CAD certificate and associate's degree programs are offered through community colleges, both onsite and online. Students normally take two semesters to complete a certificate, or two years to earn an associate's degree. CAD students in 2-year programs generally earn an Associate of Applied Science in Computer-Aided Design and Drafting or in Architectural Design and Technology. Applicants to these programs will need a high school diploma or equivalent. In addition, necessary placement exams may be required.
Certificate Programs in Computer-Aided Architectural Design
A certificate program allows students to become familiar with industrial standards and techniques involved in this field. Students may learn about symbol libraries, floor plan creation and elevations. A certificate program curriculum may include training in computer animation, modeling and illustration. Common courses may include:
- Structural drafting
- Commercial architectural drafting
- Blueprint reading and detailing
- Architectural facilities and architectural drawing
Associate's Degree Programs in Computer-Aided Architectural Design
Students may have the opportunity to use the most recent CAD applications available in the industry. Many programs are hands-on and may require students participate in lab projects. Architectural CAD programs emphasize critical thinking and communication skills in addition to knowledge of 3-D modeling, mechanical drafting and detailing.
Some programs may provide training in construction methods, building codes and site planning. Coursework in an architectural CAD training program may include trigonometry and physics classes, as well as elements of drafting, geography, engineering and manufacturing. Common courses include:
- Technical drafting and machine drafting
- Residential design and detailing
- Technical illustration and survey drafting
- Geographic information systems
- Architectural rendering
Popular Career Options
Job opportunities may be available in engineering and design firms, construction companies or consulting offices. After completing a program in computer-aided architectural design, individuals may choose from the following career options:
- Architectural drafter
- CAD drafter
- Architectural CAD technician
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to PayScale.com, as of September 2019, the salary of a CAD drafter in the field of architectural services ranged from $33,000 to $64,000. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), architectural and civil drafting was expected to have slower employment growth than other types of drafting, such as electrical and electronics drafting (www.bls.gov). Employment in civil and architectural drafting was expected to decline by three percent between 2018 and 2028, according to BLS data.
Architectural drafters interested in enhancing their design and drafting skills can take continuing education courses. These courses can improve proficiency in AutoCAD or provide training on new computer-aided design software. Prerequisites for these courses may include prior knowledge of drafting or architectural design.
Depending on a student's academic goals, there is the CAD certificate or associate's degree program. The degree program teaches more advanced information than the certificate program, but yields to careers in the same field.