When deciding whether to pursue a career in drafting or architecture, it is important to consider common tasks, educational standards and career statistics.
Drafting professionals work under the direction of architects or engineers to transform ideas and designs into technical diagrams and plans. Using computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software programs, like building information modeling (BIM) or product data management (PDM), drafters prepare detailed representations of buildings, electronic components or other structures. In addition to architecture and electronics, areas of specialization can include aeronautical, civil or mechanical drafting. Some drafting professionals may also create diagrams of gas and oil pipelines.
Typical job duties include:
- Creating and inputting electronic drawings into computerized manufacturing systems
- Identifying the materials and sizes used in buildings, electronics or other structures
- Using building and construction knowledge to detail structural elements
Educational Requirements for Drafters
An associate degree in drafting is the usual requirement for obtaining a drafting position. For example, students can pursue an Associate in Applied Science in Electro/Mechanical Drafting that includes training in AutoCAD, circuit design, descriptive geometry and technical drafting. Some schools offer Associate of Applied Science programs in drafting and design technology that prepare graduates for careers in construction or engineering support. In addition to computer-aided design, the curriculum may cover topics in industrial and manufacturing technology, solid modeling and the properties of materials.
Although limited in number, some colleges have 4-year programs in design and drafting that can lead to Bachelor of Science degrees. These can provide ambitious undergraduates with additional training in architecture, civil drafting and project management, as well as opportunities for internships.
Job Outlook and Salary
In 2014, approximately half of drafters nationwide worked for architects, engineers or related professionals, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to the BLS, a 3% decline in employment was projected for drafters between 2014 and 2024. A 7% decrease was expected for mechanical drafters during the same period. In May 2016, mechanical drafters earned median annual wages of $54,480, with those in architectural and civil drafting receiving a median yearly salary of $51,640, also according to the BLS.
Architects conceptualize and develop building designs, including their end use, final appearance and incorporation of cooling, heating and plumbing systems. In conjunction with other professionals, such as engineers, interior designers or urban planners, they conduct environmental or land use studies, choose building sites and provide cost analyses. Architects must also be knowledgeable about building and fire codes, American Disabilities Act (ADA) considerations and zoning factors. Like drafters, architects also work with CADD software.
In addition to their drawing, design and administrative activities, architects can:
- Consult with clients or solicit new projects
- Prepare and manage construction contracts and documents
- Visit building sites to ensure compliance with architectural designs
Educational and Licensure Requirements for Architects
In general, the state-based requirements for architects include completion of a 5-year professional degree program in architecture that has been accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board. Individual architectural registration boards may consider graduates of non-accredited programs.
Aspiring professionals must also participate in supervised internships and receive a passing score on the Architect Registration Exam. Accredited programs, available at over 150 colleges and universities across the country, cover topics in architectural drawing and history, building technology and structural systems, as well as the use of design software.
Although not required to enter the field, Master of Architecture programs are also available and can require between one and five years of study, depending on a student's past educational credits. Students at this level may pursue advanced topics in architectural and visual theory and building systems or participate in studio work.
Job Outlook and Salary
From 2014 to 2024, the BLS projected a 7% increase in jobs for architects (excluding naval and landscape architects) nationwide. In May 2016, architects across the country earned a median annual wage of $76,930 in this highly competitive field.
While architects and draftsmen share some of the same job duties, architects must complete much more postsecondary education programs and fulfill licensure requirements. The median annual salary is also higher for architects than for draftsmen.