How to Become
Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications
Do you like math and have a passion for drawing? If so, you might want to pursue a career in drafting. Drafters convert engineers’ or architects’ designs into technical plans. Their skills are important to bring drawings to life.
In this guide, we will provide you with drafter job statistics, possible education pathways, and the certifications you’ll need to get started. Read on to learn how you can become a drafter.
What Is a Drafter?
A drafter is a professional who creates technical drawings using a software program. These drawings are based on general ideas or rough drawings brought to the drafter by engineers and architects.
A drafter is also sometimes referred to as a computer-aided design and drafting operator, or a drafting technician. Drafters can find work in a variety of industries, such as electricity, aeronautics, architecture, or heavy machinery.
What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become a Drafter?
If you want to become a drafter, you first need to get your high school diploma. Once you have graduated, you can attend a technical school or community college to start learning about drafting.
In most associate degree programs, you will study geometry, calculus, and drawing, which you will need for a career as a drafter.
Best Drafter Education Tracks
There are many ways to become a drafter. You can attend a vocational school, community college, university, or bootcamp. Look through the options below to choose the one that is best suited to your learning preferences.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of a vocational program in drafting is $18,300. Vocational schools, also known as trade schools, train students in one specific technical skill. If you want to get lots of hands-on experience, then a vocational school is for you. Vocational training is a great way to get closer to obtaining a certification or associate degree.
Many students choose vocational schools because they are affordable and offer flexible learning options. These programs also usually only last a couple of years, as opposed to a four-year university degree.
Completing a specific degree in computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting can lead you straight to an entry-level drafting job. Many companies will hire drafters who are straight out of community college, then will guide them through further in-house training.
Community college programs are a good choice if you want to study many topics at once. The two-year associate degree programs will give you a basic understanding of the area you may want to specialize in. At the same time, you can learn the fundamentals of drafting as it relates to your particular area of interest.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the cost of getting a degree from a community college varies, but the average was about $10,704 between 2017-2018. If you are an in-district student, you may end up paying only $3,340. For international students, the tuition fee is $8,210.
Many drafters have a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Design. This degree will qualify you for a wide range of jobs that require drafting and design skills, such as an electronics drafter, mechanical drafter, or exhibition designer.
The National Center for Education Statistics goes on to indicate that the average bachelor’s degree program in drafting cost about $25,657 in 2017-2018. If you are an international student, you will part with $9,093. Over the course of the four-year program, you will learn sketching, drawing, and computer-aided design. This university degree program will likely leave you adequately prepared for the job market.
A bootcamp will train students on drafting best practices in a much shorter timeframe than a college or university. They last only a matter of weeks or months, and most will leave you highly skilled in using AutoCAD design software. If you don’t respond well to traditional education, the rigorous format of a bootcamp might be perfect for you.
Drafting lessons offered by massive open online course (MOOC) providers usually cover AutoCAD literacy, geometry, 3D modeling, and machine tool design. The instructors are professionals who have first-hand knowledge of the drafting industry.
Some of these online courses cost as little as $10, and most take a matter of days to complete. MOOCs feature student-friendly programs and are very flexible and affordable.
How to Become a Drafter: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you are looking for the best way to become a drafter, you should definitely consider signing up for community college. Most hiring managers will be looking for candidates who have at least an associate degree. Follow the steps below to launch your drafting career.
Get a high school diploma
You must complete high school before you can apply to community college, so make sure to either get your diploma or your GED.
Enroll in a community college program
Look for a community college in your area that offers an Associate Degree in Drafting Technology. These courses should teach you everything you need to know about computer-aided design and drafting software. You will also study technical drawing, computer animation, and architectural rendering.
The credits you earn in an associate degree program are easily transferable to a four-year bachelor’s program. This means it will be easy for you to pursue further education in drafting, architecture, or engineering if you feel your associate degree isn’t enough.
Get work experience
Obtaining work experience is the best way to start applying your knowledge. Start by applying to entry-level jobs that require less than five years’ experience.
Join a professional body
Joining the American Design Drafting Association will allow you to connect with a large network of professionals in the drafting industry.
It is not essential for drafters to be certified. However, if you want proof of your skills and knowledge, getting certified is the way to do it.
Key Drafter Skills
To become a successful drafter, you will need to have a strong educational background and plenty of industry-standard skills. Companies will give priority to drafters who know how to apply their skills in the workplace.
Below are some of the technical skills that are most important to a successful drafting career.
Mastery of Technical Drawing
Your main task will be to help engineers and architects bring their ideas to life. It is of utmost importance that you know how to draw schematics, diagrams, and blueprints. You should also be familiar with both 2D drawings and 3D model design.
Most of your drawing will be done digitally, but having the ability to draw or sketch on paper is also an important skill in this career.
Extensive Knowledge of CAD Software
Drafters generally use more than one CAD software to complete their daily tasks. Many drafters work on large-scale projects that require using many software products at once.
