CAD Manager-CAD Manager Survey 2005

31 Oct, 2005 By: Robert Green Cadalyst

How does your CAD manager job compare with others?

Cad Managers Always want to know what other CAD managers experience, how much they get paid and more. To answer such questions, I began surveying CAD managers in 2000 and have now completed my fifth survey. Over the years I've added more questions to the survey and observed and reported on trends in the marketplace.

I want to state clearly that I'm not a statistician or professional pollster. I'm simply trying to gauge the CAD management market based on the questions I hear from readers and clients. I hope you find the results informative.

The Survey

This CAD Manager's Survey was conducted during September 2005 and was advertised in the CAD Manager's Newsletter and some prominent industry blogs. The survey was designed to make scoring simple by limiting respondents to a range of standard answers and numeric inputs. In addition to quantitative data, I also solicited qualitative input such as job skills, job security and financial stability of employers. My goal remains unchanged from prior surveys: To gather enough data about CAD managers to draw conclusions about how we should plan for our future careers. If you'd like to read the survey form, you can do so at

 Figure 1. Four out of 10 CAD managers aren t full-time managers, but rather professionals inside the company who also perform management duties.
Figure 1. Four out of 10 CAD managers aren t full-time managers, but rather professionals inside the company who also perform management duties.

Random responses to the survey were returned by 563 readers, which yields a statistical sampling rate of roughly 2.6% of the subscribed newsletter reader base. I compiled the data in an Excel spreadsheet for sorting and computation of statistical elements such as means, averages and deviations.

Job Title

Of all respondents, 351 (62%) have the job title of CAD manager, slightly higher than the 57% tallied last year. The remaining respondents identified themselves as designers (13%), CAD technicians (8%), engineer or architect (6%), IT/IS manager (4%) and other (7%), as shown in figure 1.

A continuing trend here is that 4 out of 10 CAD managers aren't full-time CAD managers, but rather professionals inside the company who are pressed into CAD management duties. Compared with last year, there's a noticeable shift from using engineers and architects (down to 6% from 13% last year) to using CAD technicians, designers and IT personnel instead. The shift isn't huge, but it is noticeable.

Figure 2. Management duties are only part of the job for most CAD managers.
Figure 2. Management duties are only part of the job for most CAD managers.

Further, 177 (31%) report that their CAD management duties are full-time, while the rest identified themselves as -part-time, as shown in figure 2. All five years of CAD manager survey data support this trend of fewer full-time CAD managers. More and more CAD managers are either highly experienced professionals (engineers and architects) or lower-paid technical personnel (CAD technicians and designers). Either way, there are fewer and fewer full-time CAD managers this year than last.


Average base salary was $53,847 (down from $55,062 in the 2004 survey). The low salary was $3,000 from a small city in a country identified as Other, and the top was $145,000 from a large city in the United States. The median response (exactly in the middle of the 563 respondents) was $51,896, and the standard deviation for the sampling was $16,854 (down significantly from $28,148 in the 2004 survey). To interpret this data in a bell curve illustration, 68% of the CAD managers in our survey make between $36,994 and $70,701 (a much tighter range than the $21,902 and $78,198 in the 2004 survey). This income band represents ±1 standard deviation about the mean (see table 1 for more detailed data).

Though the average salary has dropped about 2.2% in the past year, the real news is that the standard deviation in wages has tightened substantially. I take this to be a validation of the continued trend toward part-time CAD managers who are compensated based on their professional skills rather than their management skills.

Other Compensation

Base salary is only part of the story when considering total compensation. This year I added questions about benefits such as bonuses, profit sharing and company-provided insurance to gain a total picture of the compensation landscape. Based on the results shown in figure 3, I draw the following conclusions:

Profit sharing and bonuses are more common than I thought. In fact, those who receive profit sharing and/or bonus packages report the average value is $4,185, falling in a range from $100 to $15,000. If the value of these programs were averaged throughout the entire survey, the average salary would go up by $2,320 per response.

Figure 3. This year's survey asked for additional information about compensation.
Figure 3. This year's survey asked for additional information about compensation.

Only 61% of CAD managers are in salaried positions. I expected this number to be much higher, but roughly 4 in 10 CAD managers are compensated on an hourly basis.

Insurance benefits are provided to 86% of CAD managers. I've received a lot of e-mail from CAD managers who say that insurance is not a part of their compensation package, so I figured this number might be lower.

CAD Stations/Persons Managed

The average CAD manager is now responsible for running software on 36.3 CAD machines (up substantially from 23.8 last year) and CAD hardware (up slightly from 22.6 last year), yet supports 41.4 users (down from 73.9 last year). These results are interesting, but do reflect the move toward more part-time CAD managers (less time equals fewer users supported). I'm glad to see the number of CAD users supported tracking downward because it portends better support at a more local level.

As in past years, close examination of the data shows that many CAD managers support users, but not their hardware. Those CAD managers who do support hardware are supporting more of it. I conclude that more IT departments are handling CAD software installation via automated deployment, thus making this task an IT issue.

Table 1. The average base salary reported by all respondents was $53,847, down from $55,062 in 2004.
Table 1. The average base salary reported by all respondents was $53,847, down from $55,062 in 2004.

What has not changed is that the CAD manager still handles all CAD user support. There appears to be no danger of IT departments assuming primary CAD support any time soon.

Hire/Fire and Budget

When asked whether the CAD manager had the authority to hire and fire staff members, the results were a resounding 83% no and only 17% yes. This is even lower than last year's 79% no response and hugely lower than the 64% no response tabulated in 2003. On the brighter side, 46% of respondents have some authority to discipline those who do not follow procedures. And though I have no statistical comparison for disciplinary authority, this number is much higher than I anticipated.

Looking at budgeting authority, it's not surprising that only 16% of respondents can approve their own purchases. This percentage tracks the hire/fire percentage almost perfectly. Taken together, the authority to hire/fire and purchase says a lot about how CAD managers are not empowered. With diminished authority, CAD managers will have to become craftier and more political to get what they need within their organizations. The one bright spot is that CAD managers are gaining authority to discipline those who violate standards.


This is the third year in a row that I'm disillusioned with where CAD management is heading. Though salary numbers are relatively stable, the trend toward part-time CAD managers without traditional managerial authority appears entrenched and irreversible. CAD managers will have to stand up and fight for their seat at the management table. I'll more fully cover this topic in my New Year's forecast column in January.

Because of space restrictions, I've only been able to scratch the surface of the data collected during this year's survey. For more information from the CAD Manager's Survey 2005 on software trends, programming skills, frustrations and more, subscribe to the CAD Manager's Newsletter ( and visit my Web site ( where more information is located.

Robert Green performs CAD programming and consulting throughout the United States and Canada. Reach him at

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green