Lead Engineer - In my experience this is the head technical person on a project, but not a manager of people. Lead vs senior In some companies, these words are used synonymously. Senior Engineer / Senior Research Engineer; In general, "senior" implies depth of experience and maturity to work independently with less direct guidance in day to day activities. An engineering lead is typically a technical lead with a small number of direct reports (e.g., 2 or 3). It is likely I have been classified as the lead for this project by default, due to the main designer leaving soon and the other designer having other responsibilities. When a job description is posted for a lead, it more often than not, is for a very very senior engineer. However, I would define the difference as Principal is the engineer in charge; often the primary person doing the work. He or she might spend 80% of the time as an individual contributor on software projects (i.e., coding), and 20% of their time on people management and leadership activities. While this certainly is not a definitive list of all competencies needed to be effective at the Lead level, the below description typically helps to I was sent some paperwork today that states me as the lead design engineer, which is great, however I would consider that a more senior role and I am certainly not on a senior salary. A Lead Engineer exemplifies all Senior Engineer qualities to a broader scale of impact and assumes that the individual understands and is operating at that level successfully. Did the same thing in both positions. Instead, concentrate on two things. I've been a Principal Engineer and Lead Engineer. A2A - I would encourage you to lessen your focus on titles and the differences between them. The growth in terms of real purchasing power vs inflation of your income. 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