Architect Vs. Draftsman: What's the Difference?

Architects and draftsmen can both work on construction projects and may work together. However, the two positions have different responsibilities, and they require different skills and educational backgrounds.

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Architects and Draftsmen: A Comparison of Job Duties

Architects and draftsmen may perform similar work at times, but drafting is a broader field that can be applied to many specialties. Architects tend to have more direct involvement in construction projects and require more college training.

What Do Architects Do?

Architects design and build structures for others to live, work, eat, shop and worship in. These structures can include homes, schools, office buildings, rooms and complexes that are for indoor, outdoor, public or private use. In addition to being in charge of the overall aesthetics, architects must also make sure these structures are safe, functional and economical. Additionally, architects are often involved in every phase of construction projects, from initial planning to project completion.

Architects use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) tools and software, as well as building information modeling (BIM), to create construction drawings. They must be sure that these drawings follow ordinances such as zoning laws, building codes and fire regulations. Architects must also make sure these structures are handicapped-accessible.

Architect Education Requirements

Architects need at least a bachelor's degree in architecture. Most earn a 5-year bachelor's degree. This degree is designed for students with no prior architectural training. Course topics in an architecture program might include CADD, architectural history, construction methods, math and technology. Architecture students are also expected to gain work experience via internships.

Additionally, all architects in the U.S. must be licensed. Eligibility for licensure includes earning a professional degree in architecture, completing an internship and passing the Architect Registration Examination. Licenses must also be periodically renewed by completing some form of continuing education, such as classes, conferences or workshops.

What Do Draftsmen Do?

Draftsmen, also called drafters, perform some of the same tasks as architects and often work with architects. Draftsmen, like architects, prepare CADD drawings. However, drafting can be applied to many other areas besides construction and architecture. Drafting can be used to create drawings of circuitry or mechanical designs. A draftsman's CADD drawings include technical details and specifications such as materials, dimensions and procedures. In addition to using CADD, draftsmen also use calculators, tables and technical handbooks.

The type of work a draftsman does depends on his or her area of expertise. For example, architectural drafters produce drawings for new construction projects. They may specialize in residential or commercial buildings or in the type of material used, such as steel, timber or reinforced concrete. Civil drafters prepare drawings for use in major civil engineering projects, such as highway and bridge construction, sewage systems and flood-control projects. Common drafting fields include aeronautics, electronics and architecture.

Draftsman Education Requirements

Employers prefer draftsmen with college training. Because training varies considerably among these schools, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recommends that students check with employers to see which type of training they prefer prior to enrolling at any school. Certificates, diplomas or associate's degrees in drafting can be earned from technical institutes and community colleges. In some cases, drafting training can also be obtained in military service.

Salary Information

Architects tend to earn considerably more than draftsmen. In May 2014, architects, excluding landscape and naval, earned a median annual salary of $74,520, reported the BLS. Architects in the highest 10th percentile earned $121,910 or more per year.

Draftsmen salaries vary depending on specialty. According to BLS data, architectural drafters earned a median annual wage of $49,970 in May 2014. By contrast, electrical and electronics drafters earned a median income of $58,790 in the same period.

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