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How to Become a CAD Manager: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a CAD manager. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in computer-aided design.

Should I Become a Computer-Aided Design Manager?

Computer-aided design (CAD) managers supervise and train CAD operators and the drafters who prepare drawings for everything from product components to buildings. CAD may also be referred to as computer-aided design and drafting, or CADD, as well as AutoCAD. While a variety of drafting specializations exist, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates most drafters work in the architecture and engineering fields. Other areas of specialization include aeronautical, electrical, electronic and mechanical drafting. Most of these professionals work in a comfortable office environment, but they might occasionally get to travel to jobsites to meet directly with engineers and architects.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Employers tend to prefer some postsecondary education, such as an Associate in Science (AS) degree; Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees are usually needed for architecture and engineering
Degree Field Architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, BS in mechanical engineering, some employers may prefer a Master of Science (MS) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA)
Experience Minimum of five years CAD administrative or development experience, minimum of 8-10 years of experience
Key Skills Familiar with CAD, PDM and Teamcenter PLM & EPO tools as well as CATIA, Project management tools including Agile management, SCRUM, GANTT Charts, CPM diagrams and 3D CadWorx, some design engineering employers prefer experience with PTC Creo Direct, Model Manager and Siemens Teamcenter tools, while other employers prefer Project Management Institute (PMP) certification and some companies prefer IT-based CADD skills
Salary (2015) $62,923 per year (Median salary for CAD managers)

Sources: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2012 Careerbuilder.com job search, Payscale.com, October 2012 Monster.com job search.

Step 1: Earn a College Degree

According to an October 2012 Careerbuilder.com job search, CAD managers were usually expected to have at least an associate's degree. In some cases, employers prefer managers with Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees. Some community colleges and technical schools offer associate's degree programs in manufacturing technology with coursework that teaches basic design and drafting skills. While many 4-year colleges generally don't have drafting programs, they may have a CAD lab and provide a class - or series of classes - for students whose majors require it, such as engineering and architecture.

Success Tips:

  • Explore bachelor's degree programs. After you complete an associate's degree in applied science (AAS) or another relevant program of study, continued education in a specific industry may assist with knowledge and skill development as well as career advancement.
  • Explore master's degree programs. A few Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs emphasize technology management. These programs provide coursework in corporate management and are intended to assist students with career advancement.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience in CAD Drafting

Employers require CAD managers to have some experience performing the work of those they oversee. Since managers may also need to perform some of the more advanced drafting and designing work, prior experience in a specific industry is essential. Specialty areas with available jobs for drafters include aeronautics, architecture, civil drafting, electrical drafting and mechanical drafting.

Success Tip:

  • Obtain an internship. Interning with an architectural, engineering or other business may assist prospective managers with further developing their skill set.
  • Observe managers at the workplace. While interning, look for opportunities to shadow managers and observe their management styles.

Step 3: Get Certified

The American Design Drafting Association/American Digital Design Association (ADDA) provides professional international certification exams that are geared toward industry-specific requirements. These include the Certified Apprentice Drafter exams for architecture and mechanical engineering, the Certified Design Drafter exam for civil engineering and the Certified Digital Designer Visual Communication exam. CAD software certification, however, requires passing a separate exam.

Success Tip:

  • Choose the right certification. Since industry standards and requirements vary, it's important to obtain relevant certification. Furthermore, certification demonstrates professionalism and dedication to the field.

Step 4: Build Managerial Experience

Prospective CAD managers generally optimize their employment opportunities when they have previous managerial experience. According to an October 2012 search for positions at Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com, the minimum experience requirement is 5-10 years, with additional experience preferred. Some job notices didn't specify whether these experience requirements relate to managerial experience, while other may indicate project management experience was required.

Success Tip:

  • Accept challenging assignments. While working as a drafter, individuals may want to consider accepting progressively more difficult assignments to gain practical experience and increase their chances of advancement to a supervisory position.

Step 5: Pursue Continuing Education

Since the field of computer technology is constantly in flux, the ADDA states continuing education is essential. While new skills can be developed on a day-to-day basis through work-oriented assignments, the ADDA provides additional opportunities such as its annual Technical Training Conference, networking events, the ADDA Employment Center and other resources for continuing education, professional growth and career advancement.

Success Tips:

  • Take online classes. A variety of online opportunities exist through which you can develop additional skills. Some of these classes assist with obtaining additional certification opportunities.
  • Conduct Internet research. The ADDA recommends conducting regular Internet research to expand your knowledge and skill set.
  • Learn about new products. It's important to stay current with technological advancements, including new software and updated software, according to the ADDA. Managers need to be aware when relevant tools become available.
  • Network with other professionals. In addition to face-to-face networking opportunities, it's also important to participate in online forums and chat rooms, according to the ADDA.

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