CAD operators are drafters who prepare drawings and blueprints for industries such as buildings, construction, and manufacturing. CAD operators may have different specialties, but typically have a background in math or science.
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 (2014-2024)||-3% (for all drafters)*|
|Median Salary (2016)||$40,796 (CAD operators)**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com
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.
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 2015, the BLS reported an average yearly wage of $53,470 for architectural and civil drafters. The average annual salary for mechanical drafters was $56,610 that year.
The BLS predicts a decline of 3% in employment for the drafting field overall between 2014 and 2024. Expertise in the latest industry software may increase the likelihood of securing employment in this field.
CAD drafters should have strong attention to detail and drawing skills. They can complete an associate's degree and seek certification. While typically employed by manufacturing firms and construction companies, they can specialize in a specific type of drafting. CAD operators or drafters usually work with engineers, architects or other professionals who need technical plans or drawings.