Architect Vs. Draftsman: What's the Difference?

Apr 20, 2020

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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What Do Architects Do?

When deciding to pursue a job as an architect or a draftsman, it is important to consider job duties, educational requirements, and salary expectations. 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 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 may also need to make sure that structures are accessible to persons with disabilities.

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. Other common drafting fields include aeronautics and electronics.

Architect Education Requirements

Architects need at least a bachelor's degree in architecture. The education and licensure requirements are much greater for architects than for draftsmen. Most architects earn a 5-year bachelor's degree. This degree is designed for students with no prior architectural training. Some aspiring architects may also choose to earn a master's degree in the field. 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.

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.

Draftsman Education Requirements

Employers prefer draftsmen with college training. 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. In general, topics of study can include design, sketching, and CADD. Because training varies considerably among 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. It is important to note that draftsmen do not need to be licensed.

Salary Information

Architects tend to earn considerably more than draftsmen. In May 2018, architects, excluding landscape and naval, earned a median annual salary of $79,380, reported the BLS. Architects in the highest 10th percentile earned $138,120 or more per year.

Draftsmen salaries vary depending on specialty. According to BLS data, architectural drafters earned a median annual wage of $54,920 in May 2018. By contrast, electrical and electronics drafters earned a median income of $60,070 in the same period.

Options for Advancement

After working for multiple years, it is possible for architects to advance and become architectural and engineering managers. These jobs include greater responsibilities in terms of project coordination and employee supervision. Drafters may be able to advance their job prospects by earning a professional certification from the American Design Drafting Associations (ADDA). Drafters may become certified in a specialty area.

While architects and draftsmen share some of the same job duties, architects must complete much more postsecondary education and fulfill licensure requirements. The median salary is also higher for architects than for draftsmen.

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