An online certificate program in drafting sharpens sketching and technical drawing skills, and it prepares the student to create detailed architectural, mechanical and electrical drawings. Largely based on manual drafting techniques, programs also include instruction in computer-aided drafting tools.
Fully online certificate programs in drafting are available through community colleges and technical schools. These programs are available in several different specializations such as mechanical, civil computer-aided, electronic and electrical drafting. Students must have access to computer-aided drafting software in order to participate in the online program. Other majors with relevant coursework include drafting and design detail, and drafting assistant programs.
Drafting Certificate Programs
Drafting students learn to visualize objects in three dimensions and translate those mental images into technical drawings. Online certificate programs are open to high-school graduates, and they generally start with measurements, scales and projections, then move on to paper- and ink-based drafting techniques. After honing traditional drafting skills, students are introduced to computer-based drafting applications.
Programs are available for several levels of drafting expertise. The typical program leading to a certificate of completion in drafting includes 21-31 credits in general drafting, computer-aided drafting and technical electives. Shorter course loads of 10-21 credits lead to certificates in drafting and design detail or in drafting assistance.
Students can expect to complete an online drafting program in one year, but many are self-paced, and the duration may vary depending upon the amount of time per week spent in training. Some programs concentrate primarily on computer-aided drafting. Electives allow students to concentrate on specialties like electrical, electronic, civil and mechanical drafting.
Online students will need access to a computer with multimedia capabilities and a fast Internet connection. Computer-assisted drafting programs may only be offered on one specific operating system, so students should consult with their schools' distance learning departments to verify the compatibility of their current equipment.
Program fees typically include books, drafting tools, supplies and software. Self-directed courses are sequential, and once students complete the assignments and pass the exam, they are cleared to continue with the next lesson. Typical courses are outlined in the next few paragraphs.
Technical Drawing Techniques
Students familiarize themselves with the tools used in traditional drafting and design, creating drawings on vellum using pencils, ink, straightedges, compasses and French curves. Topics include the use of scales, different types of projections, tolerances, materials, line style conventions, annotation and dimensioning.
Size and Shape Description
This course presents orthographic and multi-view projections, sections, exploded views, cutaways and 3-D renderings. Using manual tools, students draw coordinate systems and create drawings of objects in three-dimensional spaces.
Different applications have different requirements in drafting. For architectural drafting, students follow sketches and specifications to create site plans, floor plans and elevations to scale. Specifications for electrical diagrams, electrical schematics and plumbing drawings are also covered.
Dozens of commercial computer-assisted design programs are available for engineering, construction, architecture, manufacturing, 3-D rendering, animation and simulation. Despite the differences in functionality required by each type of application, all computer-assisted drafting programs share similar shape-building capabilities and coordinate system manipulation. Students learn drawing, editing, dimensioning and object plotting skills which will be useful in many applications.
Drafters are needed in many industries, from architectural, engineering and construction to consumer products, electronics and technical illustration. Digital design skills can lead to non-drafting careers in a variety of disciplines.
According to the BLS, jobs for drafters were projected to decline by 3% from 2014 to 2024. Architectural and civil drafters in particular are expected to see a 3% decline, while mechanical drafters will see a decline of 7% in job opportunities. Demand for the various types of drafters varies by the needs of each particular state or region.
The median annual salary for architectural and civil drafters was $50,710 as of May 2015. Mechanical drafters earned $53,520, and electrical and electronics drafters earned $59,520, the BLS reported.
The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) is a professional organization that offers certification for increasing levels of drafters, from apprenticed to certified design technicians. Certifications are exam-based, valid for three years, and they may be renewed by a combination of additional training and employment in the field.
Certification is offered in four subject areas, including architectural, mechanical, civil and designer digital imaging. Certification in other areas is continuously in development. Certification is voluntary, and the ADDA has certified over 40,000 members since 1948.
In online certificate programs in drafting, students learn how to use software and illustration skills to create design drawings for architectural, mechanical and electrical projects. Graduates of these programs can find employment as drafters in various fields, including architecture and manufacturing.