There are three major types of drafting positions: mechanical drafters, electrical and electronics drafters, and architectural and civil drafters. While each of these has very similar educational requirements, they vary greatly both in technical drawing specialization and in employment competition.
Drafters help with construction by creating plans and technical drawings of everything from architecture to mechanical instruments. The drawings create guidelines, such as dimensions, calculations and weight restrictions, which workers use to plan and assemble buildings and products. Aspiring drafters should complete a certificate or an associate's degree program in drafting through a technical school or community college.
|Career Title||Mechanical Drafter||Electrical & Electronics Drafter||Architectural & Civil Drafter|
|Required Education||Certificate or associate's degree in drafting||Certificate or associate's degree in drafting||Certificate or associate's degree in drafting|
|Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024)*||-7%||5%||-3%|
|Median Annual Salary (May 2015)*||$53,520||$59,520||$50,710|
Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Drafting Career Information
Drafting was traditionally a paper and pencil profession, with workers sitting at drafting desks drawing technical plans using drafting tools. Today, though some workers still draw by hand, most workers use computer-aided design and drafting software (CADD).
CADD software allows workers to create drawings and plans in a much more dynamic fashion, making it easier to calculate dimensions and materials and make changes when needed. CADD drawings can also be programmed into manufacturing equipment, allowing products to be produced exactly as drafters design them.
Drafters can choose to specialize in certain industries. Electrical drafters plan the layout and wiring in large structures, including manufacturing plants, buildings and power plants. Mechanical drafters provide drawings for manufacturing machinery and devices. Civil drafters create specifications for large civil projects like bridges and flood control. Architectural drafters work specifically on buildings and can specialize further in certain types of buildings, such as skyscrapers.
Skills and Career Requirements
Drafters often spend the majority of their time working in CADD programs, so proficiency with computers and software is important. They must be able to use three dimensional (3D) modeling, perform construction estimating and work with specialized software. Good communication skills are also important because drafters need to communicate with employees and the workers who will follow their designs.
Drafters create project drawings from blueprints, sketches and photos. Drafters are often responsible for important calculations that accompany drawings. Calculations of weight limits, volume and stress factors are important for the workers that will construct the designs. Drafters typically work with a team of people and may need to communicate and collaborate with several types of professionals.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that drafters would experience a decline in available positions of employment over the next ten years (www.bls.gov). The BLS also noted that many drafting positions are concentrated in manufacturing, which is slowly declining with product competition. According to the BLS, median annual salaries for drafters vary by industry, with mechanical drafters earning median wages of $53,520, electrical drafters earning $59,520 and architectural and civil drafters making $50,710.
Regardless of specialization, drafters are usually prepared for work after completing a certificate or associate's degree program. However, finding a position as a drafter may be difficult. As new technologies help drafters become more efficient, demand for drafters continues to decline.