Computer-aided design (CAD) technicians, also known as drafters or CAD operators, draw plans that serve as visual guidelines. These illustrations show the detailed dimensions and specifications of projects, as well as any materials or procedural instructions that must be used. Certificate program students typically receive training at high-tech facilities using the most up-to-date AutoCAD software. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs offer broader job preparation and a background in general education topics. Specialization options include mechanical, electronic and HVAC design programs.
CAD certificate programs focus on mechanical designs, drafting and drawing. Students gain the knowledge and skills needed to obtain entry-level employment in positions that utilize CAD systems. Through CAD certificate programs, students learn to use various drawing instruments and scaling objects. They typically explore architectural drawing, sheet metal development and 2-D and 3-D modeling. They also might explore coordinating systems, plotting and printing to scale. These programs also teach critical thinking, strategizing and management skills. Other studies might include:
- Complex drafting, sketching and mechanical drawing.
- Dimensioning and parametric design techniques
- Fundamentals in designing and drawing
- Understanding diagrams, illustrations and sketches
Associate of Applied Science in CAD
These programs prepare students for careers that use CAD systems in engineering, manufacturing or other types of areas. Students learn to sketch thoughts into designs as they get hands-on training through design labs, internships and lectures. They also become skilled in reading blueprints and mechanical prints. They might learn organizational proficiencies, problem solving and research methods. Common courses may cover:
- CAD data administration
- Civil and mechanical drafting and drawing
- Dimensional and drafting essentials
- Engineering and technical design and drawing
- Processes in manufacturing
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Bachelor of Science in CAD
At the bachelor's degree level, students usually learn to employ ideas and expertise to translate and cultivate sketches and illustrations. They're trained to design and draft diagrams, graphics and orthographic drawings. To help them in the workplace, students often complete classes in oral and written communication skills.
While studying CAD, students generally build creative and critical thinking skills, as well as supervisory skills to be used in the workplace. Labs, seminars and internships are common. At this level, advanced studies may include:
- Computer applications administration and systems
- Mechanical and structural drafting
- Graphics and technology in engineering
- Technology in materials and machinery
- Technical design and drawing
Popular Career Options
CAD certificate holders are prepared for entry-level positions in fields that utilize CAD and drafting technologies. Graduates with associate's degrees can find employment in various types of industries, including construction, surveying, engineering and architecture. Graduates with a bachelor's degree are prepared to enter an array of careers that use CAD technology, such as animation, architecture and product production. Employment opportunities include:
- Associate engineers, design or manufacturing draft technicians
- Mechanical or product designers
- Application programmers
- CAD or computer-aided manufacturing systems managers
- Technical support engineers and training consultants
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall employment of drafters is projected to decline 3% from 2014 to 2024, but growth will vary by specialty. Employment of electrical and electronics drafters is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about average for all occupations. However, employment of architectural and civil drafters is projected to decline 3% from 2014 to 2024.
As of May 2015, the BLS reported that the average annual wage of architectural and civil drafters was $53,470, while electrical and electronic drafters earned an average of $62,890.
At the undergraduate level, aspiring drafters can get the theoretical and practical training they need through certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree programs. A key component in all of these programs is computer-aided drafting (CAD), so graduates are ready for careers that require knowledge of this subject.