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Principal Scientist Job Description

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Many companies invest funds into research and development programs that foster creative thinking and lead to the development of new products. Scientists are often at the forefront of these efforts, applying their education and training for innovative purposes. Principal scientists head research teams, utilizing their experience to guide peers and subordinates.

Education and Training

Principal scientists must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a scientific field useful to the type of researched conducted. For example, a principal scientist position with a food company might require a degree in food science. In addition to physics, biology, chemistry and math, scientists should learn communication skills to express their ideas clearly when publishing reports or writing grant proposals for funding. Upgrading your education to a master's degree or a Ph.D. increases your profile in the eyes of employers hiring principal scientists. Gaining experience and training through internships, co-op courses and work-study programs teaches you lab procedures commonly used in research. The average annual salary for principal scientists is $106,321 as of 2014, according to the CareerBuilder website.

Principal Scientist Duties

As a principal scientist, you lead research efforts to meet the objectives determined by your organization. A principal scientist for a food company might focus on developing better ways to harvest, store, process and deliver vegetables. This involves planning, scheduling deadlines and mentoring other researchers. Research teams use a variety of laboratory equipment to conduct research, such as chemical reagents and microscopes. Principal scientists ensure their teams have the resources to properly perform research tasks. Another duty you fulfill as a principal scientist involves reporting your findings to stakeholders such as research and development managers and company executives.


Kent Tukeli has been writing for business and media organizations since 2007, including Valnet Inc., Top Affiliate Publishing and Mirvish Productions. He honed his skills at the University of Toronto, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.

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