Mechanical drafting programs offer instruction in forming proposals, rough sketches, and specifications, in addition to reading calculations made by others, such as engineers and scientists. Degree programs at all levels are plentiful for this specialty, and combine coursework with laboratory experiences. Bachelor's programs, for example, focus on training mechanical engineering technologists and applying relevant principles to industrial needs.
Associate of Applied Science in Mechanical Computer-Aided Drafting and Design
These 2-year college programs pair general education courses with a theoretical foundation in drafting. Instructors expand upon basic principles in written and spoken comprehension, mathematical reasoning, visualization and information ordering. Schools frequently expect enrollment candidates to have four years of high school math (two in algebra, one in geometry, one semester of trigonometry and an additional senior-level course, such as calculus).
Students receive training in areas related to mechanical drafting, such as industrial materials, manufacturing methods, machining and industrial relations. Classroom work is rounded out by time spent on lab work, internships and special projects that allow graduates to develop practical drafting skills before landing the job. Coursework discusses:
- Drafting and design basics
- CAD applications
- Engineering drawing
- Electronic and electric drawings
- Intersections and developments
- Geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GDT)
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology
Bachelor's programs often include applications for equipment, instrumentation, controls and performance evaluations. CAD and other CAE (computer-aided engineering) technologies are central to the program. Students also learn aspects of management such as human, system and material resources. Program participation may depend upon accepted minimum passing test scores or credits in chemistry, electrical engineering or physics from prior schooling.
Coursework includes labs and projects along with classroom lectures that further a student's understanding of principles and areas of interest. CADD, materials, manufacturing, experimental techniques and procedures, engineering data, cost analysis, automation, control systems and applied mechanics are among them. Foundational studies in communication, leadership and critical thinking are also part of the mix. Some schools encourage students to participate in national mechanical engineering competitions, campus chapters of professional associations, internships and credit-earning work experiences. These activities complement the following courses:
- Orientation to mechanical engineering
- Processes applied to manufacturing
- Welding, machining and tool design
- Computerized Numerical Control (CNC)
- Machine dynamics and design
- Materials: strength vs. engineering
Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Schools characteristically design this program for working engineers who wish to acquire further proficiency in specializations, like design and production management, air pollution technology and computational fluid mechanics to broaden existing knowledge or to develop skills in precise fields. For that reason, students have flexible scheduling options and may attend year-round, late afternoon or evening classes to earn their degrees within 18-24 months.
Some universities provide interdisciplinary options in the form of dual degrees or graduate certificates that appeal to working professionals. For example, they might correspondingly award a Master of Business Administration or Master of Science from their schools of management or engineering. Others might offer degree specialties in such areas as global operations, polymer science or technology and policy. Students will generally have to complete a thesis to graduate from the programs. Core courses amount to approximately half of the credits for this degree program. Other courses and design projects represent a candidate's elective field, allowing for specialization. Classes may cover:
- Advanced structural design
- Interactive digital media
- Pharmaceutical manufacturing systems
- Product architecture and engineering design
- Optimum designs and manufacture
- Acceptable manufacturing practices
Popular Career Options
A graduate can gain an entry-level or junior-detail drafter position where he or she performs closely supervised, routine work. This leads to the intermediate drafter level and more difficult work under less supervision. Small and large manufacturing companies, contract and engineering firms are some of the settings in which mechanical drafters work.
Graduates are prepared for designing, testing, evaluating, manufacturing, maintaining, managing and selling mechanical systems, processes and products. Many industries employ these degree-holders, who might have job titles such as:
- Design drafters
- CAD specialists
- CAD designers
- Installation drafters
- Quality engineer
- Project engineer
- Product design engineer
- Mechanical engineer
- Manufacturing engineer
A 4-year degree is often required to obtain a drafting management position. An associate-level program graduate can articulate to bachelor's degree programs in industrial technology and management, mechanical engineering or integrated manufacturing systems. However, program graduates are immediately qualified to sit for a certification exam issued by the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA), a standard of proficiency recognized by both educators and prospective employers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that job growth in mechanical engineering is projected to increase 4% percent from 2018 to 2028. New jobs should occur because of emerging technologies in materials science, biotechnology and nanotechnology. For this reason, much of an engineer's value depends on keeping abreast of the latest technologies and software tools. The BLS reported as of May 2018 that the median annual wage of mechanical engineers was $87,370.
The field of mechanical drafting and design can be studied at a variety of educational levels and prepares students to become engineers in a number of industries, as well as CAD specialists and designers.