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Become A Principal Systems Engineer

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Working As A Principal Systems Engineer

  • Interacting With Computers
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Thinking Creatively
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Getting Information
  • Mostly Sitting

  • $124,817

    Average Salary

What Does A Principal Systems 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 Systems 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 Systems Engineer Jobs

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Principal Systems Engineer Career Paths

Principal Systems Engineer
Systems Architect Systems Administrator Information Technology Manager
Data Center Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Manager, Systems Engineering Program Manager Information Technology Director
Director Information Technology Infrastructure
13 Yearsyrs
Senior Project Manager President/Chief Executive Officer Information Technology Director
Director Of Infrastructure Operations
13 Yearsyrs
Technical Consultant Sales Engineer Sales Engineering Manager
Director Of Sales Engineering
12 Yearsyrs
Systems Administrator Senior System Administrator Manager, Systems Engineering
Director Of Systems Engineering
12 Yearsyrs
Engineering Director Director Of Software Development
Director Technical Development
11 Yearsyrs
Engineering Director Consulting Engineer Senior Process Engineer
Engineering Group Leader
7 Yearsyrs
Manager, Systems Engineering Project Manager Information Technology Project Manager
Information Technology Infrastructure Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Management Consultant Information Technology Consultant
Information Technology Systems Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Principal Consultant Project Analyst Information Technology Manager
Infrastructure Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Product Manager Information Technology Project Manager
Infrastructure Project Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Systems Administrator Engineer Project Engineering Manager
Lead Engineer And Project Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Information Technology Project Manager
Manager, Project Management Office
12 Yearsyrs
Senior Project Manager Contractor/Consultant Systems Engineer
Manager, Systems Engineering
9 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Information Technology Director Chief Technology Officer
President & Chief Technology Officer
13 Yearsyrs
Systems Architect Project Manager Engineering Manager
Senior Engineering Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Principal Consultant Senior Information Technology Manager
Senior Manager Infrastructure
12 Yearsyrs
Technical Consultant Network Administrator Systems Manager
Senior Manager-Systems
11 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Principal Systems Engineer?

Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Principal Engineer 4.7 years
Senior Engineer 4.2 years
Top Employers Before
Engineer 4.3%
Consultant 3.8%
Top Employers After
Consultant 6.9%
Principal 3.0%
Engineer 2.4%
Manager 2.4%

Do you work as a Principal Systems Engineer?

Principal Systems Engineer Demographics

Gender

Male

84.8%

Female

10.4%

Unknown

4.7%
Ethnicity

White

57.2%

Hispanic or Latino

13.9%

Asian

12.7%

Black or African American

10.9%

Unknown

5.3%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

33.3%

Carrier

14.6%

German

8.3%

French

6.3%

Italian

6.3%

Russian

4.2%

Portuguese

4.2%

Chinese

4.2%

Japanese

4.2%

Romanian

2.1%

Cantonese

2.1%

Gujarati

2.1%

Dari

2.1%

Hindi

2.1%

Mandarin

2.1%

Swedish

2.1%
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Principal Systems Engineer Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

