Aspiring drafters can earn an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Computer-Aided Design and Drafting through a handful of online programs. With the exception of typically optional on-site internships, the entire AAS program can be completed remotely. Students usually must purchase various computer-aided drafting software, such as AutoCAD, SolidWorks, DesignCAD, Pro/Engineer and Autodesk Inventor. They may also need a set of drafting tools, comprising an array of rulers, slides, protractors, compasses and other drawing tools.
Associate Degree Programs in Computer-Aided Design and Drafting
Playing a key role in many technical professions, drafting accurately renders complex design schematics, typically with computer-aided design (CAD) software. Most programs center around in-depth CAD software training with a range of drafting applications, as well as skills specific to a chosen industry concentration. Since drafting incorporates technical data into detailed drawings, students should have an affinity for advanced mathematics, as well as patience for meticulous work.
Information and Requirements
Most online AAS programs divide coursework over four semesters, with a set schedule for assignments and exams. Students must take a full course load to finish in two years. Students can use textbook readings, exercises, virtual classroom software like Blackboard and sometimes video conferencing. Students demonstrate mastery with exercises using CAD software, and submit the exercises electronically.
Students in an online drafting AAS program purchase CAD software, such as AutoCAD, SolidWorks, DesignCAD, Pro/Engineer and Autodesk Inventor. Most programs also teach students traditional technical drawing, done by hand.
Common Online Drafting Courses
The curriculum for an online drafting program typically devotes 6-8 courses to mastering the tools and functions of CAD software. The remainder of the coursework includes general education, geometry, trigonometry, technical drawing, manufacturing fundamentals and engineering concepts according to the student's concentration.
Beginning with the fundamental functions, processes and commands of CAD software, CAD courses teach the ins and outs of the programs, which students use for the majority of their other classes. As students go through the AAS program, they take more and more advanced CAD courses, eventually mastering the skills for creating complex models in two and three dimensions.
Using conventional drafting tools, students learn to produce technical drawings that accurately represent an object. Technical drawing courses also cover proportions, notation and lettering skills.
Parametric modeling is the process of creating a 3-dimensional model of a solid object by defining the object's physical parameters. Students in a parametric modeling course learn to create these models, often using additional software..
Students in a computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) course study the process of translating technical schematics into programs for fabrication equipment such as mills, lathes, welders and cutters. The coursework will focus on computer numerical control (CNC) programming languages, which are used to control computerized fabrication equipment.
Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sets standards for engineering, manufacturing, architecture. A geometric dimensioning and tolerancing course teaches students how to ensure that their designs meet ANSI standards. Students focus on how to calculate and notate the allowable variations between the technical schematics and the end product.
Students with an AAS in drafting can pursue careers in architecture, manufacturing and virtually every kind of engineering, including electrical, aeronautical and civil. Most entry-level drafters begin as detailers, responsible for creating technical drawings based on ideas from a designer, engineer or architect, and they can advance as they gain experience.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for drafters are expected to have little or no change between 2018 and 2028. The BLS reported that, in May 2018, electrical and electronic drafters were making an average of $64,400 annually, mechanical drafters were averaging $59,010, while architectural and civil drafters were making an average of $56,700.
Continuing Education Information
Although graduates of an online AAS program in drafting are prepared for an entry-level drafting position, they can also use their AAS as a foundation for a bachelor's degree in architecture, engineering or another related field. Students can also choose to take the certification exams offered by the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA). The ADDA has certifications for specialties and levels of professional experience. While most companies don't require ADDA certification, according to the BLS the certification demonstrates to potential employers that the applicant is well-versed in current drafting practices and standards.
Over the course of an AAS program in computer-aided design and drafting, students take core courses in CAD software as well as electives in a specialty area of interest. When they finish, they have the educational foundation needed for an entry-level drafting job or a bachelor's degree in a related subject.