Having a strong understanding of a variety of CAD software will allow you to choose the one that will enable you to complete your tasks efficiently. The more software you master, the higher your work output will be.
Building Information Modeling
Hiring companies will be looking specifically for CAD drafters with experience in building information modeling (BIM). BIM is a process that allows you to plan and generate realistic 3D models following specific guidelines. The goal of the process is to generate a highly detailed and specific design that can speed up the planning and construction process.
Mastery of Mathematics
In any drafting job, you will need to have a strong background in geometry and calculus. This is essential to making accurate drawings. If you don’t understand math, the structures you design will not be sound and won’t pass your state’s regulations.
Drafter Salary and Job Outlook
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says the average salary of a drafter is $57,960 annually. If you want to earn more, you should specialize in one area, such as electrical drafting. Electrical drafters bring in the highest average salary, at $62,100 per year. Mechanical drafters earn $58,270, and architectural and civil drafters make an average of $57,500.
The BLS indicates it expects a four percent increase in the number of new drafting jobs between 2019 and 2029. As with the salaries above, the demand for drafters will also vary based on industry.
Entry-Level Drafter Job Requirements
Qualifications for drafters are largely the same. You must have a two-year associate degree from a vocational school or a community college to get an entry-level drafter position. If you would like to increase your chances of landing a job, you should consider acquiring a certification from the American Design Drafting Association.
According to ZipRecruiter, an entry-level drafter earns an average salary of $35,470.
What Does a Drafter Do?
A drafter’s responsibilities will differ from one industry to the next. Whether you want to know how to design and build working microchips, skyscrapers, or even spacecraft, drafters can do it all. Below, you will find several tasks that drafters must regularly complete.
Designs and Prepares Plans
Drafters create and store drawings electronically using AutoCAD, Autodesk, and other drafting software. The software is an important tool in converting ideas and drawings into viewable 3D structures. These designs can then be printed and programmed into BIM systems.
Drafters are responsible for reviewing and redrafting plans if the engineer or architect needs to make changes. They work in conjunction with engineers to ensure that measurements are accurate. An important part of this process is maintaining constant communication with your team.
It is also the drafter’s responsibility to keep all versions of their design on hand for reference.
Throughout the building process, you should offer support to the engineering team. Engineers work on strict timelines and need their requested changes to be made promptly. You will also need to be available to attend meetings concerning ongoing projects.
You do not need certification to start working as a drafter, as there are plenty of jobs available to drafters with just an associate degree. However, if you want to receive a higher salary, you’ll need to have a certification.
Below, you will find the best certifications available in drafting, all of which are offered by the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA).
If you want to enhance your credibility, gain a competitive edge in the job market, or improve your chances of getting a promotion, you should get this certification. All you need to do is pass an online examination offered by the ADDA to prove your competence in drafting.
Certified Design Drafter
This certified design drafter qualification will help you land a better job position in the industry. As with the first certification, you must pass a test to qualify, and must retake the test every three years to renew your title.
Mechanical Certified Drafter
This certificate is specifically for drafters who work in mechanics. You can work as a mechanical drafter without this certification, but having it will help increase your salary and your chances of promotion.
How to Prepare for Your Drafter Job Interview
Being nervous about a job interview is normal. We’ve all failed a job interview at one point or another, but being prepared will increase your chances of success. If you want to land your dream job in drafting, practice the questions below so you can ace your interview.
Drafter Job Interview Practice Questions
- How did you become interested in drafting?
- How would you handle a disagreement with an engineer or architect?
- What are your career goals?
- Why should we hire you over other applicants?
How Long Does It Take to Become a Drafter?
Becoming a drafter isn’t a challenging process. You can easily start your drafting career after just two years of studying at either a trade school or community college. Trade schools are very career-driven, so you are guaranteed to learn all of the skills you will need to become a drafter, including drawing, design, and CAD software.
Should You Become a Drafter in 2021?
Drafting isn’t a popular career choice, but it serves a very important purpose. If you have a passion for design, drawing, or math, becoming a drafter is a smart choice. ZipRecruiter predicts that drafting jobs that use CAD will see a seven percent rise between 2019 and 2029, which is in line with the national average of all jobs.
So, drafting is a good career to pursue if you are looking for a profession that will offer a combination of stability and creativity.
What are the main fields in need of drafters?
The most common fields that need drafters are architecture, civil engineering drafters, and electrical drafters. However, you should note that the software used in each field is not the same.
What are the differences between these fields?
If you are interested in creating drawings that depict layouts of wiring, you should go into electrical drafting. Civil drafters draw geographical maps, whereas architectural drafters deal with buildings and structures.
Is drafting difficult to learn?
Drafting is relatively straightforward to learn. A good associate program will take you through everything you need to know to start your career.
Does drafting require math?
Having a solid background in math will make learning drafting much easier. This career requires that you complete a lot of technical drawings that require high-level math skills. You can expect to deal with algebra, geometry, and trigonometry on a regular basis throughout your career.