or a related field. A degree in mathematics is also acceptable. Computer science degree programs are the most common, because they tend to cover a broad range of topics. Students should focus on classes related to building software in order to better prepare themselves for work in the occupation. For some positions, employers may prefer a master’s degree.

Although writing code is not their first priority, developers must have a strong background in computer programming. They usually gain this experience in school. Throughout their career, developers must keep up to date on new tools and computer languages.

Software developers also need skills related to the industry in which they work. Developers working in a bank, for example, should have knowledge of finance so that they can understand a bank’s computing needs.

Other Experience

Many students gain experience in software development by completing an internship at a software company while in college.

Some software developers first work as computer programmers and then are given more responsibility as they gain experience. Eventually, they become developers.

Advancement

Software developers can advance to become information technology (IT) project managers, also called computer and information systems managers, a position in which they oversee the software development process.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Developers must analyze users’ needs and then design software to meet those needs.

Communication skills. Developers must be able to give clear instructions to others working on a project. They must also explain to their customers how the software works and answer any questions that arise.

Computer skills. Developers must understand computer capabilities and programming languages in order to design effective software.

Creativity. Developers are the creative minds behind new computer software.

Detail oriented. Developers often work on many parts of an application or system at the same time and must therefore be able to concentrate and pay attention to detail.

Interpersonal skills. Software developers must be able to work well with others who contribute to designing, developing, and programming successful software.

Problem-solving skills. Because developers are in charge of software from beginning to end, they must be able to solve problems that arise throughout the design process.

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Principal Software Engineer jobs

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Principal Software Engineer Career Paths

Principal Software Engineer
Software Architect Chief Technology Officer
Chief Information Officer
11 Yearsyrs
Software Engineering Manager Director Of Software Development
Chief Technology Officer
11 Yearsyrs
Software Development Manager Project Manager Information Technology Project Manager
Director Of Information
10 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Development Manager Software Development Manager
Director Of Software Development
12 Yearsyrs
Chief Technology Officer Management Consultant Senior Product Manager
Principal Product Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Principal Engineer Senior Project Manager Senior Product Manager
Product Management Director
12 Yearsyrs
Architect And Developer Solutions Architect Product Manager
Product Manager, Mobile
10 Yearsyrs
Chief Technology Officer Technical Consultant Business Analyst
Product Owner
9 Yearsyrs
Engineering Director Consulting Engineer Senior Software Engineer
Senior .NET Developer
6 Yearsyrs
Director Of Software Development Engineering Director
Senior Director Of Engineering
15 Yearsyrs
Architect And Developer Project Manager Information Technology Project Manager
Senior Information Technology Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Consultant Senior Software Engineer
Senior Java Developer
6 Yearsyrs
Principal Engineer Program Manager
Senior Project Manager
12 Yearsyrs
Software Development Manager Senior Project Manager Contractor/Consultant
Senior Software Engineer
6 Yearsyrs
Software Architect Solutions Architect Senior Project Manager
Senior Technical Program Manager
12 Yearsyrs
Software Engineering Manager Program Manager Engineering Director
Vice President Of Engineering
13 Yearsyrs
Engineering Manager Development Manager Director Of Software Development
Vice President, Software Development
11 Yearsyrs
Director Of Software Development Chief Technology Officer Senior Project Manager
Vice President, Technology
11 Yearsyrs
Engineering Director Business Developer Product Management Director
Vice President-Products
13 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Principal Engineer 4.7 years
Senior Engineer 4.3 years
Senior Programmer 3.4 years
Lead Engineer 3.4 years
Team Lead Engineer 3.4 years
Firmware Engineer 3.3 years
Software Leader 3.2 years
Software Engineer 3.2 years
Software Architect 3.2 years
Lead Programmer 3.1 years
Software Designer 3.0 years
Software Developer 2.7 years
Software Analyst 2.6 years
Lead Developer 2.5 years
Top Employers Before
Consultant 4.2%
Programmer 2.0%
Top Employers After
Consultant 6.0%
Architect 2.1%

Principal Software Engineer Demographics

Gender

Male

82.7%

Female

12.3%

Unknown

4.9%
Ethnicity

White

65.7%

Asian

23.8%

Hispanic or Latino

6.5%

Unknown

3.3%

Black or African American

0.7%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

17.4%

Chinese

13.0%

French

13.0%

German

10.9%

Mandarin

8.7%

Italian

8.7%

Japanese

6.5%

Russian

6.5%

Portuguese

2.2%

Bulgarian

2.2%

Hawaiian

2.2%

Hebrew

2.2%

Cantonese

2.2%

Carrier

2.2%

Korean

2.2%
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Principal Software Engineer Education

