CAD Manager's Survey 2010

12 Oct, 2010 By: Robert Green

How much money do CAD managers make? Do they work part-time or full-time? These questions and more are answered with the help of your fellow CAD managers!

It's that time again: time to share the results of my annual CAD Manager's Survey. And in addition to reporting my findings in this issue of the CAD Manager's Newsletter — and the next — I'm going to draw some market conclusions from the results. Here goes.

Survey Timing and Basis

The CAD Manager's Survey 2010 arrives a little more than two years after my August 2008 survey, which preceded the economic meltdown of North America and Europe that autumn. Because world economies seem to be stabilizing now, I thought that a comparison between my 2008 and 2010 data would be a great way to determine what impact these bad economies have had on CAD managers.

My goal was to measure a wide variety of job and compensation metrics for CAD managers, and I think the survey has succeeded in that regard. This year, 194 CAD managers responded to the survey. This number is about 40% lower than normal; I experienced some technical issues this year that I believe affected the response rate. (If you'd like to read the survey questions, you can do so at

Show Me the Money

So what do CAD managers make, and how do they work? Good questions!

Average compensation: $61,176 (down 2% from $62,425 in 2008)
Standard deviation:   $25,381 (way up from $20,423 in 2008)

As we can see immediately, the economic recession has meant CAD managers are not getting raises, but have instead lost economic ground. The widening range of compensation (computed using the standard deviation) has widened by about $10,000 since 2008. The numbers show that 68% of CAD managers surveyed make between $35,795 and $86,557.

The conclusion I draw from those numbers is that more entry-level technical employees are taking on CAD management positions (explaining the lower compensation levels) and more senior-level employees are taking on CAD management in addition to architectural, IT, or engineering responsibilities (explaining the higher compensation levels). Each year that I've conducted the CAD Manager's Survey, this range has grown wider.

A few other compensation metrics worth mentioning:

Hourly CAD managers who are eligible for overtime:
Salaried CAD managers who are eligible for overtime: 7%
Those receiving bonuses or profit sharing: 51%

Historically, it seems that as salary ranges get wider and raises get smaller, bonus and profit-sharing plans become more common and higher in value, and this trend has continued in 2010. The bad news continues to be that we aren't getting raises, but at least if the economy improves most CAD managers should benefit via profit sharing or overtime compensation.

Employment Arrangements and Benefits

Are we salaried or hourly? Do we get insurance benefits? Are we part-time or full-time employees?

Salaried CAD managers: 62% (up from 56% in 2008)
Hourly CAD managers: 38% (down from 44% in 2008)

When I've conducted previous surveys, the percentage of respondents who are salaried has dropped each year, but this year the trend has moved up in favor of salaried CAD managers. Based on my own experience, this trend makes sense because salaried CAD managers are not as eligible for overtime and therefore may be pressed into service in addition to their other job duties — for no additional pay.

Demographics. So what are the age, gender, and educational profile of the average CAD manager? These are questions I added to this year's survey for the first time, so I can't draw any comparisons, but here's what I found out:

Average age:
Standard deviation: 9.4

This means that 68% of CAD managers surveyed are between the ages of 32.6 and 51.4 years old. The youngest CAD managers in the survey were 23 (two of them), while the oldest was 69. These findings are in line with what I expected based on the CAD managers I meet at speaking events and client facilities.

As far as gender goes, the survey results were:

Female CAD managers: 14%
Male CAD managers: 86%

I have to admit that this finding surprised me, because the companies I work with have a male-to-female ratio of about 75/25. I guessed that CAD management would be predominantly male, but I didn't expect it to be this lopsided.

Finally, I wanted to learn about CAD managers' educational backgrounds. Here's how the results stack up:

High school diploma: 9%
Some college, but no degree: 21%
Two-year college degree: 37%
Four-year college degree: 24%
Graduate college degree: 9%

Like the average age findings, these educational results are in line with what I've encountered in person over the years. CAD managers are well-educated people with associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees in engineering, architecture, and design disciplines. Many younger CAD managers I meet are pursuing their college degree while working, explaining the "some college" category.

Job Metrics. Do all CAD managers work full-time, or are most part-timers? How many hours per week do CAD managers spend performing CAD management duties? How many users do CAD managers support? All of these questions help track the job market for CAD managers, so I wanted to survey them and contrast the answers with 2008 results. Be warned: the answers are not good.

For survey purposes, I defined full-time CAD management as 35 hours or more per week spent on CAD management tasks. Using that metric (as I have in past years), here are the alarming results.

26% (down from 43% in 2008)
Part-time: 74% (up from 57% in 2008)

Those performing 1 to 10 hours:
Those performing 11 to 20 hours: 20%
Those performing 21 to 34 hours: 8%
Those performing 35 hours and up: 26%

So not only are most CAD managers part-time, about half of us are very part-time. Sadly, the trend towards more part-time CAD managers means that CAD management is not seen as required, but rather as an overhead type of activity. This result worries me more than anything else in the survey, because it speaks to the viability of CAD management as a career.
CAD Stations and Persons Managed

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

Average number of machines supported:  47.5 CAD machines (way up from 40.1 in 2008)

Average number of users supported: 32.9 users (down from 33.5 in 2008).

At first, these numbers didn't make a lot of sense to me — particularly the divergence of user support dropping and hardware support going up. After some thought, I've concluded the following:

  • User support is dropping simply because there are fewer people using CAD due to reduced staffing levels.
  • Hardware support is going up because IT departments have been cut back so much that CAD managers have to solve hardware problems more than they used to.

Summing Up

As usual, I've only been able to pass along some of the data from the survey due to space restrictions. In the next part of this series — CAD Manager's Survey 2010, Part 2 — we'll dig deeper into the results and draw additional conclusions.


About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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Re: CAD Manager's Survey 2010
by: Hermie40
October 21, 2010 - 1:28pm
"I guessed that CAD management would be predominantly male, but I didn't expect it to be this lopsided." As a female CAD manager, I'm not surprised at all. I think it can be explained by lack of interest "in all that technical stuff." I'm in the architectural industry, and in my experience, the kind of women who enter the industry didn't come because of the technology. I'm not doing much CAD management lately, but still, almost every new encounter is an exercise in proving that I really do know what I'm talking about. There's not a glass ceiling for me, but certainly and unfortunately old stereotypes still abound, perhaps driven by the small % of us that exist. Or maybe it's the other way around--maybe it's hard to break in and be taken seriously. I would like to hear others' comments on this.
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