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How to Start a Career in Architectural Drafting

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

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A good way to start a career in architectural drafting is to graduate high school and then earn a certificate or associate's degree in architectural drafting. During high school, enrolling in classes like shop or drafting will give you a head start on acquiring some of the basic skills that are essential for this career.

Essential Information

Architectural draftsmen work with architects and engineers to prepare structural plans for building construction or remodeling projects. These plans contain details about the design and measurements of the structure. Employers often prefer that these professionals hold a certificate or associate's degree in architectural drafting; some bachelor's degree programs may also be available. These programs may provide students with the opportunity to create a personal portfolio and gain work experience through a drafting internship. The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) offers voluntary certification for drafters.

Required Education Certificate or associate's degree in architectural drafting
Certification Voluntary certification through the ADDA
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -3% for all architectural and civil drafters
Median Salary (2015)* $50,710 annually for all architectural and civil drafters

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Starting a Career in Architectural Drafting

Students may enroll in mechanical classes like shop, drafting and automobile repair that use blueprints and other schematics while in high school to begin preparing for a career in architectural drafting. Additionally, students may also want to focus on mathematics courses like geometry and trigonometry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers favor applicants who have completed some postsecondary education (www.bls.gov). Postsecondary options may include certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree programs.

Certificate Program

Certificate programs offer prospective candidates an introductory education into architectural drafting. Most certificate programs last between 6-12 months and require the completion of 30 or more credits. Students typically begin their postsecondary careers by taking classes that introduce them to electronic scales and architectural drafting principles. Programs may then cover concepts in space planning, zoning and computer-aided design (CAD).

Associate's Degree Program

Students seeking more education may consider a 1-2 year associate's degree program in architectural drafting. These programs may include courses in architectural design, drafting, urban planning and green architecture. Additionally, some programs may require students to create their own personal portfolios while other programs may help students to find internship positions.

Voluntary Certification

Although not required for employment, architectural draftsmen seeking to increase their job opportunities may consider earning the Certified Drafter (CD) designation offered by the American Design Drafting Association (ww.adda.org). There are no eligibility requirements for this certification; draftsmen only need to complete a qualifying examination. The certification must be renewed every three years and may be done so through meeting requirements for work experience and continued education.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Jobs for architectural and civil drafters were predicted to decrease by 3% from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In 2015, the BLS reported an annual median salary of $50,710 for these drafters.

A certificate program in architectural drafting typically lasts about 6-12 months, while earning an associate's degree might take 1-2 years. Building a personal portfolio while studying can be helpful when seeking an internship or employment in the field. In addition to completing an education program, drafters can show their competency by passing a professional certification exam.

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