Does the idea of bringing things to life excite you? Then a career as a CAD drafter might be worth considering. These individuals work alongside engineers and architects to transform design concepts into real-world projects. Keep reading to find out more about the job.
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What is Computer-Aided Design (CAD)?
Computer-aided drafting & design (CAD) refers to a type of software that allows engineers, architects, and construction managers to create designs in 2D or 3D to better visualize construction plans.
Though the field is still evolving, the concept has been around for quite a long time. The idea of using computer software to help bring architectural designs to life was first introduced back in 1962 when the computer scientist Ivan Sutherland created “SketchPad,” the world’s first computer graphic program.
The software allowed people to write or draw simple figures directly on a screen with the help of the recently introduced light pen. Today, Sutherland’s project is considered the ancestor of all modern computer-aided design.
CAD Drafter: Job Description
Computer-aided design (CAD) drafters convert the designs created by engineers and architects into technical drawings. Each drawing must contain precise details specifying dimensions, codes, materials, and production methods.
The discipline can also offer solutions to engineering and manufacturing problems. CAD software can help specify necessary dimensions, materials, and tolerances for future designs. It can also produce realistic images and videos to simulate how a design will function in reality.
CAD drafters typically use AutoCad, a commercial drafting application released by Autodesk back in 1982. Today, it is used in all design phases across the manufacturing, infrastructure, and construction industries.
Drafters also work within different specialties. An architectural drafter, for instance, works on designs for new buildings, specifying building types, materials used, and structural features. They may also collect construction site reports, analyze building codes, and make calculations for building materials.
Electrical drafters, meanwhile, produce wiring diagrams for construction workers to install and repair equipment across residential and commercial buildings.
Mechanical drafters feature relationships between mechanical parts and systems in their drawings while civil drafters incorporate data from topographical surveys and geophysical reports into theirs. Civil drafters also make calculations for excavations and supervise technicians.
Electronics drafters produce wiring diagrams and assemble them for circuit boards. They also create technical drawings for manufacturing and instances where electronic devices and components must be installed and repaired.
More recently, CAD drafters have been finding opportunities in the entertainment space as well. Storyboarding, animation, simulation, motion capture clean-up are all possible using CAD software. The technology can also create special effects across the film, television, and gaming industries.
That said, the architectural, engineering, manufacturing, and construction industries remain the largest employers of CAD drafters and designers.
How Can I Become a CAD Drafter?
Becoming a CAD drafter typically involves graduating from high school and pursuing a two-year associate degree from a technical or community college. This kind of education will help strengthen knowledge in math, science, drawing, and design.
At the same time, it’s recommended that students pursue software certifications or professional credentials offered at institutions like the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA).
It is also possible to break into the field by qualifying for an apprenticeship immediately after high school. However, employers tend to prefer applicants with some formal education under their belts.
It is often said that Autocad drafters possess many important “right-brain” attributes with a few “left-brain” qualities sprinkled in. That list of skills includes forming creative and spatial relationships, mathematics, and analytical thinking.
CAD drafter jobs also require the following skills:
- Interpersonal skills
- Manual drawing
- Geometry skills
- Basic estimating
- The ability to be a team player
- Knowledge of building code
CAD Drafter vs. CAD Designer
Though they perform similar duties, there are some notable differences between CAD drafters and CAD designers. CAD drafters handle more beginner work. They may be asked to print and collate drawings or make corrections to ones that have already been reviewed by a design professional.
Meanwhile, CAD designers can implement creative modifications or improvements to the projects they are working on. They may also be well versed in areas including mechanical systems, circuit layout, electrical lighting, or architecture.
This expertise and experience allow them to work independently, with minimal oversight. Unsurprisingly, almost all designers begin their careers as drafters.
Both titles spend most of their time working on computers in an office, though they may occasionally collaborate with architects and engineers on a job site.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), CAD drafters earn a median pay of $57,960 per year or $27.87 per hour, though these numbers will vary based on education, experience, and location. The organization also reports the lowest 10 percent of earners made less than $36,470, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,970.
Electronic and electronics drafters tend to make the highest salaries, earning over $65,000 annually. Architectural and civil drafters come next, with an average salary of $59,120. Mechanical drafters follow close behind, with annual earnings of just over $59,000.
How New England Tech Can Help
The first step to becoming a CAD drafter is getting an education. New England Tech has been hailed as one of the best schools in New England. Our programs provide the training needed to break into the field and land a job at a reputable company.
With our Mechanical Engineering Technology associate degree program, students will learn engineering materials, troubleshooting, and design principles.
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Graduates will then have the opportunity to continue their education with our Mechanical Engineering Technology or Architectural Engineering Technology bachelor’s degree program. This experience will provide even more opportunities to succeed in the industry. Students will walk away with the credentials needed to become a CAD engineer, project manager, or structural designer.
We also offer Autodesk training courses for those who cannot commit to a full-time school schedule. Participants will have the chance to earn a certificate in AutoCAD Fundamentals, AutoCAD Architecture, Autodesk 3ds Max, Autodesk Revit Architecture, 3D Drawing & modeling with AutoCAD, and more.
Our Career Services department can put students on the right career path immediately upon graduation. Our representatives are available to help with the job search by teaching them how to prepare a resume, find opportunities, and ace a job interview.
According to the BLS, the job outlook for CAD drafters is actually on the decline. Now more than ever, it’s important to find ways to stand out from the competition. With fewer CAD drafter jobs available, applicants need to demonstrate their commitment to the field. Getting an education is a great way to do so.
How much do CAD drafters make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), CAD drafters earn a median annual salary of $57,960 per year or $27.87 per hour.
How do you become a CAD drafter?
To become a CAD drafter, you must complete an apprenticeship or two-year associate’s degree program. Some CAD drafter jobs may also require certification or professional credentials, like those provided by the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA).
Is CAD drafting hard?
Drafter jobs can be challenging. Individuals must learn to execute technical drawings, become proficient in CAD software, and manage a number of other professional responsibilities. This typically comes with a fairly steep learning curve.
What does a CAD Draughtsman do?
A CAD draughtsman performs the same duties as a CAD drafter. The term “draughtsman” is more commonly used in British and Commonwealth English while the word “drafter” is common in the United States and Canada.