How to Become a Residential Drafter: Education and Career Roadmap

Should I Become a Residential Drafter?

Residential drafters use architectural design and computer-assisted drafting (CAD) software to create blueprints of residential buildings. They work under the guidance of architects and engineers and may be required to create multiple versions of technical building plans for review. Travel to work sites might be required, but much of their work is accomplished seated in front of a computer for many hours. Working overtime is common for these professionals.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate's degree; bachelor's may be required for some positions
Degree Field Architectural drafting or similar program
Certification Optional certification is available from the American Design Drafting Association
Experience Entry-level; no experience is necessary to enter this profession
Key Skills Strong critical-thinking, interpersonal and time-management skills as well as the ability to pay close attention to detail; knowledge of graphics imaging software and scanning software, and experience with CAD software is essential; understanding of tools such as curves, scales and scanners
Salary (2014) $49,970 annually (median salary for all architectural and civil drafters)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), O*Net OnLine

Step 1: Earn an Associate's Degree

Aspiring residential drafters can enroll in associate's degree programs available at technical and community colleges, which is the most common level of education required for this career. Courses may include CAD, civil design, structural concepts, drawing, estimating and construction. These programs generally focus on the practical application of design and drafting principles, though technical schools tend to offer less theory and general education than community colleges.

Success Tips:

  • Develop strong computer skills. Residential drafters use CAD software and other software programs on a regular basis in their day-to-day work. Solid skills with these common software programs are essential to successfully perform the job of a drafter. Many programs offer a variety of computer courses to develop these skills while earning associate's degrees. Students should concentrate on getting hands-on experience and gaining familiarity with CAD and other frequently used programs.
  • Get involved in a professional organization. Membership in a professional society, such as the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA), may be beneficial for aspiring residential drafters. Benefits of membership can include access to publications that keep drafters current on the latest developments in the field and networking opportunities with other professionals.

Step 2: Earn Professional Certification

Residential drafters can earn certification to demonstrate drafting skills and increase employment opportunities. Certification is not mandatory, but may provide a competitive edge to a residential drafter in the job market. The ADDA offers certification to drafters of all specialties and education levels. The certification process entails passing a multiple-choice exam, which tests candidates on theories, principles and practical application in drafting.

Success Tip:

  • Maintain certification. Drafters renew certification every five years; they are required to provide verification of employment for a period of at least three years in order to maintain their credential.

Step 3: Advance in the Field

While most job openings for residential drafters only require an associate's degree and minimal experience, drafting is a competitive field, according to the BLS, with more applicants than there are job openings. It is crucial for prospective drafters to become knowledgeable in a wide variety of areas relating to drafting, and students should consider becoming proficient in PDM (product data management) and BIM (building information modeling) software. Completing a four-year program for a bachelor's degree in engineering, architecture, or other similar field could increase a drafter's chances of securing a higher-paying job with more opportunities for promotion.

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