CAD drafters use computer-aided design software to create designs and schematics used to manufacture products or construct buildings. These professionals may specialize in many areas including civil, mechanical, and electrical drafting. Drafters have a job outlook that is in decline for the upcoming decade.
Computer-aided design (CAD) drafters utilize computer-aided design systems to create technical drawings for building construction and product manufacturing. Drafters fill out these drawings with specifications, methods, and codes. Many employers require CAD drafters to have completed at least an associate's degree program. Professional certification can increase advancement opportunities.
|Required Education||Associate's degree|
|Other Requirements||Professional certification recommended|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||-3%*|
|Average Salary (2015)||$55,820*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Description for CAD Drafters
CAD drafters create detailed schematics that are utilized in the manufacturing of products and the construction of buildings. These detailed technical drawings incorporate the input of engineers, architects, and surveyors and can specify dimensions, codes, materials, and production methods.
CAD drafters work within different specialties. Architectural drafters prepare structural designs for new construction under the direction of an architect. Civil drafters prepare technical drawings for civil engineering projects, such as bridges, highways, and piping systems. Mechanical drafters create designs for machinery and mechanical devices. Other common specialties include aeronautical, pipeline, electrical, and electronics drafters.
Salaries of CAD Drafters
In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that architectural and civil drafters earned an average annual salary of $53,470, while the average salary for mechanical drafters was $56,610. Electrical and electronics drafters earned an average of $62,890 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reports that these earnings can vary based on level of responsibility, location, and specialty area.
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Duties of CAD Drafters
Generally, CAD drafters coordinate the collection of data and incorporate this information into drawings, schematics, and maps. They consult with architects, engineers, surveyors, and workers while preparing and presenting their drawings.
Architectural drafters collect construction site reports, analyze building codes, and make weight, volume, and stress calculations for the materials to be used. They may also lay out interiors, draw landscaping, and represent the architect at the construction site.
Civil drafters incorporate data from topographical surveys and geophysical reports to prepare their drawings. They also make calculations for excavation and earth-moving operations and supervise technicians.
Mechanical drafters' designs feature the relationships between various mechanical parts and systems. They create and incorporate mathematical formulas to create component specifications and reproduce their schematics for use within reference materials, such as operations manuals.
Requirements to Become a CAD Drafter
The BLS notes that employers typically prefer CAD drafters who have completed at least a two-year associate's degree program at a technical school or community college; however, completion of a bachelor's degree program can enhance opportunities. Architecture or engineering programs can also provide the necessary education for a drafting career. Coursework may include mathematics, science, drawing, and design.
While not required for employment, acquiring a professional credential can increase chances of advancement. The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) offers certification programs for architectural, civil, and mechanical drafting (www.adda.org). The ADDA requires that individuals have three years of professional experience to be eligible to take the certification examination and the certification is valid for five years.
CAD drafters require an associate's degree in a related field, though a bachelor's degree may be preferred by many employers. Professional certification in architectural, civil and mechanical drafting is voluntary, but may aid in career advancement. The average annual salary for drafters is about $56,000.