AutoCAD is a computer-aided design (CAD) software program that is used by architects, engineers and drafters to create 2D and 3D drawings and design plans. Individuals who are interested in learning AutoCAD in order to begin or advance their careers can choose from several educational options that include certificate and associate's degree programs. Students may choose online programs or traditional classroom settings.
Certificate in AutoCAD
Students enrolled in an AutoCAD certificate program learn to design documents and drawings using AutoCAD and other CAD software programs. Candidates complete a set number of credit hours involving coursework in computing tools, engineering graphics, manufacturing processes, mechanical drafting and computer numerical control. Students also learn how to customize AutoCAD's tools and functions to meet the demands and requirements of specific industries. AutoCAD certificate programs generally take one year or less to complete.
AutoCAD certificate programs feature a focused CAD curriculum, with few (if any) additional academic requirements. Sample core curriculum course titles include the following:
- Drawing setup and utilities
- Tools and object types
- 2D drawings
- Creating and utilizing blocks
- Basic customization
- Plotting and layouts
Associate's Degree Program in AutoCAD
Students enrolled in an AutoCAD degree program learn to use CAD software programs to compile detailed drawings based on sketches and specifications made by architects, designers and engineers. In the first year, AutoCAD majors take courses in mathematics, building construction, manufacturing processes and technical drawing. Second-year students undertake hands-on laboratory practice in electrical, structural and mechanical surveying and 3-D computer drafting. Associate's degree programs in AutoCAD can usually be completed in 2 years.
The educational prerequisites for an AutoCAD associate's degree program vary between institutions. Nearly all programs require a high school diploma or its equivalent. Standardized test scores are less frequently required.
All AutoCAD associate's degree programs require completion of a number of general education courses such as English, math and the life sciences, in addition to the core curriculum. Core course titles may include the following:
- CNC programming
- 3D mapping
- Technical drawing
- Structural drafting
- Advanced customization
Students interested in continuing their education in CAD might enroll in additional certificate programs. For instance, there are short-course certificate programs that focus on one component of the AutoCAD program such as developing advanced template files or building a reusable library of symbols. In addition, many community colleges and vocational schools offer CAD associate's degree programs. Information on these programs is included below.
Individuals who want to study beyond the associate's degree level have several options. Students may enroll in bachelor's degree programs that focus on fields which rely heavily on AutoCAD software. Interior design, architecture, civil engineering and environmental engineering are a few examples of such fields.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for drafters were expected to decline 3% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The median annual salary for mechanical drafters was $53,520 in May 2015, as indicated by BLS data. At the same time, electrical and electronics drafters earned a median annual salary of $59,520 and 'all other' drafters earned $49,650.
In summary, students interested in AutoCAD can enroll in a certification or an associate's degree program. Graduates who complete AutoCAD programs can begin their careers in drafting, including mechanical and electrical drafting.