CAD Drawing Careers: Options and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed have a career in CAD drawing. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and prospects to find out if this is the career for you.

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The ability to create diagrams and illustrations with computer software is a useful skill that can lead to a variety of jobs in fields such as electrical, aeronautical, mechanical, electronic, architectural and civil drafting. An associate's degree in computer aided design and drafting is the base requirement for this type of work, but drafters who want to pursue more senior jobs might need a bachelor's degree.

Essential Information

Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawers, or Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) operators, as they are more commonly known, prepare diagrams related to electronics, construction, architecture and mechanical fields. There are many computer-aided drafting and drawing career specializations available to graduates of 2-year degree programs in CADD technology and related areas. CADD operators are often referred to simply as drafters.

Required Education Associate's degree in CADD
Other Requirements Bachelor's degree for advanced levels
Projected Job Growth -3% from 2014-2024 for drafters*
Median Salary (2015) $52,720 annually for all drafters*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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CAD Drawing Career Options

Career options for CAD drawers are plentiful. A 2-year degree in CADD from a community college or technical school typically qualifies graduates for the following common job titles:

  • Electrical drafters - create diagrams that lay out wiring setups. These diagrams are used by professionals who repair and install electrical equipment and wiring.
  • Aeronautical drafters - create plans and drawings that detail engineering specifications for use in the manufacturing of airplanes, missiles and the like.
  • Mechanical drafters - prepare detailed assembly drafts for use with mechanical devices and machines. These drawings include methods of fastening, dimensions and other specifications.
  • Civil drafters - create topography and relief maps for use in civil engineering projects. These projects include bridges, water and sewage systems, highways and flood control setups.
  • Architectural drafters - diagram features of buildings, both structural and architectural, used in construction jobs. Diagrams may include materials needed to complete the job for both commercial and residential buildings.
  • Process drafters - create diagrams that are used in gas and oil refineries, piping systems and chemical plants, emphasizing both the construction and layout of plans.
  • Electronics drafters - diagram schematics for assembling circuit boards and wiring for use in electronic device manufacturing and repair.

Drafters looking to advance their careers can pursue positions as architects or engineering technicians after earning a 4-year college degree. Other job titles that might be attainable beyond the entry level include designer, supervisor and senior drafter.

Salary Information

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report on all of these types of drafters individually, it does collect data on some of them. In 2015, the BLS reported that electrical and electronics drafters made a median average salary of $59,520 that year, as listed by the BLS, while mechanical drafters brought in a median salary of $53,520. The median yearly salary for architectural and civil drafters in 2015 was $50,710, according to BLS data.

Education Requirements for CAD Drawing Careers

Prospective drafters can start their career preparation in high school by developing their artistic ability and taking classes in science, math, computer technology, design and of course, drafting. After high school graduation, students may enter any number of technical schools or community colleges that feature drafting education. Most 4-year institutions don't offer education specifically in drafting, but earning a bachelor's degree in a related field such as engineering, math, computer technology or architecture, can be useful to gain employment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS (www.bls.gov).

At community colleges and technical schools, associate's degrees or certificate programs focused specifically on drafting are widely available. An associate's degree in CADD technology is the most common education prerequisite for entry into computer-aided design and drawing careers. Common classes taught these degree programs include:

  • Engineering drawing
  • Technical drafting
  • Composition
  • Dimensioning
  • Manufacturing design

These 2-year degrees prove a graduate's value to employers and offer the best chance for career success in this competitive field, which is declining as compared to the national average according to the BLS as of December 2015.

The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) offers a certification test that is designed to prove drafting knowledge; students may use it as a potential tool for career advancement. Their Drafters Certification Test tackles basic drafting concepts, such as working drawings, architectural terms and geometric construction ideas.

Computer aided design and drafting skills can be applied to a wide range of fields and specializations, depending on what you like to draw and what your other skills are. An associate's degree can open most entry-level opportunities to you, but further education could allow you to advance in this competitive sector.

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