Become an AutoCAD Operator: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become an AutoCAD operator. Research the education requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in drafting and design.

Do I Want to Be an AutoCAD Operator?

AutoCAD, sometimes called CAD or CADD, refers to computer-aided design or computer-aided design and drafting, respectively. AutoCAD operators are drafters who use these applications to create technical drawings for a variety of industries, ranging from electronics to aeronautics. Drafters often work full-time in office environments and may be required to collaborate with other individuals on various projects. They make average salaries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but they don't generally require extensive educational training.

Job Requirements

High school graduates might look to technical schools or community colleges for advanced education in drafting. The following table contains the main requirements for being an AutoCAD operator:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Associate degree required for many positions; some employers prefer a bachelor's degree**
Degree Field Computer-aided design, engineering**
Certification Optional certification is available from training companies such as Autodesk***
Experience Most positions require 3-5 years' experience, but entry-level work is also available**
Key Skills Technical skills, interpersonal skills, detail-oriented*
Computer Skills AutoCAD, scanning software, graphic and photo imaging software** **
Technical Skills Plotter printers, calculators, scales****

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Monster.com job postings (January 2013), ***Autodesk, ****Career One Stop.

Step 1: Get Specialized Training

Certificate or associate degree programs in AutoCAD are the most common type of academic training for prospective operators. Introductory classes outline software command keys and drawing setups. Once students become familiar with the AutoCAD interface, they can advance to creating 2-D designs and 3-D models of roads, buildings and other facilities. Students might choose programs that offer specialized training in fields such as architecture, electronics or machinery. Another field of study for aspiring AutoCAD operators is engineering. A survey of positions on Monster.com in January 2013 revealed that applicants with at least a 2-year degree in engineering basically were on equal footing with individuals holding a CAD degree.

Step 2: Attain AutoCAD Certification

Autodesk offers certifications in products with focuses ranging from civil planning to architectural design. While not mandatory, these certifications can enhance an AutoCAD operator's job opportunities. Applicants for certification must pass a qualifying exam. They can prepare for the exam by enrolling in an Autodesk training course, purchasing a training guide and/or taking an assessment test.

Step 3: Enter the Workforce

AutoCAD operators might find work with architectural, construction, engineering or electronic design firms. While entry-level architectural AutoCAD operators might confirm specifications and make adjustments on spatial designs for commercial buildings, operators employed in the electronics design industry might create sketches and modifications for circuit boards. New hires sometimes work closely with a senior operator, designer or drafter to receive additional training on AutoCAD programs and commands.

Step 4: Gain Advanced Experience

Experienced AutoCAD operators ensure that designs conform to industry standards, as well as plan more complicated schematics or layouts of mechanical parts, building structures or integrated circuits, depending on their respective fields. At this level, operators might take on a project management role and visit proposed sites to consult with engineers regarding designs and building materials. These professionals also might train new hires on presenting models, explaining potential scaling issues and quickly reproducing, printing and altering designs.

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