Online degree programs in drafting are very rare, but online certificate programs are commonly available. These programs typically require a year or less of fully online study. Students must have access to drafting tools and software, much of which is provided by the program, as well as a computer capable of running that software. Courses usually cover both computer-aided and traditional drafting techniques used in multiple industries.
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Certificate in Drafting and CAD
An online certificate program in drafting and CAD (computer-aided design) provides training in the process of creating accurate maps and working plans for use by designers, engineers or architects. Students learn to use both traditional drafting tools and computer software, although the majority of the coursework is designed to help students develop skills in converting rough sketches and specifications into properly-scaled and proportioned drawings. Certificate programs in drafting require a high school diploma or GED for enrollment.
Program Information and Requirements
Students can complete all of the coursework in an online drafting certificate program entirely online. Traditional drafting tools and manuals may be sent via mail in a kit, but assignments, lectures and presentations are accessed through a school's website. Access to course materials, virtual library services and assistance from instructors is available on a 24-hour basis. An online certificate may be completed in one year or less.
A graphics-capable Windows or Mac personal computer, drafting software and Internet access are required for participation in an online drafting program. Schools may use a proprietary content management interface, such as Blackboard.
Certificate programs in drafting are tightly focused on the primary subject and generally do not include a liberal arts component.
Students learn basic terminology and common skills required for traditional and computer-based drafting in this course. Topics covered also include drafting careers, drawing standards and the design process.
This course explores the capabilities of computers as design and drafting tools. User interfaces, file management and 2D rendering are among the topics covered.
The representation of three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional plane, or orthographic projection, is the focus of this course. Students learn the six standard views of an object and how to identify the primary dimensions - length, width and depth - in a particular view.
This course acquaints students with the drafting needs of different industries and trades. Course content covers industrial piping, electronics and sheet metal duct fittings.
People who earn an online certificate in drafting are qualified for entry-level positions as drafters with government agencies or construction, manufacturing, engineering and architectural firms. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many companies may prefer job applicants who have had postsecondary training in drafting at a community college, technical institute, or a 4-year college or university (www.bls.gov).
The BLS also reported that employment of drafters will decrease by 3% between 2014 and 2024, but this estimate varies by specialty. Employment of electrical drafters should increase by 5%, but employment of mechanical drafters should decline by 7%. The field of architectural drafting should decrease by 3%.
As of May 2015, the median annual wage of architectural and civil engineering drafters was $50,710, according to BLS data. The median annual wage for mechanical drafters was $53,520, and the median annual wage was $59,520 for electrical and electronic drafters.
Continuing Education Information
Certificate holders are likely to have better employment prospects if they earn an associate's degree. Community colleges across the U.S. offer associate's degrees in drafting, but online programs are exceedingly rare, if they are available at all.
Online drafting programs are typically available at the certificate level, though some rare degree programs do exist. Students will learn the fundamentals of drafting, as well as the use of CAD software; graduates can expect to find work in a variety of drafting fields, including electrical, electronic and architectural drafting.