Students learn the practice of using computers and computer software to design real or virtual objects. CAD is used in industries like automotive, aerospace, ship building, architecture and prosthesis. CAD programs are also responsible for most 3D animation seen in movies or special effects. Programs often focus on teaching students clarity, completeness and accuracy of drawings and plans. Related programs and material may exist as part of drafting or animation degree programs. Sometimes, these programs are parts of larger degree programs in related fields like animation, architecture or drafting. CAD programs require a GED or high school diploma for admission and usually take between 1-10 classes. Courses may be offered online but might require students to purchase special software.
Even small, common items are now engineered using computers; as such, CAD is important to a number of academic and professional fields. A key advantage of CAD is that, in addition to traditional lines and shapes, designs made through this process can also indicate information like material, tolerances, dimensions or chemical properties. Designers using this system can design flat and curved surfaces in both two and three dimensions. Students can expect to spend time learning in traditional lectures and in a laboratory format. Here are some classes you can expect to see in the CAD certificate programs:
- 3D modeling
- CAD management
- Parametric modeling
- Design visualization
- Technical drawing
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Although most programs note the increasing use of CAD programs in design and engineering, the overall employment rate for drafters is expected to grow decline when compared to the national average (a 3% decline between 2014 and 2024), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Mechanical drafting uses for CAD skills are expected to decline about 7% over the same 10-year period, due to the increasing use of CAD skills by engineers.
The median salary for architectural and civil drafters was $50,710 per year in May 2015. Mechanical drafters made a median salary of $53,520, and electrical and electronic drafters earned a median salary of $59,520.
Certification and Continuing Education
The only certification available in this field is AutoCAD certification, which is a certification for a particular CAD software application by the same name developed by Autodesk, Inc. Certification can be pursued online through the Autodesk Online Testing center. The cost for certification is often reimbursed by a participant's employer, which can be set up in the online testing center.
Anyone with a high school diploma or GED can earn their CAD certificate. This requires enrolling in a certification program, which can prepare students to utilize their skills in a variety of industries.