CAD Manager´s Survey 2007 (CAD Manager Column)

31 Oct, 2007 By: Robert Green

Salaries make a big leap in 2007.

Every year, I track e-mail from readers to note CAD management trends. Trends come and go, but the most frequently asked questions always have to do with employment parameters, including compensation, management authority, and user-support burdens. To answer these types of questions, I started the annual CAD management survey in 2000. Over the years, I've added categories to and yielded interesting conclusions from the survey, and this year's result stays true to form.

Please remember that I'm not a professional pollster. I'm just trying to gauge what's going on and get the information to you readers so you can make intelligent decisions about your career based on market information. I hope you find the results valuable.

The Survey Itself

The CAD Manager's Survey was conducted during September 2007 and was advertised in the CAD Manager's News-letter, industry blogs, and any discussion forum to which I could post. 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 participants' employers. My goal remained unchanged from prior surveys: I wanted 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 review the full survey, you can do so at

Random responses from 685 readers were compiled into an Excel spreadsheet for sorting and computation of means, averages, and deviations.

Job Titles

Of all respondents, 63% responded that their job title was CAD manager, slightly less than the 68% tallied last year. The remaining respondents identified themselves as designers (11%), CAD technicians (8%), engineers/architects (10%), IT/IS managers (3%) and other (5%), as shown in figure 1.

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

The continued trend observed in the survey data (figure 2) is that four out of 10 CAD managers don't have CAD management as their primary task; instead, they are professionals in the company who are being pressed into CAD management duties. As compared with last year's data, the only substantial trend has been away from primary CAD managers (down from 68%) to using more engineers, designers, and architects (up from 7%). In fact, the drop in CAD manager titles is exactly offset by those same engineers, designers, and architects. The percentages of all other job titles remained essentially static when compared with last year's survey data.

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

Further breaking down demographics, 47% of respondents reported full-time CAD management duties (way up from 33% last year), with the remaining 53% reporting a part-time split between CAD management tasks and production responsibilities, as shown in figure 2. This year's data represents a seismic shift toward full-time CAD management. I noted a trend toward full-time CAD management in last year's survey, but I am shocked at how fast the workplace has moved in this regard.

Base Salary

The average base salary reported by all respondents was $59,743, which is a whopping 11% increase from $54,444 in the 2006 survey. The minimum response was US$1,400 from a small city in Mexico, and the maximum response was US$148,500 from a large city in Canada. The median response (exactly in the middle of the sample) was $57,000, while the standard deviation for the sampling increased substantially to $18,375 (from $15,469 in the 2006 survey). To interpret this data in a bell curve illustration, I would say that 68% of the CAD managers in our survey make between $38,625 and $75,375 (slightly tighter than the $38,975 and $69,913 range in the 2006 survey), because this income band represents ±1 standard deviation around the mean.

The big news in the salary data is that CAD managers have finally made salary advances after several years of very modest income growth. While the standard deviation increased — indicating more wage disparity from high to low salaries — the average salary range continued to move upward. I conclude that more CAD managers have been successful in making job moves or working with their employers to get better salaries due to the generally good economic conditions in the past year.

Other Compensation

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

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

Profit sharing and bonuses are common and rising. In fact, for those receiving profit sharing (40%) and/or bonus packages (61%), the average value of the plans is reported at $4,664 (up from $2,360 last year) with values ranging from $100 to $40,000. If the value of these programs were averaged throughout the entire survey population, the average salary would increase by $3,507 per response.

Only 54% of CAD managers are in salaried positions. The trend is away from salaried positions (60% were salaried in last year's survey), but those who are salaried are making more money. I must admit that the trend away from salaried CAD managers surprises me.

Insurance benefits are provided to 93% of U.S. CAD managers. I removed all responses from countries where medical care is socialized to achieve a United States–only statistic for the survey. This number is up substantially from the 81% I measured a year ago.

CAD Stations/Personnel Managed

The survey shows that today's average CAD manager is responsible for running software on 39.8 CAD machines (down from last year's 45.8, but up from 36.3 in 2005) and provides CAD support for 43.5 users (down from 47.8 last year). These results are interesting in that the average numbers of machines and users supported are far higher than the median values of 11 and 12, respectively. Put into plain language, 50% of CAD managers support 11 or fewer machines and 12 or fewer users, but the super CAD managers who support more than 100 machines and users skew the average numbers way higher than you might expect — and they also make the highest salaries, by the way. The average trends seem to bear out that, on average, you're supporting slightly fewer machines and people than you did last year.

As in past years, the survey data shows that many CAD managers support users but have no hardware support burden because IT/IS departments are assuming more of the burden for hardware management. What never changes is that the CAD manager still handles 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 CAD managers had the authority to hire and/or fire staff members, the results were a resounding 64% no, 14% maybe, and only 22% yes. The good news is that these numbers haven't changed much since last year, but the bad news is that we don't have any more authority than we did a year go. My follow-up question about whether you can discipline those who don't follow standards revealed that 50% have this authority, exactly the same as last year.

Looking at budgeting authority, it isn't surprising that only 21% of respondents reported being able to approve their own purchases and 19% reported sometimes being able to approve budget items. These numbers track hire/fire authority almost exactly and haven't changed since last year's survey.

What I find very interesting is that this data tracks so well with last year's survey, yet CAD managers have made significant income gains. So although we may still "have all the responsibility and none of the authority," at least we're being paid better and we're not losing ground.

Summing Up

I'm ecstatic at the rise in compensation levels this year's survey has measured. These increases, coupled with higher levels of profit sharing/bonuses and company-provided insurance, point toward a marketplace that values CAD managers more than it has in years past. Could it be that companies are finally starting to understand that CAD managers are their secret weapons? However, I'm disappointed that we haven't gained more authority in hiring, discipline, and budget areas. I guess we've still got some work to do. All in all, this year's survey is great news about which we can all feel good. And believe me, it's nice to deliver some good news.

Due to space limitations, I've only been able to pass along core data from the survey. If you'd like more information from the CAD Manager's Survey 2007 regarding software trends, programming skills, frustration items, and more, I invite you to subscribe to the CAD Manager's Newsletter ( and visit my Web site ( where links to more information are available. And thanks to all CAD managers who participated in the survey.

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

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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