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Mastering Career Clarity: Principal vs. Principle

January 13, 2016


Are you the “principal” decision-maker in your career or are you guided by the “principles” of your profession?

If you’ve ever found yourself puzzled by whether it’s a Principal Engineer or a Principle Engineer, a Principal Architect or a Principle Architect, or perhaps a Distributor Principal or a Distributor Principle, you’re not alone! In the vast realm of job titles, it’s easy to mix up these similar-sounding words. But fear not, we’re here to unravel the mystery and help you get your career terminology straight. So, grab your dictionary and let’s dive into the “principle” and “principal” of the matter! 

Which is correct? Principle Engineer or Principal Engineer? Principle Architect or Principal Architect? Distributor Principle or Distributor Principal? 

In most cases, the correct term for an individual leading an initiative, project, or heading a group or organization is “principal.” Think back to the elementary school adage: “the Principal is your pal.” Similarly, “principal” can be used as either a noun or an adjective to modify job titles, such as engineer, architect, distributor, account manager, quality manager, or other similar titles. 

 On the other hand, the word “principle,” used as a noun, refers to an accepted action, doctrine, truth, or code of conduct. For example, it can be used in sentences like “he was a man of strong principles” or “the principle of modern physics.” 

For jobseekers, it is crucial to ensure that their résumés are devoid of errors like these. Simply relying on spell-check may not suffice. Errors involving similar words can deter recruiters, HR professionals, or senior management from considering an otherwise excellent résumé. 

Principle and Principal 

Now, let’s delve specifically into “principle.” Another memory trick for distinguishing these words is: “PLEase have princiPLEs, peoPLE.” We all adhere to certain moral rules and beliefs, and “principle” encompasses these rules, laws, procedures, and protocols created by humans. For instance, in radiology, one of the fundamentals is the “principle of X-ray diffraction,” where atoms produce diffraction patterns due to the small wavelength of X-rays. In this context, “principle” denotes a theory or something based on a truth or a fact of nature. 

Once you grasp where “principle” is appropriately used, you can confidently use “principal” in most other contexts. For instance, Johns Hopkins Medicine uses “principal” to indicate something primary or main, as exemplified here: 

“The first robot-assisted cardiac operation at Johns Hopkins Hospital, performed in June 2003, consisted of successfully placing a biventricular pacemaker lead on a beating heart. The surgical robotic system is comprised of four principal components: a surgeon console, a computerized control system, two instrument ‘arms,’ and a fiberoptic camera.” 

In the ever-evolving landscape of your career, precision and clarity matter. Your choice of words, like “principal” and “principle,” can leave a lasting impression. So, let’s not be perplexed by such common language nuances any longer. Ensure that your resume reflects your commitment to excellence, not only in your field of expertise but also in your command of language. Remember, you are the “principal” decision-maker when it comes to your career, guided by the “principles” of professionalism and accuracy. Make your next career move with confidence and send your meticulously crafted resume to 

Written by: Paula Rutledge

Legacy MedSearch has more than 35 years of combined experience recruiting in the medical device industry. We pride ourselves on our professionalism and ability to communicate quickly and honestly with all parties in the hiring process. Our clients include both blue-chip companies and innovative startups within the MedTech space. Over the past 17 years, we have built one of the strongest networks of device professionals ranging from sales, marketing, research & , quality & regulatory, project management, field service, and clinical affairs.

We offer a variety of different solutions for hiring managers depending on the scope and scale of each individual search. We craft a personalized solution for each client and position with a focus on attracting the best possible talent in the shortest possible time frame.

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