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Principal systems engineers can work in various fields, from manufacturing to product development and even software. Their job is to create systems that enable the business's smooth performance from product creation to final delivery.

Principal systems engineers may study existing systems to understand their functions and implement upgrades as needed. They may also design and test systems for new business processes. Principal systems engineers usually have a team of other engineers under them. They coordinate their activities, supervise work, and create work plans.

As a principal systems engineer, you may report to the business' operations manager or CEO. Your other responsibilities may include maintaining your department's operating budget and meeting with clients.

To become a principal systems engineer, you need an advanced degree in computer engineering or other specializations. You'll also need some years of experience to qualify for the role.

There is more than meets the eye when it comes to being a principal systems engineer. For example, did you know that they make an average of $67.12 an hour? That's $139,604 a year!

Between 2018 and 2028, the career is expected to grow 5% and produce 18,200 job opportunities across the U.S.

What Does a Principal Systems Engineer Do

There are certain skills that many principal systems 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 communication skills, problem-solving skills and analytical skills.

Learn more about what a Principal Systems Engineer does

How To Become a Principal Systems Engineer

If you're interested in becoming a principal systems engineer, one of the first things to consider is how much education you need. We've determined that 66.2% of principal systems engineers have a bachelor's degree. In terms of higher education levels, we found that 21.9% of principal systems engineers have master's degrees. Even though most principal systems 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 systems engineer. When we researched the most common majors for a principal systems 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 systems engineer resumes include associate degree degrees or doctoral degree degrees.

You may find that experience in other jobs will help you become a principal systems engineer. In fact, many principal systems engineer jobs require experience in a role such as senior systems engineer. Meanwhile, many principal systems engineers also have previous career experience in roles such as systems engineer or senior software engineer.

Principal Systems Engineer Career Paths

Average Salary for a Principal Systems Engineer

Principal Systems Engineers in America make an average salary of $139,604 per year or $67 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $183,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $106,000 per year.
Average Principal Systems Engineer Salary
$139,604 Yearly
$67.12 hourly
$106,000
10 %
$139,000
Median
$183,000
90 %

What Am I Worth?

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Principal Systems Engineer Education

Principal Systems Engineer Majors

Principal Systems Engineer Degrees

Bachelors

66.2 %

Masters

21.9 %

Associate

6.7 %

Top Colleges for Principal Systems Engineers

1. Northeastern University

Boston, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,522
Enrollment
13,760

2. California State University - Long Beach

Long Beach, CA • Private

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

3. Purdue University

West Lafayette, IN • Private

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

4. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Pomona, CA • Private

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

5. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Tallahassee, FL • Private

In-State Tuition
$5,785
Enrollment
7,711

6. Minnesota State University - Mankato

Mankato, MN • Private

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

7. Milwaukee School of Engineering

Milwaukee, WI • Private

In-State Tuition
$40,749
Enrollment
2,582

8. Texas A&M University

College Station, TX • Private

In-State Tuition
$11,870
Enrollment
53,194

9. Western Carolina University

Cullowhee, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$3,926
Enrollment
9,835

10. University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$19,080
Enrollment
19,127

Top Skills For a Principal Systems 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, 9.1% of principal systems engineers listed engineering support on their resume, but soft skills such as communication skills and problem-solving skills are important as well.

Choose From 10+ Customizable Principal Systems Engineer Resume templates

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

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Principal Systems Engineer Demographics

Principal Systems Engineer Gender Distribution

Male
Male
90%
Female
Female
10%

After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among principal systems engineers, 10.3% of them are women, while 89.7% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among principal systems engineers is White, which makes up 63.5% of all principal systems engineers.

  • The most common foreign language among principal systems engineers is Spanish at 34.0%.

Online Courses For Principal Systems Engineer That You May Like

Advertising Disclosure  The courses listed below are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the course, we may receive a commission.
Product Development & Systems Engineering
udemy
4.6
(915)

The complete Product Development & Systems Engineering course! Earn 25 contact hours AND prepare to take the INCOSE Exam...

Introduction to Systems Engineering
coursera

"Introduction to Systems Engineering" uses a structured yet flexible approach to provide a holistic, solid foundation to the successful development of complicated systems. The course takes you step by step through the system life cycle, from design to development, production and management. You will learn how the different components of a system interrelate, and how each contributes to a project's goals and success. The discipline's terminology, which can so often confuse the newcomer, is presen...

Aerospace Engineering: Aircraft Systems and Avionics
udemy
4.6
(338)

Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering: Master the Systems of Airplanes - Hydraulics, Avionics, Electric, Propulsion...

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Best States For a Principal Systems Engineer

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a principal systems engineer. The best states for people in this position are California, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii. Principal systems engineers make the most in California with an average salary of $173,883. Whereas in Washington and Oregon, they would average $162,758 and $161,318, respectively. While principal systems engineers would only make an average of $142,496 in Hawaii, 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 Systems Engineer Jobs:
2,700
Highest 10% Earn:
$213,000
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

2. Oregon

Total Principal Systems Engineer Jobs:
1,235
Highest 10% Earn:
$210,000
Location Quotient:
1.35 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 Systems Engineer Jobs:
7,875
Highest 10% Earn:
$227,000
Location Quotient:
1.22 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 Systems Engineers

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Top Principal Systems Engineer Employers

Most Common Employers For Principal Systems Engineer

Rank  Company  Average Salary  Hourly Rate  Job Openings  
1T-Mobile$154,698$74.37104
2NVIDIA$150,937$72.5748
3AT&T$149,845$72.0454
4Fidelity Investments$143,267$68.8836
5Boehringer Ingelheim$142,792$68.6534
6EMC$140,869$67.7343
7Fidelity Technologies$137,758$66.2356
8MITRE$135,621$65.2047
9SAIC$135,252$65.0354
10General Dynamics$134,379$64.61107