CAD Manager's Survey 2008 (CAD Manager Column)

31 Oct, 2008 By: Robert Green

Salaries increase while full-time positions and authority decline.

Every year I track my reader e-mail and note what CAD managers ask. Every year, the most frequently asked questions relate to employment parameters such as compensation, management authority, and user-support burdens. To answer these types of questions, I started the annual CAD management survey in 2000. The survey has added categories and yielded interesting conclusions over the years, and this year's survey is no different.

The Survey Itself

The CAD Manager's Survey was conducted during August and September 2008 and was promoted in Cadalyst, the CAD Manager's Newsletter, industry blogs, and many discussion forums. The survey was designed to track financial metrics such as salaries and bonuses while also measuring job skills, job security, frustrations, and the financial stability of the participants' employers. My goal remains unchanged from prior surveys: To gather data about CAD managers, draw conclusions about their work environments, and offer career planning advice. If you'd like to read the survey form in its entirety, see

I compiled responses from 627 readers into a spreadsheet for sorting and computing statistical elements, including means, averages, and deviations. Please note that I'm not a professional pollster. The CAD Manager's Survey is my best effort to gauge what's going on in the CAD management community and provide information to help you make intelligent decisions about your career. I hope you find the 2008 results valuable.

 Figure 1. Job title.
Figure 1. Job title.

Job Title

Of all respondents, 60% reported that their job title was CAD manager, slightly less than the 63% tallied last year and way down from 68% in 2006. The remaining respondents identified themselves as designers (13%), CAD technicians (10%), engineers or architects (10%), IT/IS manager (2%), and other (5%), as shown in figure 1. I've been tracking this continuing drop since 2002, observing that more engineers, architects, designers, CAD technicians, and IT professionals are taking up the management slack without the title. It's a disturbing trend.

Further breaking down demographics, 43% of respondents reported full-time CAD management duties (down from 47% last year), and the remaining 57% reported a part-time split between CAD management tasks and production responsibilities, as shown in figure 2. This year's data represents a retreat from a move toward full-time CAD management that I observed last year.

Figure 2. CAD manager job status.
Figure 2. CAD manager job status.

Base Salary

The average base salary reported by all respondents was $62,425 (up 4.5% from $59,743 in the 2007 survey) with the minimum response being $9,000 from a large city in Malaysia and the maximum being $156,000 from a large city in the United States. The median response (exactly in the middle of the sample) was $60,000, and the standard deviation for the sampling was $20,423 (up from $18,375 in the 2007 survey). To interpret this data in a bell curve illustration, I can say that 68% of the CAD managers in our survey make between $42,002 and $82,848 (slightly wider and higher than the range in the 2007 survey) because this income band represents ±1 standard deviation about the mean.

The important news in the salary data this year is that CAD managers continue to earn more but within a broader range of compensation (reflecting fewer full-time CAD managers and a greater number of designers and engineers representing lower to higher compensation levels). The unexpected news, to me anyway, is that CAD managers' compensation increased even though the world economy generally has been bad over the past year.

Other Compensation

Of course, base salary is only part of the story when considering total compensation. To gauge the whole picture, I asked about salary structure, bonuses, profit sharing, and company-provided insurance. I'd like to draw some conclusions based on the survey responses (figure 3), as follows:

Profit sharing and bonuses are common and rising. In fact, for those receiving profit sharing (45%) and/or bonus packages (61%), the average value of the plans is reported at $5,005 (up from $4,664 last year) with values ranging from $100 to $20,000. In fact, if the value of these programs were averaged throughout the survey population, the average salary would go up by $3,206 per respondent.

Only 56% of CAD managers are in salaried positions. The trend is moving away from salaried positions (60% were salaried two years ago), but those who are earning salaries are making more. The trend away from salaried CAD managers surprises me this year.

Insurance benefits are provided to 96% of U.S. CAD managers. I removed all responses from countries where medical care is socialized to achieve a U.S.-only statistic for the survey. This number is up slightly from the 93% measured a year ago.

Figure 3. Miscellaneous benefits and compensation.
Figure 3. Miscellaneous benefits and compensation.

CAD Stations/Personnel Managed

The survey showed that the average CAD manager is now responsible for running software on 40.1 CAD machines (up from last year's 39.8 but still down from 45.8 in 2006) and provides CAD support for 33.5 users (down from 43.5 last year). These results are interesting because the average numbers of machines and users supported are far higher than the median values of 15 and 15, respectively. Put into plain language, 50% of CAD managers support 15 or fewer machines and 15 or fewer users, but the super CAD managers who support more than 100 machines and users skew the average numbers far higher than we might expect — and they also make the highest salaries, by the way. The average trends seem to bear out that, on average, CAD managers are supporting slightly fewer machines and far fewer people than last year.

And as in past years, the survey data showed that many CAD managers support users but have no hardware-support responsibilities because IT/IS departments are picking up more of that burden. What never changes is that CAD managers still handle all the CAD-user support. There appears to be no danger of IT departments assuming primary CAD support any time soon.

Hire/Fire and Budget Authority

When asked whether respondents had the authority to hire and/or fire staff members, the results were a resounding 65% No, 16% Maybe, and only 19% Yes. The bad news is that the trend continues toward less authority, meaning less power for CAD managers. My follow-up question about whether respondents have authority to discipline those who don't follow standards yielded a 50% affirmative response, exactly the same as in the past two years.

Looking at budgeting authority, it isn't surprising that only 20% of respondents reported being able to approve their own purchases, and 15% reported being able to approve budget items sometimes. These numbers track almost exactly with hire/fire authority and have not, unfortunately, changed significantly since last year's survey.


During the past several years, CAD managers have become more involved with employee training. Fifty-seven percent of CAD managers reported frequently training their users, and another 31% said that they sometimes do. Only 11% of CAD managers reported no training involvement. Of those who perform training, 40% use full-day training courses at their facility or an outside location, 24% use lunch-and-learn or short-duration meetings, 13% use Internet-based training, 13% use one-on-one tutoring, and 10% use self-learning techniques by individuals on their own time.

Summing Up

This year's survey results leave me with mixed emotions. The fact that we have income increases at all during a year with so much bad financial news is surprisingly good. Yet I'm troubled by the continued slide away from full-time CAD management and toward part-time positions that are less empowered to hire, control budgets, and enforce standards.

This report represents only the core data from the survey. If you'd like more information from the CAD Manager's Survey 2008 regarding software trends, programming skills, frustration items, visit my web site (

Thank you to all who participated.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

More News and Resources from Cadalyst Partners

For Mold Designers! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the mold design professional. Sponsored by Siemens NX.  Visit the Equipped Mold Designer here!

For Architects! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the building design professional. Sponsored by HP.  Visit the Equipped Architect here!