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Become an AutoCAD Operator: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become an AutoCAD operator. Research the education requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in drafting and design. View article »

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  • 0:00 Become an AutoCAD Operator
  • 0:46 Career Requirements
  • 1:47 Step 1: Get…
  • 2:35 Step 2: AutoCAD Certification
  • 3:02 Step 3: Enter the Workforce
  • 3:33 Step 4: Gain Advanced…

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Video Transcript

Become an AutoCAD Operator

AutoCAD, sometimes called CAD or CADD, refers to computer-aided design or computer-aided design and drafting, respectively. AutoCAD operators are drafters who use these applications to create technical drawings for a variety of industries, ranging from electronics to aeronautics. Drafters often work full-time in office environments and may be required to collaborate with other individuals on various projects. AutoCAD operators make average salaries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but these positions generally do not require extensive educational training.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate degree; bachelor's degree preferred
Degree Field Computer-aided design, engineering
Certification Voluntary, such as from Autodesk
Experience 3-5 years' experience; but entry-level work also available
Key Skills Technical and interpersonal skills; detail-oriented; AutoCAD, scanning, graphic, and photo imaging software; knowledge of plotter printers, calculators, and scales
Salary $44,980 (2016 median)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monster.com job postings (January 2013), Autodesk, Career One Stop, PayScale.com (2015)

A career as an AutoCAD operator may require an associate degree. However, some employers will prefer a bachelor's degree. A degree for this type of work could be earned in computer-aided design or engineering. In addition to a degree, optional certification is available from training companies, such as Autodesk. Most positions require 3-5 years of experience, but entry-level work is also available. When preparing for a career as an AutoCAD operator, look to develop a few key skills, such as technical skills, interpersonal skills, and being detail-oriented. Knowledge of and ability with AutoCAD, scanning software, graphic and photo imaging software, plotter printers, calculators, and scales could also be necessary in this line of work. The website Payscale.com reports that, as of October 2016, the median annual salary for an AutoCAD operator is $44,980.

Step 1: Get Specialized Training

Certificate or associate degree programs in AutoCAD are the most common type of academic training for prospective operators. Introductory classes outline software command keys and drawing setups. Once students become familiar with the AutoCAD interface, they can advance to creating 2-D designs and 3-D models of roads, buildings, and other facilities. Students might choose programs that offer specialized training in fields such as architecture, electronics, or machinery. Another field of study for aspiring AutoCAD operators is engineering. A survey of positions on Monster.com in November 2016 revealed that applicants with at least a 2-year degree in engineering basically were on equal footing with individuals holding a CAD degree.

Step 2: AutoCAD Certification

Autodesk offers certifications in products with focuses ranging from civil planning to architectural design. While not mandatory, these certifications can enhance an AutoCAD operator's job opportunities. Applicants for certification must pass a qualifying exam. Aspiring drafters can prepare for the exam by enrolling in an Autodesk training course, purchasing a training guide, and/or taking an assessment test.

Step 3: Enter the Workforce

AutoCAD operators might find work with architectural, construction, engineering, or electronic design firms. While entry-level architectural AutoCAD operators might confirm specifications and make adjustments on spatial designs for commercial buildings, operators employed in the electronics design industry might create sketches and modifications for circuit boards. New hires sometimes work closely with a senior operator, designer, or drafter to receive additional training on AutoCAD programs and commands.

Step 4: Gain Advanced Experience

Experienced AutoCAD operators ensure that designs conform to industry standards, as well as plan more complicated schematics or layouts of mechanical parts and design building structures or integrated circuits, depending on their respective fields. At this level, operators might take on a project management role and visit proposed sites to consult with engineers regarding designs and building materials. These professionals also might train new hires on presenting models, explaining potential scaling issues, and quickly reproducing, printing, and altering designs.

A career as an AutoCAD operator will require training with drafting and designing software, which can be gained through a certificate program or an associate or bachelor's degree that is earned in engineering or computer-aided design. These professionals work with the drafting software creating designs, modifying drawings, and meeting specifications for projects in a variety of industries.


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