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Careers in Technical Drawing: Options and Requirements

Degrees in technical drawing, or drafting, typically include the fields of architecture, manufacturing and electronics. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for drafting graduates.

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A number of career paths are available in the field of technical drawing, including mechanical, architectural, and electrical drafters. Graduation from a technical school or a degree in a relevant field is required to work in technical drawing.

Essential Information

Technical drawing professionals use manual drawing techniques as well as computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software to create drawings for everything from toys to skyscrapers. In addition to artistic talent and mechanical ability, drafters must demonstrate proficiency with computers and design-related software. Some fields might also require knowledge of applied math and physics.

Required Education Degree from community college or certificate from technical school
Other Requirements Mechanical aptitude, master of CADD systems, interpersonal skills
Median Salary (2015)* $50,710 (architectural and civil drafters); $59,520 (electrical and electronics drafters); $53,520 (mechanical drafters); $49,650 (all other drafters)
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -3%

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Technical drawing professionals, commonly referred to as drafters, produce drawings and plans for a wide range of fields. Their drawings provide visual aids and blueprints for construction and factory workers, engineers and architects. Following are some of the most common career options for drafters.

Architectural Drafting

Technical drawing professionals can work in the housing or construction industry composing drawings for architects or adding details to existing blueprints. They may be required to draft blueprints for houses and other buildings, or for renovations to existing structures. Alternatively, they may be asked to translate physical blueprints and sketches to electronic versions in order to present clients with digital representations of proposed projects. Professionals in this field must have knowledge of building techniques.

Civil Engineering Drafting

Technical drawing professionals can find jobs working with engineers in large engineering firms. They will produce renditions for building projects, including bridges and dams and other structures. Workers in this field might be required to have advanced math skills. They may be asked to estimate quantities of building materials or determine certain design requirements. Additionally they could be required to create three-dimensional models of a proposed project, built to scale.

Electronics Drafting

Another career option for drafters is in the field of electronics drafting. Workers in this sector will create the blueprints for circuit boards and other electronic components. They will be required to create manual drawings as well as computer aided renditions of designs. Workers in this field might need a background in electronics as well as advanced math courses.

Manufacturing Designs

Drawing or drafting tradesmen are needed in the manufacturing field to prepare drawings of products such as furniture, toys, equipment and machines. They draw manufacturing and assembly instructions for manufacturers. For many of these products, they are required to offer manually composed designs, including freehand drawings. These workers need basic math skills as well as artistic ability.

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Requirements for Careers in Technical Drawing

Educational Requirements

Sometimes, local manufacturing employers looking for entry-level drafters may accept credentials from a vocational or technical school that offers courses specific to that particular company's needs. Such schools offer basic training in areas like computer-aided drafting, technical sketching and geometric construction.

Most employers prefer that the applicant have at least a community college degree or a diploma or certificate from a technical institute. Each of these schools offers similar programs, but a community college may have more liberal arts requirements while the technical institute is more likely to focus more on the technical aspects of training. Studies include courses in advanced computer systems, three dimensional modeling and applied mathematics or electronics. Such training provides a sufficient background for a job in the manufacturing industry, including electronics drafting.

Drafters who plan to work for architecture or engineering firms should take a variety of courses that enhance both artistic abilities as well as mathematical skills such as architectural design, digital animation, orthographic projection, physics and engineering principles and might benefit in the long term from completing a 4-year degree.

Essential Skills

Prospective technical drawing professionals must have strong visual and mechanical aptitudes. Although the ability to envision an object in 3-D is an acquired skill, a facility for thinking visually and being attentive to details are innate skills that can be invaluable. Applicants must also have the ability to interpret other people's instructions and illustrations, create construction manuals and read blueprints. Additionally, they should be able to build models and prototypes.

Because computer-assisted design and drafting software (CADD) has become a prevalent tool in current drafting jobs, applicants should demonstrate mastery of CADD systems in addition to general computer proficiency levels. Drafters might be required to use advanced modeling software and must therefore be willing to continuously update their computer and technical skills.

Since these workers are often asked to work as a team with architects, engineers or construction workers, they should have excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate clearly and effectively.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The BLS expected work opportunities for drafters to decrease by three percent between 2014 and 2024. Its salary data is divided by the person's specialty as a drafter. The median annual salary for civil and architectural drafters was $50,710, according to the BLS in May 2015. That same report showed a median of $59,520 for electrical and electronics drafters, while mechanical drafters had a median of $53,520. All other drafting specialties were grouped together in the report and had a median of $49,650.

Technical drawing professionals may be involved in making blueprints for buildings or creating schematics for electrical or mechanical equipment. They need to be proficient using computer-aided design software and should have strong math and drawing skills.

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