I'm confused about the differences between these roles because I have heard that the Team Lead role is a superior to the Principal QA in terms of hierarchy and at other times I've heard the exact opposite.

Are there any differences between the roles of Principal QA Engineer and Test/Project Lead? And what is the hierarchy between them?

2 Answers 2


While Niels is correct that the difference between Team Lead and Principal QA roles is company-specific, there are some generalities:

  • Team Lead - will typically lead a team. The team lead of a QA/Testing group is likely to be the most experienced or most senior member of the group. Responsibilities are likely to include mentoring other team members, allocating work to team members, interacting with management to ensure team members have the resources they need, and so on. In a large organization there could be multiple team leads. Team leads rarely if ever have hire/fire responsibilities, although they often can advise their manager on candidates.
  • Principal QA - is more likely to be a position held by only one person in an organization. A Principal QA is more likely to be equivalent to a manager, but focused more on the technical aspects of the QA group leadership than the HR side. If there are team leads and a principal position, the principal would likely be ranked above the team leads, and may be the role the team leads report to.

These are broad generalities from reading many, many job ads. Since there's no standard language for testing roles, it's possible that the position descriptions are completely different in your company.


This is very company specific. Roles and responsibilities is similar to testing terminilogy everyone means something different with the same words.

Think what type of work do you like todo? Manage people, or be more specialized. How much money do you want to make? Discuss this with HR instead, they can figure out which title you should persue.

  • Your answer is akin to saying "the difference between blue and red is very specific to the clothes that you are talking about and hence you should discuss it with XYZ parties only". While it is company specific, there are still some prominent general differences between the two that can be easily discussed.
    – Mugen
    Dec 15, 2019 at 14:26
  • We could, but I do not see how it would help the op if his HR manager thinks it means aomething else. I worked in 10+ companies, titles do not mean the same thing anywhere. Dec 15, 2019 at 17:37
  • We're not discussing it in the context of a particular HR manager.
    – Mugen
    Dec 26, 2019 at 7:26

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