CAD Manager-CAD Manager Survey 2006

31 Oct, 2006 By: Robert Green

Authority, salaries on the rise.

As the years go by, I keep getting questions about what other CAD managers experience, how much they get paid, how they deal with their management staffs, and so on. I began surveying CAD managers in 2000, and I continue to survey because I keep hearing these questions. Over the years, I've added more questions, analyzed trends and reported the results to you through this column and my e-mail newsletters.

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 feedback I glean from readers and clients during my everyday business dealings. I hope you find the following results valuable.

The Survey Itself

The CAD Manager's Survey was conducted during September 2006 and was advertised in the CAD Manager's News-letter, industry blogs and any discussion forum that I could post on. 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 surveyed for qualitative input such as job skills, job security and employers' financial stability. My goal remains unchanged from prior surveys: To gather enough data about CAD managers to draw conclusions about how we should all plan for our future careers. If you'd like to read the survey form, you can find it at

I compiled survey responses into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for sorting and computation of statistical elements such as means, averages and deviations.

Job Title

Of all respondents, 68% reported that their job title was CAD manager, slightly higher than the 62% tallied last year. The remaining respondents identified themselves as designers (8%), CAD technicians (9%), engineer/architect (7%), IT/IS manager (3%) or other (5%), as figure 1 shows. The continued trend observed in the survey data is that four of ten CAD managers don't have CAD management as their primary task, but are professionals who have been pressed into CAD management duties. As compared with last year's data, the only substantial trend has been away from using designers (down from 14% last year) to more primary CAD managers (up from 62% last year). The percentages of all other job titles remained static from last year.

Figure 1. Most CAD managers aren t full-time managers, but rather professionals inside the company who also perform management duties. One trend is that fewer designers are serving as managers.
Figure 1. Most CAD managers aren t full-time managers, but rather professionals inside the company who also perform management duties. One trend is that fewer designers are serving as managers.

Further breaking down the demographics, 33% of respondents reported full-time CAD management duties with 0% production responsibilities, with the remaining 67% reporting a part-time split between CAD management tasks and production responsibilities (figure 2). This year marks the first time in six years that the slide toward part-time CAD management has abated. Have we hit the point of stability where one of three CAD managers is full time? I guess we'll know for sure next year!

Figure 2. Management duties are just a fraction of what most CAD managers do.
Figure 2. Management duties are just a fraction of what most CAD managers do.

Base Salary

The average base salary reported by all respondents was $54,444 (up slightly from $53,847 in the 2005 survey). The minimum salary reported was $17,000, from a small U.S. city, and the maximum was $110,000, from another small U.S. city. The median response (exactly in the middle of the sample) was $54,000, and the standard deviation for the sampling was down again at $15,469 (from $16,854 in the 2005 survey). To interpret this data in a bell curve illustration, I could say that 68% of the CAD managers in our survey make between $38,975 and $69,913 (slightly tighter than the $36,994–$70,701 range in the 2005 survey) because this income band represents ±1 standard deviation from the average.

Although the average salary has increased 1.1% in the past year, the real news is that the standard deviation in wages continues to tighten around a higher average, meaning that more CAD managers are getting paid better on the lower end of the CAD management scale. I conclude that the CAD management market is reaching a point of maturity and stability in compensation rather than the wild variances I saw after the global technology recession of 2002–2003.

Other Compensation

Of course, base salary is only part of the story when considering total compensation. I asked about salary structure, bonuses, profit sharing and company-provided insurance to see what's really up.

I'd like to draw the following conclusions based on the survey responses (figure 3):

Figure 3. CAD managers receive various benefits and compensation in addition to their salaries.
Figure 3. CAD managers receive various benefits and compensation in addition to their salaries.

Profit sharing and bonuses are common, but their value is diminishing. In fact, for those receiving profit sharing (42%) and/or bonus packages (63%), the average value of the plans is reported at $2,360 (down from $4,185 last year) with values ranging from $200 to $20,000. In fact, if the value of these programs is averaged throughout the entire survey population, it actually increases the average salary by $1,204.

Only 60% of CAD managers are in salaried positions. I had thought this number would be much higher, but it seems that four of ten CAD managers are compensated on an hourly basis, and of those, most (four of five) have an hourly overtime compensation model.

Insurance benefits are pro-vided to 81% of CAD managers. I removed all responses from countries where medical care is socialized to determine a statistic for the United States only. This number is down slightly from the 86% I measured a year ago.

CAD Stations/Persons Managed

The survey shows that the average CAD manager is now responsible for running software on 45.8 CAD machines (up sharply from 36.3 last year and 23.8 in 2004) and provides CAD support for 47.8 users (up from 41.4 last year). These results are interesting in that the average numbers of machines and users supported are far higher than the median values of 13 and 16, respectively. Put into plain language, 50% of CAD managers support 13 or fewer machines and 16 or fewer users, but the super CAD managers who support more than 100 machines and users skew the average numbers way higher than we might expect. The average trends seem to bear out that, on average, you're supporting more machines and people than you have in the past.

And as in past years, the survey data shows that many CAD managers support users yet have no hardware support burden, which makes the substantial rise in the average number of machines supported a little more surprising. I continue to believe that more IT departments are handling CAD software installation via automated deployment, thus removing that burden from CAD managers.

What has not changed is that CAD managers still handle 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/or fire staff members, the results were a resounding 58% no, 20% maybe and only 22% yes. I included the maybe category this year to make the question yield more tangible results. The great news here is that 22% of you now have hire/fire authority, when only 17% had it last year. My follow-up question about whether you can discipline those who don't follow standards found that 50% have such authority, up from 46% last year.

Looking at budgeting authority, it's not surprising that only 23% of respondents say they can approve their own purchases because this percentage tracks the hire/fire percentage almost perfectly. What is great news is that this number is up from a record low of 16% measured last year. Taken together, the authority to hire/fire and approve budgets says more about the empowerment of CAD managers than any other statistic. I'm happy to say that both measurements tracked up noticeably this year after several years of decline.

Positive Returns

This year is the first time in three years that I feel really positive about the survey results. With salary numbers up slightly, authority to actually manage users, resources and budgets up noticeably and the trend toward part-time CAD management turning around, it seems that the CAD manager is back. If you told me at this time last year that I'd be positive about the market this year, I would have really been surprised. I can say that I'm very pleased to have been wrong!

Because of space restrictions, I've only been able to scratch the surface of the data collected in this year's CAD Manager's Survey. If you'd like more information about software trends, programming skills, frustration items and more, I invite you to subscribe to Cadalyst's CAD Manager's Newsletter ( and visit my Web site ( for links to more information. Thanks to all the CAD managers who participated in the survey.

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

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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