Becoming a draftsman requires superior mathematical and analytical skills, natural drawing abilities and excellent hand-eye coordination. Candidates with well-developed skills in computer-aided drafting (CAD) and the ability to draw precise specifications are sought after. While the ability to draw manually is a favorable skill, training at a postsecondary school teaches students the technical skills that they might not otherwise be able to learn independently. Thus, earning a 2-year associate's degree in a field like computer-aided drafting and design (CADD) is recommended. Associate's degrees in CADD may be specialized in areas of mechanical, electrical, civil, electronics and architectural drafting.
Associate's Degree in Computer-Aided Drafting and Design (CADD)
This associate's degree program provides fundamental knowledge of technical design and engineering, as well as basic drafting topics, such as technical sketching, geometry, physics and technical illustration. Students may choose to pursue a specialization or take general drafting classes. Because of the different specializations, academic programs differ in core requirements and hands-on training.
Students spend most of their time in the associate's degree program designing and drafting drawings using computers and applying knowledge learned in lectures. Students utilize the latest computer-aided drafting software, such as AutoCAD, read and interpret blueprints and learn to use measurement tools, such as scale rulers. Instructors also cover surveying, building construction, estimating and angles.
Manufacturers, real estate developers and architects utilize draftsmen to transfer ideas and concepts into technical drawings. In addition to freehand sketching, most draftsmen use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) systems to produce drawings. Employers may prefer high school graduates who have completed a 2-year degree program, such as computer-aided drafting and design, and have the engineering and technical skills needed to draft accurate drawings.
Students may prepare for a career in drafting by practicing and strengthening their drawing skills as a hobby. Once the associate's degree program is complete, prospective draftsmen can expect to be a trainee for approximately 12 months until they have demonstrated their technical skills. During the training period, would-be draftsmen learn to draw technical objects, use 3-D and CADD software and interpret instructions from clients. Trainees work closely with professionals such as surveyors, architects and engineers.
Certification in this field is voluntary, but highly recommended by employers hiring entry-level drafters. The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) administers the certification examination for prospective draftsmen. The exam tests general comprehension of drafting and professional standards, but does not test specific CADD software. Architectural terminology, construction, mechanical equipment and technical drawing are common test items.
Most of the information learned about drafting is taught in a degree program; however, some lessons are taught by practicing professionals who don't issue college credit. Seminar topics may include basic drawing methods like shading, forms and creating space. Drawing workshops may also be held at art galleries where students exercise their skill in composition, gesture and expression.
As with most technical fields, candidates typically seek continuing education opportunities to build their skill set. Prospective draftsmen who are interested in pursuing specialties outside of their degree area may consider speaking with a professional working in that area or volunteering.
Students wanting to start a drafting career may seek an associate's degree in CADD. Such programs can be specialized in mechanical, electrical, civil, electronics and architectural drafting and prepare students for entry-level jobs and voluntary certification with the ADDA.