Principal Software Engineer vs Architect: How to Differ Them?

The role of a principal software engineer has always been marred by controversy due to the ambiguous nature of their responsibilities. It shouldn’t come as a surprise when an employee of a particular company gives blank stares once asked to define who a principal software developer is.

In this article, we are going to compare principal software engineer vs architect, their roles in solving various software development challenges, and how different they are from typical software developers and what are those programmer salary in the world.

Engineering can be loosely defined as the creative application of mathematical methods, science, and empirical evidence when designing a structure or system. In other words, its the solving of a problem using innovative solutions using basic things.

Development, on the other hand, is the systematic utilization of different knowledge to accomplish pre-determined objects in a changing environment. In relation to software development, its the combination and use of different techniques to accomplish a specific goal.

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Principal Software Engineer vs Senior Software Engineer

Engineer and Architect are two different titles altogether.

The main responsibilities of an Architect include checking the intersystem interaction, their structure, and technologies used for the service. They also document, analyze, and plan on a day to day basis. The title Architect has for long had a dark cloud hanging over the head as many architects are excellent white papers writers compared to when it comes to designing software.

Engineers on the other hand focus on implementation and bug fixing on either a new system or in an already existing one. They can undertake these complex tasks with autonomy as they usually have more than 5 years experience.

One interesting thing about Senior Engineers is the fact that they reach title inflation once they hit over 7 years of experience. It’s at this point that they acquire the Principal title.

Without this title inflation, they are like directors given their impact, autonomy, compensation, and their reporting structure.

Principal Developer Skills

There are various skills that a principal developer needs to have in ranging from specific technical skills to desirable skills.

They include:

  • Deep knowledge and ability to build high performing, scalable, and reliable services.
  • Proven record of building software components and multi-threaded services.
  • Ability to learn quick techniques.
  • Leadership skills to lead and influence either an in-house or virtual developers teams to deliver world-class scalable services.
  • Solid knowledge of storage systems.
  • Good software writing skills.
  • Vast data integration knowledge.
  • Strong knowledge of different testing tools and techniques.
  • Ability to test and debug code.
  • Working knowledge of Identity Server 3 and 4, Azure Active Directory,  and OpenID Connect.

Principal Software Engineer Responsibilities

The principal software engineer is responsible for many other things including but not limited to:

principal software engineer responsibilities

Development Process Optimization Skills

A principal should be able to identify opportunities for business and service improvements. While at it, they should be able to analyze, identify, prioritize, and implement efficiencies, which helps the company derive the highest possible value from the services. This may be in form of, automation of processes, managing changes, or even identifying other cost benefits of new approaches.

Modern Standards Approach

A principal developer should also be able to identify the best new approaches for the organization and take the responsibility of training new developers on how to implement it.

Capacity Management

In the meantime, they should have the skills to troubleshoot all the weak points of the available services and improving them. They should also be able to control and manage the service components like hardware, software, and network resources.


Although the principal software architect doesn’t do much of code writing, they should have practical knowledge in programming to help them dictate the security standards, design specifications, checking compliance, and maintaining technical responsibility in all the development stages.

Systems Design

A senior principal software engineer also helps lay down the design specification of a service to meet the business needs.  Working with multiple technologies and stakeholders, they help translate the problem that a business is facing, visualize the perfect user service and come up with a design to solve these problems.

Systems Integration

Application to principal software engineering job requires the engineer to have the knowledge in integrating and testing different components of a system to create the ideal operational service. The engineer should also help coordinate build activities and define how integration should be implemented.

The Average Principal Software Engineer Salary in Different Countries

Not all the Principal Software Engineers are created equal. This is because, depending on where they are working, some receive higher salaries compared to others. Using different salaries calculators, we have identified the countries that pay the highest salary.

According to, the average salary of a principal designer in the US is $145,585 per year, which also happens to be the highest.

In the UK, things aren’t different. The average salary of a principal embedded software engineer is £64,000/yr. In Germany, the same individual earns approximately €60,540/yr. Ukrainian developers happen to be the lowest paid in Europe as they take home $39,899 annually.

principal software engineer salary

How to Deal with Management of Software Developers and Engineers?

Do you already have a team with software engineers and architects? Then you should get to know how to manage an offshore software development team. We distinguish two main ways:

  1. Do management by yourself. You will have to watch the recruitment process and all the work. There is a risk to fail both like a CEO and like an entrepreneur.
  2. Hire the manager on outsourcing. There is a risk, that the manager is working on several parallel projects to make more money. It can harm the quality of work.
  3. Take a dedicated team with the project manager. The CEO is involved only in your project, already knows the team and can do his\her best to achieve goals.

Hire Principal Software Developer in Mobilunity

Right of the bat, the position of a software engineer and architect engineer may seem synonymous and can be interchangeably used. However, once you dig into the nitty-gritty, you will realize that one is relatively broader compared to the other. The engineer can easily take up the role of a software developer whereas the vice versa is practically not feasible. This is because the engineer’s position requires in-depth knowledge and practical experience to execute the roles and all the circumstances it imposes. Additionally, they also report to senior management which is not the case when it comes to architects.

The architect, on the other hand, has to deal with multiple engineering projects concurrently, which demands that they should be able to multitask. With that said, engineers can work in offices although they may be occasionally required to physically work on the project. With all these attributes, they do qualify to occupy the position of a principal software engineer.

If you are looking to outsource principal marketing services, Mobilunity is an IT outsourcing company based in Ukraine that will help you get an experienced principal engineer to do that. Our team of engineers has worked with different companies in building reliable software components and multi-threaded services.

Contact us to build the strongest team of Principal software engineers!

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