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This page collects frequently asked questions about becoming and operating as a Staff engineer or Principal engineer.

What does a Staff engineer do? What does a Staff engineer work on?

A Staff engineer is a senior, individual contributor role in a Software Engineering organization. There is no "one" kind of Staff engineer, and many fall into one of four archetypes: Tech Lead, Architect, Solver, and Right Hand.

Ras Kasa Williams' story does a good job of capturing what a typical Staff engineer might do in a technology company.

Related: Staff engineer Archetypes

What are a Staff engineer’s responsibilities?

Similarly to the previous question, this varies a great deal depending on the company, but generally a Staff engineer either is the subject-matter owner for a critical area of the company (like it's databases) or partner with a engineering manager leader (say, a Director of Product engineering) on the overall architecture and execution in that area.

Related: Where do Staff-plus engineers fit into the org?

What’s the difference between a Staff engineer and a Senior engineer? Is Staff engineer more senior than Principal engineer? How do you rank engineer titles?

The details will vary depending on the specific company under discussion, but there is a lot of overlap. The most common pattern is: Junior engineer, engineer, Senior engineer, Staff engineer, Sr Staff engineer, Principal engineer, Distinguished engineer.

Related: Staff-plus career ladders

Do all companies have both Staff engineer and Principal engineer roles?

Many companies omit one or more of these titles, for example Silvia Botros describes Twilio not having the Staff engineer title. It's also common for companies to start out with fewer of these titles and slowly add more over time. A particularly small company might not even have a Senior engineer title.

How to become a Staff engineer?

This website is dedicated to helping folks understand what the Staff engineer role entails and then helping them get that title if that's what they're focused on. The best bet is to work with your manager to preemptively create a promotion packet. Depending on your organization, you may also need to complete a Staff project.

Related: stories of folks reaching Staff Engineer roles

What is the salary for a Staff engineer?

There is no consensus salary band for Staff engineers, or any other engineering role for that matter. This will vary greatly depending on the company stage and location. is a great dataset for determining if a particular offer is a fair one.

If you've enjoyed reading the stories and guides on, you might also enjoy Staff Engineer: Leadership beyond the management track, which features many of these guides and stories.

Staff Engineer book cover

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