CAD Designer Certification and Training Program Information

CAD training is available through certificate and associate's degree programs that are typically offered through community colleges, vocational schools and technical institutes. Compare the program options and get info on graduates' career prospects.

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Essential Information

Individuals with computer-aided design (CAD) training can utilize their skills as drafters in a variety of industries. After studying topics such as 3D modeling and architectural drafting in computer laboratories, graduates might qualify to pursue positions as CAD technicians and drafters.

CAD certificate programs are typically one year in length, while an associate's degree takes about two years to complete. Applicants for the associate's degree need a high school diploma or GED, as well as skills in blueprint reading and basic drafting. Once enrolled, some degree programs incorporate cooperative learning opportunities into the curriculum to provide students with hands-on experiences in real-world settings.

Certificate in Computer Aided Design (CAD)

Certificate programs for CAD designers teach students how to utilize computer software to create easy-to-understand, accurate and detailed drawings and plans. Students become familiar with 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional design technology. Skills in solid modeling software are also developed. Program coursework includes both classroom instruction and hands-on laboratory assignments. Topics covered include:

  • AutoCAD software
  • Modeling systems
  • 3-D Modeling
  • Geometric dimensioning
  • Tolerances

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Associate of Applied Science in Computer Aided Design (CAD)

An associate's degree program provides students with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively convey technical information through graphic communication. Courses introduce students to basic CAD concepts and processes, including rotating and scaling objects, drawing set-up, utilizing predefined shapes, 3-dimensional drawings and freehand sketching. Through extensive training in a computer lab setting, students become familiar with standard industry software programs, such as AutoCAD, parametric design and illustration software.

In addition to technical instruction in CAD software applications, required program coursework includes a number of general education credits within the areas of communications, natural sciences and social sciences. Core CAD topics often include:

  • Machine drafting
  • Rendering and animation
  • Tool design
  • Technical math
  • Solid modeling
  • Architectural drafting

Popular Career Options

CAD designers are needed to create detailed drawings and models in a variety of fields, such as engineering, interior design, manufacturing and architectural design. Below are a few examples of job opportunities available to those with formal CAD training.

  • Drafter
  • CAD Technician
  • AutoCAD operator
  • Architectural design technician

Employment and Salary Information

CAD designers and drafters convert ideas and project specifications into easy-to-understand drawings that can be used as road maps to manufacture new products or build structures. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall employment growth for drafters was projected to decrease by 3% during the 2014-2024 decade ( As of May 2015, the BLS reported that mechanical drafters earned a median annual salary of $53,520, and architectural and civil drafters earned a median wage of $50,710 per year.

Students wishing to study computer-aided design (CAD) can pursue a certificate or associate's degree to learn the drafting, modeling and design skills required to become drafters and design technicians.

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