Does Professional CAD Training Cost Too Much?

Article by Mike Walloch, CSWE updated February 28, 2024


Does it cost too much to train SOLIDWORKS users? What about training for CATIA or DraftSight? Is professional CAD training worth the price?

Yes, it’s worth it. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

Ok, I sense you’re not satisfied with that answer just yet. So, what are we really asking here? Does professional CAD training cost too much compared to what?

CAD Training class blurred

CAD Training class

CAD Training – Education Options

If you’re reading this, you’re probably involved in an industry that requires the use of SOLIDWORKS. Or maybe you use CATIA, or DraftSight, or a combination of CAD applications. These tools are critical to your bottom line. You wouldn’t hire a plumber who didn’t know how to use a pipe wrench but assured you he could figure it out by watching some YouTube videos, while he’s on the clock, on your dime.

Likewise, A CAD user must know how to use the tools of the trade before they can do productive work. Some form of training must come first. There are three options, and no training isn’t one of them.

Education TypePriceTime
College or Vocational SchoolHighYears
Professional TrainingModerateDays


School is typically the most expensive option in terms of both dollars and time. It’s great for those who can afford to take plenty of time away from productive work.

Professional CAD training is typically much less expensive and takes days instead of semesters. It’s a good option for those who need to get back to work quickly.

In both cases, students benefit from a carefully designed curriculum. They develop a well-rounded understanding of the tools available to them. Experienced instructors, often industry veterans, provide added value with insights, best practices, tips and tricks, etc.

Self-Education using low-cost or free resources, like blogs and YouTube videos, seems like quite a bargain on the surface. But it often comes with some serious pitfalls:

  • High Cost in Time
  • Gaps in Knowledge
  • Inefficient Techniques

It works for self-disciplined people who are not prone to distractions and are good at time management. If you’re one of those people, good for you! For myself, and many others, a trip to YouTube to watch some CAD videos can quickly turn into a marathon of cat videos instead.

The lack of a proven curriculum, help from instructors, and a broader context often leaves a person with serious knowledge gaps. Professionally trained CAD users can often spot the work of self-taught users due to less-than-ideal design choices. I’ll write more on that topic in the future. For now, let’s consider the real cost of inefficiency.

The Broken Window Fallacy and Opportunity Costs

In his 1850 essay “That Which We See and That Which We Do Not See” the French economist Frédéric Bastiat famously used the parable of the broken window to illustrate the concept of opportunity costs. In short, a shopkeeper’s son accidentally breaks a window, forcing the shopkeeper to hire a glazier to replace it. This is obviously a benefit to the glazier at the expense of the shopkeeper.

Broken window

Broken window

What’s not obvious are the hidden costs of the broken window. If his son had been more careful, the shopkeeper would have used that money for something else. He’s missed out on what he would have had, and at least one other merchant has lost a sale.

Price tags and budget line items are easy to keep track of. But opportunity costs such as this are notoriously hard to account for. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture while focusing on obvious costs.

Thought Experiment – What is Efficiency Worth?

Let’s imagine a SOLIDWORKS user who taught himself the basics. We’ll call him Steve. He’s able to meet the minimum requirements of his job but knows he could be more efficient with professional training. To keep things simple, let’s assume he produces $1000 worth of value for his employer per week at his current level of skill.

Steve takes a week off work for professional SOLIDWORKS training. The cost to his employer is the price tag, plus $1000 worth of lost productivity while Steve is out. Let’s not consider the benefits of Steve being able to do types of work he couldn’t do before, but only look at the increase in his productivity.

Let’s be conservative and estimate a modest 20% increase in Steve’s efficiency. (Depending on where he’s starting from, it could be much more.) He doesn’t spend all his time modeling, so to be fair let’s drop that number to a 10% increase.

Post-training, he’s producing an extra $100 in value per week. That’s roughly $5k per year. It won’t show up in any budget reports, but it won’t take long for the training to pay for itself. If Steve remains with the company for 5 years after the training, that’s about $25k in added value.

Maybe the correct question is how much does a lack of training cost?


Does professional CAD training cost too much? Compared to college or vocational school, certainly not! Compared to self-education is a harder question to answer. We must consider both the obvious and hidden costs, especially squandered time and sub-par models. Some brilliant people can quickly develop top-notch skills on their own, but most of us need help.

When all the factors are considered, professional SOLIDWORKS training looks like a bargain to me.

See a list of our SOLIDWORKS Training courses here »

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Mike Walloch, CSWE

Mike Walloch is a Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert (CSWE) and works as a Process & Training Consultant at TriMech