8.9%

George Washington University

8.5%

University of Maryland - University College

7.5%

Johns Hopkins University

6.8%

Pennsylvania State University

5.5%

University of Maryland - College Park

5.5%

Georgia Institute of Technology -

5.5%

Arizona State University

5.1%

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

5.1%

University of Arizona

4.8%

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

4.4%

Northeastern University

4.4%

George Mason University

4.1%

Strayer University

3.8%

University of South Florida

3.4%

University of California - Los Angeles

3.4%

Stanford University

3.4%

University of Southern California

3.4%

Purdue University

3.4%

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

3.1%
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Majors

Electrical Engineering

25.9%

Computer Science

13.2%

Business

9.7%

Mechanical Engineering

5.5%

Computer Engineering

5.3%

Computer Information Systems

5.3%

Physics

4.9%

Systems Engineering

4.8%

Engineering

4.0%

Information Technology

3.1%

Management

2.7%

Mathematics

2.7%

Aerospace Engineering

2.1%

Project Management

2.0%

Engineering And Industrial Management

1.9%

Electrical Engineering Technology

1.6%

Computer Networking

1.5%

Information Systems

1.4%

Education

1.3%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

1.2%
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Degrees

Masters

39.4%

Bachelors

33.2%

Other

10.9%

Doctorate

10.5%

Certificate

2.9%

Associate

2.7%

Diploma

0.5%

License

0.1%
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Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Real Principal Systems Engineer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Principal System Architecture Engineer Samsung Semiconductor, Inc. San Diego, CA Aug 26, 2015 $205,000
Principal Systems Engineer/Manager/QCT Architecture Qualcomm Technologies Inc. San Diego, CA Sep 01, 2015 $192,109 -
$217,700
Principal Systems Engineer Palo Alto Networks, Inc. Santa Clara, CA Dec 19, 2016 $186,000
Principal Systems Engineer Collective Media, Inc. New York, NY Sep 20, 2015 $185,000
Principal Systems Engineer/Chipset Power Qualcomm Technologies Inc. San Diego, CA Apr 27, 2015 $176,946 -
$211,300
Principal Systems and Control Engineer Cameron LNG, LLC Houston, TX Sep 05, 2015 $160,000
Principal System Engineer CSRA, LLC Baltimore, MD May 10, 2016 $160,000
Principal Systems and Control Engineer Cameron LNG, LLC Hackberry, LA Sep 05, 2015 $160,000
Principal Systems Engineer Cypress Semiconductor Corporation San Jose, CA Jul 19, 2016 $160,000
Senior Principal Systems Engineer Tintri, Inc. Mountain View, CA Aug 30, 2016 $159,370
Senior Principal Systems Engineer Tintri, Inc. Mountain View, CA Jan 19, 2016 $159,370
Principal Systems Engineer Cypress Semiconductor Corporation San Jose, CA Nov 30, 2015 $157,477 -
$160,000
Principal Systems Engineer A10 Networks, Inc. (Formerly Raksha Networks, Inc.) San Jose, CA Mar 24, 2016 $155,000
Principal Systems Engineer The Gap, Inc. San Francisco, CA Dec 20, 2015 $138,445 -
$178,000
Principal Systems Engineer Advanced Bionics LLC Santa Clarita, CA Sep 19, 2016 $137,700
Principal Engineer Systems Architecture Micro Systems Engineering, Inc. Lake Oswego, OR Jan 09, 2016 $137,048
Principal Systems Engineer F5 Networks, Inc. Seattle, WA Sep 20, 2015 $135,719
Principal Systems Engineer EMC Corporation Bellevue, WA Jan 08, 2016 $135,366 -
$194,950
Principal Engineer Systems Architecture Micro Systems Engineering, Inc. Lake Oswego, OR Nov 25, 2015 $133,614 -
$145,614
Principal Systems Engineer-Platform Lead .02) Thales Avionics, Inc. Irvine, CA Feb 06, 2016 $132,486
Principal Engineer, Systems CSR Technology Inc. Santa Ana, CA Sep 01, 2015 $132,288 -
$175,000
Principal Engineer-Instrumentation & Protective Systems BP America Inc. Naperville, IL Aug 25, 2016 $114,000 -
$118,000
Principal Systems Engineer Arris Solutions, Inc. Beaverton, OR Mar 27, 2015 $113,666 -
$123,666
Principal Systems Engineer Arris Enterprises, Inc. Beaverton, OR Mar 27, 2015 $113,665 -
$123,665
SR. Principal Systems Engineer Boehringer Ingelheim USA Corporation Ridgefield, CT Jan 02, 2015 $113,020 -
$143,000
Principal Corporate Systems Engineer EMC Corporation Hopkinton, MA Jun 22, 2016 $112,000 -
$155,250
Principal Corporate Systems Engineer EMC Corporation Hopkinton, MA Nov 30, 2016 $112,000 -
$155,250
Principal Systems Engineer Informatica Corporation Redwood City, CA Jun 11, 2015 $110,365 -
$138,300

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Top Skills for A Principal Systems Engineer

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  1. Test Plans
  2. Systems Engineering
  3. Architecture
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Generate Software Test Plans, in preparation for verification activities, conduct verification/validation activities, initiates problem reporting and confirmation/solution analysis.
  • Team Leader Core Standards and Environments team within industry Systems Engineering for large international cooperative development program.
  • Assessed current application architecture, identified bottlenecks, extended XML definition, and revamped design.
  • Developed top level system architectures and designs for computer-based distributed signal processing subsystems in US Government strategic ISR signal collection facilities.
  • Generate proposals for Unified Communications consolidation projects, including customer and executive presentation and OEM Partner relationship management.

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