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Principal Scientists are often leaders of a scientific team and a key part of their role involves conducting research and results analysis. As team leaders, principal scientists plan, schedule deadlines, and mentor other scientists; they may also conduct performance reviews of their team members. Aside than leadership tasks, they are also tasked with improving commercial advantage for the company they work in.

Job Specification, Outlook, Salary

Principal scientists’ primary roles are team management and technology improvement. For example, a principal scientist that works in a food company will focus on improving harvesting time, storage technology, and food durability. They will strive to find ways with which a company can produce more within less time and with fewer expenses.

So, how much do principal scientists earn? It depends on several factors, but the average salary for principal scientists in the United States is $120 000, with a range of $84 000 to $150 000 a year. Factors that affect the level of the salary include the field they work in, technical skills, experience, and academic background. Machine learning skills and experience could help a Principal Scientist get to the upper end of the range. Those with significant experience and in-demand skillsets can attract a salary of $165 000. In the UK, an average salary of £46,213 per year can be expected, with a range of £35,246 to £63,714. As part of the overall remuneration package, bonuses and benefits such as health, dental and vision are also common.

Job Description

Principal Scientists are almost always employed on a full-time basis and working hours can be longer than the average 40-hour week. A typical day involves a mix of deskwork and lab work. A key part of the role is the creation of new technologies that will improve the company’s performance. 

Typical responsibilities:

Planning resource allocation and establishing partnering strategies
Actively participating in the new product development process
Conducting research to improve existing products and develop new ones 
Monitoring team performance, conducting quarterly and annual performance reviews
Providing technical guidance to the team and project manager
Coordinating work activity and planning training sessions

Key Skills & Qualifications

As a minimum, principal scientists should have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a scientific field relevant to the type of researched conducted. The company will need the scientist to have a deep knowledge of their field of work, which can mean a Ph.D is required. 
Expertise in computer-aided design is another important skill for this role, and often includes knowledge of 3D-modeling software. Principal scientists should also have meticulous attention to detail, a decisive approach, and an analytical mind, in addition to team leadership capabilities.

Required job skills

Planning and organization skills
Deep understanding of laboratory equipment and processes
Extensive knowledge of mathematics and statistics
Understanding of CAD software
Management, leadership and planning skills
Excellent organization and communication skills
A high level of integrity
The desire to find new technologies or improve existing ones

Job Trends

A career as a principal scientist can be extremely satisfying, with good opportunities for progression, and the chance to contribute to improving the lives of others, which can be very rewarding. Those with a passion for leadership also find a lot of satisfaction in this role.