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Associate of Computer Aided Design: Degree Overview

An associate's degree in computer-aided design (CAD) prepares aspiring drafters for careers in technical fields through lecture classes and hands-on experience. Keep reading to learn about program coursework and the job prospects for graduates.

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Essential Information

A 2-year associate's degree in CAD teaches students about technical topics, such as civil, electronic, and architectural drafting. Students use computers and the appropriate software to create technical layouts, including 3-D images and 2-D floor plans. Students may also be required to complete capstone courses where they choose a design problem and find a solution using knowledge obtained through their studies. A high school diploma or the equivalent is usually mandatory for students planning to enroll.


Associate of Computer Aided Design

Associate's degree programs are typically offered at community and technical colleges. The curriculum combines coursework with laboratory time so that students can obtain hands-on experience and learn CAD techniques. Typical courses students may take include:

  • CAD tool detailing
  • Computer-aided engineering
  • Machine tools
  • Solid modeling
  • Engineering mechanics
  • 3-D CAD

Popular Career Options

CAD programs provide students with skills that can be used in many areas. From working with architecture firms that design housing and office buildings to government agencies that specialize in urban development, students may be able to work in many developmental environments. Possible career titles include:

  • CAD operator
  • CAD technician
  • CAD designer

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected the employment of drafters will decrease by 3% during the 2014-2024 decade (www.bls.gov), though outlook varies among different specialties. For example, the number of job openings for electrical and electronics drafters should increase 5% from 2014-2024, but job opportunities for mechanical drafters are expected to decrease 7%. In May of 2015, the BLS reported that architectural and civil drafters earned a yearly median salary of $50,710, while mechanical drafters and electrical and electronics drafters received $53,520 and $59,520 respectively.

Continuing Education Info

Although not required, certification could help drafters and designers prove their knowledge of industry-recognized drafting practices and procedures. The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) has various certification options for eligible candidates.

Students must demonstrate their knowledge of drafting terminology, CAD drawings, geometric concepts, and basic drafting principles to successfully pass the exam. Graduates of associate's degree programs can join the workforce right after graduation or pursue a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as engineering technology.

An associate's degree program in CAD provides students with a solid foundation in the skills needed for careers such as CAD operator, technician, or designer. Graduates can pursue voluntary certification after graduation or enter a bachelor's degree program.

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