CAD Designer: Career Overview

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a CAD Designer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and required skills to find out if this is the career for you.

CAD drafting is meant for those who like to tinker and design. Fortunately for CAD drafters, there are a variety of fields available to choose from, such as architecture or engineering, each with its own salary opportunities and job growth statistics. Most CAD drafters hold a certificate or an associate's degree.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Architectural Drafting and Design
  • CAD Drafting and Design Technology
  • Civil Engineering Drafting and Design
  • Mechanical Drafting and Design

Essential Information

CAD designers use specialized computer software to generate drawings, blueprints, plans, and other design documents for use across a wide variety of fields (mechanical design, architecture, construction, engineering, etc.). Entry into this career field typically requires an associate's degree. This career field would appeal to someone who enjoys problem solving, drawing or working with engineers.

Required Education Associate's degree or certificate
Other Requirements Optional certification available from the American Design Drafting Association
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -3% for all drafters
Median Salary (2015)* $50,710 (architectural and civil drafters); $53,520 (mechanical drafters); $59,520 (electrical and electronics drafters)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Mechanical Design and CAD

Someone interested in working with engineers and helping with the design and specifications of drawings may pursue a career as a mechanical designer and CAD technician. Typically offered as an associate's degree program, this program qualifies students for entry-level drafting positions or transfer to a 4-year engineering degree program.

Architectural/Construction Engineering

Individuals interested in all phases of construction and structural design may pursue a career as an architectural/construction engineering technician. In addition to assisting engineers and architects, technicians learn green building practices. An architectural/construction technology associate degree program includes courses in CAD, engineering drawing, mechanical and electrical systems, green building techniques and architectural drawing.

Aerospace Engineering

Those who work in aerospace engineering drafting create plans and blueprints for aircrafts. This program is for individuals interested in careers in aeronautical industries or in advancing to graduate programs in this or related fields. The curriculum combines courses in engineering principles and aerospace engineering. Course topics include CAD, engineering graphics, fluid mechanics and aerodynamics.

Biomechanical Engineering

Individuals interested in integrating mechanical engineering principles into the medical profession may want to have a career in this field. Graduates may find employment in sports and rehabilitation industry, medical facilities or performing research. In addition to learning about physiology and anatomy, human joints mechanics and biomedical materials, students study CAD-related courses.

Career and Salary Outlook for a CAD Designer

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment outlook for all drafters was expected to decline 3% between 2014 and 2024, while employment for electrical and electronics drafters would increase by 5% during the same time (www.bls.gov). The BLS also stated in 2015 that the median annual wage for architectural and civil drafters was $50,710. Electrical and mechanical drafters earned a bit more, with median annual salaries of $59,520 and $53,520, respectively.

A certificate or associate's degree program is all that is needed to get started in a CAD design career. A CAD designer can choose their field depending on their interests, like working in medical or aerospace engineering. Architecture and construction is another field that CAD designers may consider if they're interested in helping to design major structures.


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