CAD Manager's Survey 2011

14 Dec, 2011 By: Robert Green

The results are in, and they show that job conditions are moving in a positive direction once again.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the Winter 2012 issue of Cadalyst magazine.

Once again it’s time to report the findings of my annual CAD Manager’s Survey. This year’s survey was deployed via my web site from September 28 to October 12, 2011. We used Cadalyst e-newsletters and various social media outlets to encourage user response. We received 276 unique responses; 84.8% were from the United States, 7.6% from Canada, and the remainder from the United Kingdom, Australia, and other locations. Nearly 37% of respondents said they work in AEC, 21.4% in civil engineering, and the remainder in manufacturing and other disciplines.

As in the past, my goal was to measure a wide range of factors that affect CAD managers' jobs. Happily, the news is better this time around than in the past few recession-racked years. Here goes.


This year’s results show a substantial increase in compensation from last year’s survey. Of course, there is uncertainty in running a survey from year to year, but the general upward trend is clearly good news!

  • Average total compensation: $66,114 (up 8% from $61,176 last year)
  • Standard deviation: $21,907 (down from $25,381 last year)

The narrowing of the standard deviation in salary means that 68% of CAD managers surveyed make between $44,207 and $88,021 (as compared to $35,795 and $86,557 last year), showing dramatic improvement in compensation at the lower end of the CAD management pay scale. I also asked about types of compensation this year, which break down as follows:

  • Salaried CAD managers: 57% (down from 62% in 2010)
  • Hourly CAD managers: 43% (up from 38% in 2010)

Last year's survey showed a trend toward more salaried CAD managers, but this year shows a return to ratios nearly identical to 2007/2008 prerecession numbers. Interestingly enough, a higher percentage of hourly CAD managers (who are almost always eligible for overtime compensation) has always predicted higher total compensation for CAD managers.

Of all CAD managers, 8.7% reported a lower salary; 35.2% no change; 52.2% a higher salary; and 3.9% did not respond. 56% of CAD managers (up from 51%) reported receiving some sort of bonus compensation in the past year.

Who Are You?

So, what are the age, experiential, gender, and educational profiles of a CAD manager? These are questions I added to last year's survey, so I have some history to draw on this year for comparison purposes.

  • Average age: 44.5 (up from 42 last year)
  • Standard deviation: 10.8 (up from 9.4 last year)
  • CAD management experience: 10.6 years

The standard deviation about the mean of the sample shows that 68% of CAD managers surveyed are between the ages of 33.7 and 55.3 years old. On average, CAD managers are getting older and have performed their role for an extended period of time.

  • Female CAD managers: 13% (down from 14% last year)
  • Male CAD managers: 87% (up from 86% last year)

Highest educational achievement:

  • High school degree: 8% (down from 9%)
  • Some college but no degree: 18% (down from 21%)
  • Two-year college degree: 43% (up from 37%)
  • Four-year college degree: 23% (down from 24%)
  • Graduate college degree: 8% (down from 9%)

There are more college-educated CAD managers now than in the past, with the largest growth in the group holding two-year degrees.

Job Metrics

So, are all CAD managers full-time employees, or do most work part-time? How many hours per week do CAD managers actually perform CAD-management duties? How many users do CAD managers support? These questions help track the job market for CAD managers.

For survey purposes, I define full-time CAD management as 31 hours or more per week spent on CAD-management tasks.

  • 1 to 30 hours per week: 73% (see hourly breakdown in the chart at right)
  • 31 hours and more per week: 27%

These numbers are essentially unchanged from last year, which surprises me a little because other metrics seem to have improved. Even as things get better, CAD-management time is still viewed by many firms as overhead, so the time allocated is still tightly controlled.

CAD Stations Managed

These statistics speak for themselves, but I've also included some historical data so you can see how support levels are changing:

  • Average number of users supported: 42 users (up from 32.9 last year)
  • Percentage of CAD managers who support hardware: 27%

These numbers are always somewhat difficult to interpret, but my suspicion is that as business improves, more CAD users are on staff, but no more CAD managers are being hired to support them. Thus, user support goes up. This was the first time I've asked CAD managers if they do their own hardware support, so I have no trend line established yet. I find it very interesting, however, that only 4% of CAD managers report to the IT department. Long story short: CAD managers are supporting more users, and a quarter of them support their own workstation hardware.

Job Security

To gauge how secure the CAD manager's position is, I asked survey participants to select the description that best summarizes their situation.

  • 35%: Working and really busy (26% last year)
  • 30%: Working and everything is fine (23% last year)
  • 28%: Working but business isn't good (35% last year)
  • 7%: Worried about being laid off (8% last year)

I also asked whether the survey taker had been laid off recently.

  • 9%: Yes (12%)
  • 91%: No (88%)

The news here is clearly good. Only 35% of CAD managers report having bad business conditions, down from 43% last year. Plus, fewer CAD managers have been laid off this year. In fact, 65% of CAD managers report that things are fine or very busy. So, although some companies are still in trouble, the majority of CAD managers are in a more secure job situation than last year.

Results: Hardware, Software, and Training

These items have historically been very sensitive to budget cuts and are therefore a great predictor of the general willingness of companies to spend.

Are you purchasing new hardware?

  • Yes: 58% (down from 63% last year)
  • No: 42% (up from 37% last year)

Have you stopped renewing software subscriptions?

  • Yes: 21% (down from 22% last year)
  • No: 79% (up from 78% last year)

Has your training budget been cut?

  • Yes: 21% (down from 29% last year)
  • No: 79% (up from 78% last year)

The good news here is that spending on software, hardware, and training is staying about the same, rather than getting worse, and the draconian cuts we saw in 2009 have ended.

Personnel and Budget Control

I've always believed you can measure the power of a CAD manager by his or her control over money and human resources. Therefore, it's worthwhile to track metrics such as the ability to hire, fire, discipline, and influence the budget.

  • Hire/fire influence: 48% (down from 51%)
  • Can fire: 18% (up from 16%)
  • Can discipline but not fire: 34% (up from 28%)
  • Can purchase items on their own: 17% (down from 18%)
  • Budgeting influence: 29% (up from 21%)

All in all, not a lot has changed from last year, except for a slight increase in the ability to discipline and influence budgets. To be sure, any increases in these "power metric" measurements are welcome!

Summing Up

I'll dive more deeply into survey results in future installments of my CAD Manager's Newsletter.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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