Top 10 US Cities for CAD Designers

by Modis on March 23, 2017

Best Cities for CAD DesignersIn the creative industries, it can be hard to work out where in the country offers a good standard of living, as well as plenty of job opportunities. We looked at wage and location data from the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) for designers, as well as cost of living scores, and state level investment in technology to find out which cities are a haven for CAD designers. Here are our top 10:

10. Newark, NJ

Average wage: $64,430

Location Quotient: 1.55

Cost of Living: +26%

Birthplace to the Oreo cookie, and standing as one of the oldest cities in the nation, Newark makes it into the top 10 cities to live in for CAD designers. Although Newark’s average wage fares low compared to the other high ranking cities (as well as its high cost of living) it was among one of the best places for tech investment.

9. New York City, NY

Average wage: $68,840

Location Quotient: 1.65

Cost of Living: +11%

Widely acclaimed as one of the most desirable places to live in the world, New York City is a vibrant, cultural hub of opportunity, offering more than just a job when it comes to living and working there. However, when it comes down to job metrics, it doesn’t climb any higher due to a relatively low concentration of jobs in the city.

8. San Francisco, CA

Average wage: $74,720

Location Quotient: 2.27

Cost of Living: +63%

The West Coast’s sprawling coastal city is a popular choice for tourists and a highly desirable place to live – if you’re willing and able to afford it! Luckily, it offers good wages for designers, at 7% over the average salary. However, this is offset by a hugely inflated cost of living, at a massive 63% over the national average, which is why the city only makes the 8th spot.

7. Rochester, NY

Average wage: $75,590

Location Quotient: 2.06

Cost of Living: Same as national average

With a significantly higher wage and a national average cost of living, Rochester beats its state rival New York and comes in 7th place. Although a quieter pace of life, with a population of just over 200,000 compared to New York City’s 8 million, Rochester has the least expensive real estate market out of all the major New York cities.

6. New Orleans, LA

Average wage: $76,010

Location Quotient: 2.14

Cost of Living: -3%

The beating heart of the deep south, New Orleans is famed for its colorful festivals, cultural cuisine, and as the home of jazz music. However, with a lower cost of living than in the northern states, and a good average wage in the sector, it’s also a great destination for commercial and industrial designers looking for work.

Location Wages and Investment

5. Greensboro, NC

Average wage: $71,510

Location Quotient: 2.67

Cost of Living: -2%

This diverse, university city is a hub of activity, with plenty to keep you occupied when you’re not hard at work. With an average designer wage 2% over average and a cost of living 2% under the national average, you should have some spending money too.

4. Bloomington, IL

Average wage: $76,010

Location Quotient: 2.68

Cost of Living: -9%

A charming city with easy access to its neighboring city, Chicago, Bloomington is the cheapest place to live in our top 10, with a cost of living 9% less than the national average. It has the same average wage as New Orleans but also benefits from a higher concentration of jobs in the area to jump up the table.

3. Greenville, SC

Average wage: $ 79,850

Location Quotient: 2.98

Cost of Living: -2%

With the highest average wage after number 1, and at 13% above the national average, Greenville is perhaps a surprise entry at number 3. The picturesque city, which is part of the wider Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin Metropolitan Statistical Area, was recently named as one of the top 10 fastest growing cities in America.

2. Niles, MI

Average wage: $78,300

Location Quotient: 6.55

Cost of Living: -7%

The first of two Michigan cities making up the top two, Niles sits in the West of the state, close to the beautiful Lake Michigan, and has a concentration of design jobs three times higher than 3rd placed Greenville. Furthermore, its cheap cost of living and high wage means it sits comfortably in second place.

1. Detroit, MI

Average wage: $83,990

Location Quotient: 11

Cost of Living: -4%

With the highest concentration of jobs in the country and an average wage a full 17% over the national average for designers, Detroit is the undisputed number one choice for commercial and industrial designers. In addition to its exciting job market, Detroit’s endless list of things to do and see really puts the city on the map. Plus, it has a cost of living 4% less than the national average, so you’ll have plenty of money left over to socialize too.

See all of our top 10’s wages compared below:

Annuals salaries in top 10 cities for CAD Designers

What do you think of our results? Should your town or city be included? Let us know on Twitter @modis

For more information on how each city was scored, please see the full methodology below.


For the point scores shown above, the following methodology was used to rank US cities:

Modis sourced an ‘occupational profile’ for Commercial and Industrial Designers from the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics). This profile featured average wage and location quotient data both nationally and for MSAs (Metropolitan Statistical Areas).

Cities were ranked initially in two categories. Firstly, location quotient, which gives MSAs a score based on the concentration of a certain profession in that area, proportionally, compared to the rest of the country. Secondly, the median wage for that role compared to the national average.

Initial location ranking was based on a weighted percentage ranking using the scale of location quotient scores from every featured MSA. The average wage was ranked according to each area’s percentage over the occupation’s national average wage. We took the top 50 from each category and matched cities that featured in both lists.

Cities were then ranked again using the same procedures, except each city’s average wage was adjusted according to their cost of living score (taken from Each city was then given a weighted score for both categories, as well as a score for their state’s investment in technology and science (taken from to get their final score.

tech salary guide 2017

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