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Tech Lead vs. Staff Engineer: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A tech lead and staff engineer are both important positions within a company’s engineering department. They share some similarities, but there are also several key differences between the two. If you’re interested in a career in engineering, understanding the distinctions between these roles can help you decide which one is right for you. In this article, we compare and contrast tech leads and staff engineers, and we provide additional information about each position.

What is a Tech Lead?

A Tech Lead is responsible for the technical direction of a project or product. They work with the product owner to define the product roadmap and ensure that the engineering team is adhering to the company’s technical standards. Tech Leads also provide mentorship and guidance to less experienced engineers on the team. They may be responsible for code reviews and pull request approvals. In some cases, the Tech Lead may also be responsible for managing a team of engineers.

What is a Staff Engineer?

A Staff Engineer is a professional who provides engineering support to an organization. They may work in a variety of industries, such as manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, or information technology. Staff Engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, and they may also be certified by a professional engineering board. In some cases, a Staff Engineer may also have a master’s degree or doctorate in engineering. Staff Engineers typically work on teams of engineers to complete projects or solve problems. They may also work independently on projects. In some cases, a Staff Engineer may also supervise other engineers.

Tech Lead vs. Staff Engineer

Here are the main differences between a tech lead and a staff engineer.

Job Duties

A staff engineer typically performs more administrative tasks than a tech lead. They may manage the engineering team, schedule meetings and take notes during those meetings, communicate with other departments and make sure projects are running smoothly.

Tech leads often focus on leading the development process. They may conduct brainstorming and idea-generation sessions, oversee project planning and ensure teams adhere to deadlines. Additionally, they may communicate with clients and other departments about project details.

Job Requirements

The job requirements for a tech lead and staff engineer vary depending on the company’s needs. However, most tech leads and staff engineers have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. Additionally, many companies prefer candidates who have several years of experience working in the tech industry. Some tech leads and staff engineers also have a master’s degree or higher.

Work Environment

A staff engineer typically works in a laboratory or office setting. They may work on projects that require them to travel to different locations, such as construction sites or manufacturing facilities. A tech lead often works in an office environment and oversees the entire team of engineers. They may also travel to visit clients and attend meetings with other teams.

A tech lead has more managerial responsibilities than a staff engineer. This means they spend most of their time working on administrative tasks, like scheduling and budgeting. Staff engineers are more likely to be involved in technical activities, such as designing new products or troubleshooting issues.


Both tech leads and staff engineers need to have excellent technical skills. A tech lead needs to be able to understand complex technical problems and develop solutions for them, while a staff engineer needs to be able to execute those solutions. Both roles also require strong communication skills, as they will need to be able to explain their ideas to other members of the team, including those who may not have a technical background.

A tech lead needs to have strong problem-solving skills, as they will often be responsible for identifying issues and developing solutions for them. They also need to be able to work well under pressure, as they may be required to meet tight deadlines. A staff engineer needs to have strong attention to detail, as they will be responsible for ensuring that the solutions they develop are implemented correctly. They also need to be able to work independently, as they may not have as much direct supervision from a tech lead.


The average salary for a tech lead is $116,184 per year, while the average salary for a staff engineer is $111,406 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the company you work for, your level of experience and your location.


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