Job Description of a CAD Operator

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a CAD operator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

CAD operators are drafters who use computer-aided design (CAD) systems to prepare drawings and blueprints. These documents guide the creation of many products, including manufactured goods, buildings and structures. Mechanical ability and an aptitude for drawing and detail work are important attributes for this career. Community colleges and technical schools offer 2-year programs for drafters. The American Design Drafting Association offers certifications that, while not required, can improve employment prospects.

Required Education Associate's degree or completion of a technical school program
Other Requirements Certification through the American Design Drafting Association is recommended
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 1% (for all drafters)*
Median Salary (2014) $39,047**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

CAD Operator Job Description

CAD operators, otherwise known as drafters, are usually employed by manufacturing firms and construction companies. They may work as aeronautical, architectural, civil, mechanical or electronics drafters. CAD operators often have a specialty in a specific field, much as engineers do. Although their work is mainly done on the computer, CAD operators still need to know how to prepare manual drawings for certain applications. Successful drafters have a solid understanding of mathematics and science.

Job Duties

CAD operators provide the guidelines and technical details of the product or structure that is being built. They may work with engineers, architects and other professionals in producing plans and drawings. These documents use specialized notations and symbols to convey instructions about materials, assembly procedures or tools.

An architectural drafter may draw plans for the foundations of structures as well as lay out the interior rooms of buildings. They are expected to study building codes, site requirements and other documentation to determine any impact on building plans. Visits to building sites to collect data and monitor compliance with design requirements may also be part of the job.

Civil drafters draw maps, diagrams or plans for construction projects and structures. They review data from engineers and technicians to ensure that they conform to design plans. Civil drafters may be involved in planning bridges, highways and waste-water treatment systems.

Mechanical drafters produce guidebooks and manuals for machinery and tools by making illustrations of mechanical systems. They employ mathematical formulas to develop specifications for machinery and design blueprints of specific items. These drafters may also assist in product testing, allowing them to revise documentation as the design changes.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the wages of drafters depend upon specialty area. In May 2013, the BLS reported an average yearly wage of $51,250 for architectural and civil drafters. The average annual salary for mechanical drafters was $54,510 that year, and electrical and electronics drafters made $60,350 annually on average (

Employment Outlook

Although the BLS predicts slower-than-average job growth for the drafting field overall between 2012 and 2022, electrical and electronics drafters are projected to experience job growth at 10%, which is closer to the national average of all careers at 11%. Expertise in the latest industry software may increase the likelihood of securing employment in this field.

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