Technical Drafting Education and Career Information

Sep 26, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed for a career in technical drafting. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

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An associate's degree from a technical college is required to prepare to enter the work force as a mechanical or architectural drafter. Another career in this field is a computer-aided design drafter (CADD). Entry-level CADD jobs as junior drafters require a high school diploma or GED and on-the-job training; however, a degree is required to advance to a drafting technician or design drafter position.

Essential Information

Technical drafting encompasses many careers such as mechanical drafters, CADD operators and architectural drafters, to name a few. An associate's degree is typically required for entry-level positions. Those interested in advancing in the drafting industry might continue with a bachelor's degree program or certification from a professional drafting association.

CADD Operator Architectural Drafter Mechanical Drafter
Education Requirements High school diploma or GED Associate's degree from technical college Associate's degree from technical college
Projected Job Growth,2018-28 0%** 2%** -7%**
Median Salary $50,400 (2019)* $54,920 (2018)** $55,920 (2018)**

Sources: *; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

CADD Operator

Computer aided design and drafting (CADD) operators use CADD systems to render drawings and specifications electronically. CADD operators can be found in many different industries including manufacturing, architectural and piping industries.


CADD operators need to have full knowledge of hand-drawn drafting concepts so that they can adequately understand and operate CADD computer programs. Typical degree programs will provide training on using various CADD systems, designing various renditions of projects and blueprints. Certificate and associate degree programs, which are most common for this profession, can be found for CADD operators at technical colleges or trade schools.

Career Information

In general, a CADD operator starts his or her career as an entry-level junior drafter. This position may or may not require additional education outside of a high school diploma or G.E.D. CADD operators who receive associate's degrees may start as drafting technicians. Students who move into bachelor's degree programs specific to drafting may start as, or quickly move their way up to, a design drafter position. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that the employment of drafters would be 0% from 2018 to 2028, due to technology that can do some of the work drafters did ( The median annual salary as of May 2018 was $50,400.

Architectural Drafter

Technical drafters working in the architectural industry are often referred to as architectural drafters. These professionals provide blue prints and rendered drawings for buildings, homes and other construction projects. Architectural drafters may also work on renovation projects for commercial or residential construction industries.


Technical colleges and some trade schools offer A.A.S. degrees in architectural drafting. These degree programs may be offered in conjunction with architectural estimating courses. A bachelor's degree is not required to become an architectural drafter; however, individuals who wish to work in other areas of architecture may wish to pursue such a degree. Additionally, drafting certification exams, such as those offered by the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA), are available. ADDA certification is nationally recognized and offers professional credibility to potential employers.

Career Information

Architectural drafters can be found working in construction companies, architectural firms or engineering firms. Beyond entry-level drafting positions, individuals with architectural drafting skills and education can move on to become project managers or estimators. Architectural drafters may even find themselves starting their own small businesses in order to offer drafting and CADD design to residential homebuilders or commercial contractors. According to the BLS in May of 2018, architectural and civil drafters earned a median salary of $54,920. Wages depend heavily on industry, location and years of experience.

Mechanical Drafter

Mechanical drafters render drawings and blueprints for machines and other mechanical devices. These individuals not only know how to produce specs and assembly instructions for machines, they also learn about methods in manufacturing, industrial materials and how different machines work.


As with CADD operators and architectural drafters, mechanical drafters typically seek education at a technical college offering an associate's degree. One common degree program is an Associate of Applied Science in Mechanical Drafting. Further education may be taken at a bachelor's degree level through a 4-year college if an individual wishes to move to the management side of manufacturing. A bachelor's degree in manufacturing management or a bachelor's degree in applied management are two such program options that would fit with a mechanical drafter's skill set.

Career Information

Mechanical drafters, at the entry level, can be found working in manufacturing businesses. Typically, these individuals work in the engineering departments in a variety of industries including manufacturing for medical and electro-mechanical equipment. Advanced positions may include titles such as assistant engineer, systems manager or design engineer. In May of 2018, the BLS reported that the median salary for a mechanical drafter was $55,920 a year. As with all other technical drafting occupations, salary is dependent on experience, location and specialty.

CADD operators use CADD programs to generate plans and drawings. Mechanical drafters produce blueprints for mechanical devices and machines, and architectural drafters make blueprints for construction projects, including residential and commercial buildings. The increased use of CADD programs and other technology that can do the work drafters do is currently contributing to job declines in these fields.

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