YA you will need a slightly pricier laptop for autocad and such programs. I would suggest something with a Quadro graphics card. They run pricier but will handle any autodesk program with minimal effort.
I have my laptop which is a workstation designed for this purpose and boy does it do it. If you want ideas on specs check my dell sig. Though they don't sell this model on newegg for some reason so.
I'll see what i can find in your price range. oh and screen size is a plus but a 15.6 i think does the job
This has decent specs for the price.
Has an i5 so you have the cpu power
a nvidia 310m so you have cuda
4gb of ram
500gb hard drive like your friend wanted.