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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

  • $122,000

    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 Career Paths

Principal Software Engineer
Software Engineer/Technical Lead Lead Technician Project Leader
Architect & Project Lead
7 Yearsyrs
Software Engineering Manager Senior Project Manager Chief Technology Officer
Chief Architect
11 Yearsyrs
Software Architect Chief Technology Officer
Chief Executive Officer/Chief Technology Officer
10 Yearsyrs
Architect Project Coordinator Project Leader
Consultant/Project Leader
6 Yearsyrs
Chief Technology Officer Technical Consultant Customer Relationship Management Consultant
Customer Relationship Management Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Software Development Manager Information Technology Project Manager Information Technology Director
Director Information Technology Infrastructure
13 Yearsyrs
Technical Director Creative Director User Experience Designer
Product Lead
7 Yearsyrs
Principal Engineer Program Manager Senior Project Manager
Project Manager & Leader
7 Yearsyrs
Co-Founder Design Consultant Project Specialist
Project Team Lead
5 Yearsyrs
Architect Project Engineer Application Engineer
Senior Applications Engineer
8 Yearsyrs
Principal Engineer Senior Project Manager Management Consultant
Senior Business Analyst
7 Yearsyrs
Data Architect Data Manager Configuration Management Analyst
Senior Configuration Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Software Development Manager Program Manager Information Technology Director
Senior Director Of Information & Technology
14 Yearsyrs
Software Engineer/Technical Lead Project Leader Senior Java Developer
Senior Information Technology Developer
8 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Contractor/Consultant Senior Analyst
Senior Lead Analyst
7 Yearsyrs
Engineering Manager Management Consultant Build-Release Engineer
Senior Release Engineer
9 Yearsyrs
Director Of Software Development Vice President Of Engineering
Senior Vice President, Engineering
15 Yearsyrs
Software Engineer-Team Lead Lead Developer Software Engineer Lead
Software Leader
7 Yearsyrs
Software Engineering Manager Director Of Software Development Vice President Of Engineering
Vice President Product Development
13 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Principal Software Engineer?

Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Software Architect 3.1 years
Software Designer 3.1 years
Top Careers Before Principal Software Engineer
Consultant 4.4%
Programmer 2.2%
Top Careers After Principal Software Engineer
Consultant 6.3%
Architect 2.2%

Do you work as a Principal Software Engineer?

Principal Software Engineer Demographics

Gender

Male

82.8%

Female

12.2%

Unknown

5.0%
Ethnicity

White

51.7%

Asian

24.1%

Hispanic or Latino

11.3%

Black or African American

7.7%

Unknown

5.2%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

18.2%

Chinese

13.6%

French

13.6%

German

11.4%

Mandarin

9.1%

Italian

9.1%

Japanese

6.8%

Russian

4.5%

Portuguese

2.3%

Hawaiian

2.3%

Hebrew

2.3%

Cantonese

2.3%

Carrier

2.3%

Korean

2.3%
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Principal Software Engineer Education

Schools

University of Massachusetts - Lowell

10.7%

Northeastern University

10.4%

Boston University

7.5%

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

7.2%

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

6.5%

Johns Hopkins University

6.2%

University of Southern California

5.0%

University of Texas at Austin

4.5%

George Mason University

4.2%

University of Massachusetts Amherst

4.2%

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

4.2%

University of California - Berkeley

3.7%

University of New Hampshire

3.5%

University of California - Irvine

3.5%

Carnegie Mellon University

3.5%

Texas A&M University

3.2%

Illinois Institute of Technology

3.0%

Rochester Institute of Technology

3.0%

Stanford University

3.0%

University of Central Florida

3.0%
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Majors

Computer Science

43.4%

Electrical Engineering

14.1%

Computer Engineering

10.8%

Business

6.1%

Mathematics

4.2%

Engineering

2.8%

Physics

2.6%

Computer Information Systems

2.4%

Information Systems

1.9%

Information Technology

1.6%

Finance

1.5%

Project Management

1.4%

Mechanical Engineering

1.4%

Computer Applications

1.3%

Management

1.0%

Management Information Systems

1.0%

Electrical Engineering Technology

0.8%

Engineering And Industrial Management

0.6%

Chemistry

0.6%

Communication

0.6%
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Degrees

Masters

42.2%

Bachelors

40.0%

Other

8.3%

Doctorate

6.1%

Certificate

1.9%

Associate

1.1%

Diploma

0.2%

License

0.0%
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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 Dec 16, 2016 $144,250
Principal Software Engineer Carbonite, Inc. Boston, MA Jun 27, 2016 $144,250
Principal Software Engineer Cadence Design Systems, Inc. Chelmsford, MA Aug 25, 2015 $124,647 -
$156,780
Principal Software Engineer Symantec Corporation Mountain View, CA Feb 20, 2015 $124,288
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 Intralinks, Inc. Waltham, MA Aug 29, 2016 $124,100 -
$150,400

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AVERAGE SALARY FOR A Principal Software Engineer

Average Yearly Salary
$122,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$90,000
Min 10%
$122,000
Median 50%
$122,000
Median 50%
$122,000
Median 50%
$122,000
Median 50%
$122,000
Median 50%
$122,000
Median 50%
$122,000
Median 50%
$166,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Yahoo
Highest Paying City
San Bruno, CA
Highest Paying State
California
Avg Experience Level
5.1 years
How much does a Principal Software Engineer make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Principal Software Engineer in the United States is $122,905 per year or $59 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $90,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $166,000.

How Would You Rate The Salary Of a Principal Software Engineer?

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Top Skills for A Principal Software Engineer

  1. Web Application
  2. C++
  3. Pl/Sql
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Designed and implemented database driven web application allowing global users query and retrieve mission data across different archive implementations.
  • Programmed in C++/AIX on corporate automated telephone trading application.
  • Designed and implemented various DB loading, syncing, and conversion tools written in Java, SQL, and PL/SQL.
  • Monitor was a Windows XP based system written in VB6 connected to a spectrometer via USB.
  • Designed and developed a Windows database application that provided customers with customized access to optical character recognition data.

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Top 10 Best States for Principal Software Engineers

  1. Washington
  2. California
  3. Oregon
  4. New York
  5. Utah
  6. Connecticut
  7. Arizona
  8. Texas
  9. Massachusetts
  10. New Hampshire
  • (7,811 jobs)
  • (20,483 jobs)
  • (1,316 jobs)
  • (4,742 jobs)
  • (1,149 jobs)
  • (932 jobs)
  • (1,432 jobs)
  • (6,842 jobs)
  • (4,581 jobs)
  • (630 jobs)

Top Principal Software Engineer Employers

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