Schools

Northeastern University

11.2%

University of Massachusetts - Lowell

10.4%

Boston University

7.8%

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

7.3%

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

6.5%

Johns Hopkins University

6.3%

University of Southern California

4.4%

George Mason University

4.4%

University of Massachusetts Amherst

4.4%

University of Texas at Austin

4.2%

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

4.2%

University of California - Irvine

3.9%

University of California - Berkeley

3.4%

University of New Hampshire

3.1%

Illinois Institute of Technology

3.1%

Pennsylvania State University

3.1%

Carnegie Mellon University

3.1%

Cornell University

3.1%

National University

2.9%

Rochester Institute of Technology

2.9%
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Majors

Computer Science

43.3%

Electrical Engineering

14.0%

Computer Engineering

11.1%

Business

5.8%

Mathematics

4.3%

Engineering

2.7%

Computer Information Systems

2.6%

Physics

2.6%

Information Systems

1.9%

Information Technology

1.6%

Mechanical Engineering

1.5%

Project Management

1.5%

Finance

1.4%

Computer Applications

1.4%

Management

1.1%

Management Information Systems

0.9%

Electrical Engineering Technology

0.8%

Education

0.5%

Engineering And Industrial Management

0.5%

Chemistry

0.5%
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Degrees

Masters

42.7%

Bachelors

40.1%

Other

8.3%

Doctorate

5.9%

Certificate

1.9%

Associate

0.9%

Diploma

0.2%

License

0.1%
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Real Principal Software Engineer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Principal Software Engineer Twitter, Inc. New York, NY Jan 01, 2016 $265,000
Principal Software Engineer Microsoft Corporation Redmond, WA Nov 10, 2016 $231,000
Principal Software Engineering Manager Microsoft Corporation Redmond, WA Feb 15, 2016 $225,000
Principal MTS, Software Engineer Paypal, Inc. San Jose, CA Mar 12, 2015 $220,474
Principal Software Engineer VEVO LLC San Francisco, CA Nov 21, 2016 $215,000
Principal Software Engineer ETSY, Inc. New York, NY Jun 15, 2016 $215,000
Principal Software Engineer Microsoft Corporation Redmond, WA Oct 31, 2016 $213,675 -
$233,675
Principal Software Engineer Microsoft Corporation Redmond, WA Jul 19, 2016 $213,675
Principal Software Engineer Microsoft Corporation Sunnyvale, CA Feb 23, 2015 $211,595
Principal Software Engineer Qualcomm Atheros, Inc. San Jose, CA Nov 19, 2015 $210,662
Software Engineer-Principal Invensense, Inc. San Jose, CA Sep 01, 2015 $200,850
Principal Software ENG Manager Microsoft Corporation Bellevue, WA Oct 01, 2015 $200,786
Principal Software Engineer JD.Com American Technologies Corporation Santa Clara, CA Sep 17, 2016 $200,000 -
$225,000
Principal Software Engineer Symantec Corporation San Francisco, CA Jan 11, 2016 $144,923
Principal Software Engineer Deem, Inc. San Francisco, CA Oct 22, 2016 $144,690 -
$175,000
Principal Software Engineer Symantec Corporation Culver City, CA Jul 30, 2016 $144,644
Principal Software Engineer Symantec Corporation San Francisco, CA Jun 28, 2015 $144,491
Principal Engr-Sw Devlpmt (Principal Member Technical Staff) Verizon Data Services LLC Palo Alto, CA Mar 10, 2016 $144,472
Senior Principal Software Engineer Veritas Technologies LLC Portland, OR Oct 21, 2015 $144,279
Principal Software Engineer Carbonite, Inc. Boston, MA Jun 27, 2016 $144,250
Principal Software Engineer Carbonite, Inc. Boston, MA Dec 16, 2016 $144,250
Software Engineer Principal Level 3 Communications, LLC Broomfield, CO Jul 13, 2015 $124,236
Principal Software Engineer Sonus Network, Inc. Fremont, CA Mar 05, 2016 $124,218 -
$135,000
Principal Software Engineer Cadence Design Systems, Inc. Chelmsford, MA May 04, 2015 $124,155 -
$156,780
Principal Software Engineer EMC Corporation Santa Clara, CA Jul 21, 2015 $124,100 -
$148,050
Principal Software Engineer Intralinks, Inc. Waltham, MA Aug 29, 2016 $124,100 -
$150,400
Principal Software Engineer Staples, Inc. Broomfield, CO Nov 12, 2016 $124,033
Senior Principal Software Engineer Veritas Technologies LLC Roseville, MN Nov 16, 2015 $124,029

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Top Skills for A Principal Software Engineer

C/C++WebServicesWindowsNTSoftwareArchitecturePl/SqlDatabasePlatformLinuxAPIUserInterfaceC#.NETSoftwareDevelopmentXMLUnixSQLServerGUIJavascriptDeviceDriversManagementSystemHtml

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Top Principal Software Engineer Skills

  1. C/C++
  2. Web Services
  3. Windows NT
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Code was written in C/C++ and Perl.
  • Architected and contributed to full stack data dissemination software for real time mission data via web services.
  • Designed and consulted on all matters related to Windows NT kernel level development.
  • Defined and developed software architecture, numerous system algorithms and GUI of monitor submitted for FDA approval.
  • Used PL/SQL Stored Procedures to query both the Planning and Finance databases.

Top Principal Software Engineer Employers

Principal Software Engineer Videos

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How to Become a Successful Software Engineer

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