Drafting Careers

To become a Drafter you need to be a very creative person.

Drafters create technical drawings and plans that are used in construction, architecture, and engineering. Their drawings show details and dimensions, explain procedures and list materials. The salary level of drafting technicians can vary depending on their personal qualifications, their level of aptitude, the size and type of their employer, and many other factors.  To see if this profession is something for you, take one of our entirely free career quizzes.

Drafter Salary

  • Average Salary: $49,830
  • Expected Lifetime Earnings: $2,010,000

Drafter – Education

Drafters generally must have completed a post-secondary education in a specific area of drafting. They will at least need to hold an associate’s degree from a 2-year community or technical college. Most technical institutes provide instruction in the fundamental of design, in sketching, and courses in CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) programs.

These schools award diplomas or certificates and the available programs differ considerably in types of available courses and length. Some schools only offer instruction in a specific specialization or in one drafting direction such as electrical or mechanical drafting. Want to see if this may be something for you? Take our free career test!

There are community colleges that provide programs that may seem similar to the programs at technical institutes, but the courses at community colleges will typically contain more instruction in theory of drafting and usually require more general education. When they have completed their associate’s degree, graduates often enter the workforce as drafters while continuing their education in a specific and related area attending a four-year college program.

There are a lot of 4-year colleges that are not offering further education in technical drafting, but they generally provide related programs in architecture, mathematics, or engineering, and courses followed at a community college will most probably be accepted for credit at universities or technical colleges. High school students who are interested in a career as drafter may very well prepare optimally for post-secondary education if they take courses in a field related to their preference, such as science, design, mathematics, computer technology or graphics, or, if available, in drafting.

Drafter – The Job

Drafters are using computer software to be able to convert designs of engineers or architects into practical plans and technical drawings. Drafters may be specialized in mechanical, architectural, electrical, or civil drafting and they are using technical drawings to assist other professionals in designing all sorts of things, from power plants or skyscrapers to microchips. We can distinguish between several main directions in the world of drawing: Aeronautical Drafters, Architectural Drafters, Civil Drafters, Electrical Drafters, Electronics Drafters, Mechanical Drafters, and Process Piping or Pipeline Drafters (see below).

In general, we may say that drafters typically are working from rough sketches and use specifications indicated by architects and engineers. They are designing specific plans and use software and CADD computer programs (computer-aided design and drafting). This way they are helping to design various products, from buildings to computer chips, with manufacturing and engineering techniques. They are adding more details to architectural drawings and plans using their knowledge about building and construction techniques.

They usually will prepare several versions of a design to be reviewed by architects and/or engineers, and they will be specific regarding materials, dimensions, and will come up with procedures to enable the production of new products. In general, drafters are directed and supervised by architects and engineers. Often, drafters are called CADD operators because they use CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) systems for their drawings and they are responsible for electronic storage of technical drawings and data. These technical drawings include specific information about a project’s dimensions, how a machine or a structure must be built, or which materials need to be used for the production of a specific product or project.

Drafters use CADD programs to create schematics for viewing, printing, or programming into a BIM (building information modeling) system or into a PDM (product data management) system. These computer systems are allowing architects, drafters, engineers, and construction managers to collaborate with digital versions of physical machines or structures.

The 3-dimensional BIM software enables engineers and designers to get an impression of how their projects are affected by different ideas and systems. The PDM computer program helps all parties involved control and track all sorts of technical specifications and other data related to their projects. BIM software helps to change architectural drafters’ work, and PDM software is changing mechanical drafters’ work.

Architectural drafters are drawing structural and architectural technical drawings of buildings to be used in construction projects. These drawers usually are specialized in a specific type of structure, for example, commercial buildings or residential buildings, and sometimes they are specialized in specific materials, for example, wood, steel, or reinforced concrete.

Mechanical drafters are preparing technical drawings that include all details for all sorts of mechanical tools, devices, or machinery for various purposes, such as transportation or medical equipment. These very specific layouts usually include all dimensions, various fastening methods, or all requirements for the assembly process, and sometimes, they create also molds for production purposes.

Civil drafters are preparing topographical drawings and maps that are used for civil engineering projects or in major infrastructural projects such as bridges, highways, or flood-control engineering projects.

Electrical drafters usually prepare technical wiring diagrams and drawings that will be used by various other workers for the installation or repair of electrical wiring and/or equipment and wiring in all sorts of settings such as residential housing projects, commercial construction, electrical distribution systems, or power plants.

Electronics drafters are producing technical wiring drawings and diagrams specifically to be used on circuit boards, and they also create layout drawings that are used for the development or repair of electronic components and devices or components and other electronic systems.

Aeronautical drafters are preparing technical engineering drawings that reveal detailed specifications and plans that are used in the manufacturing process of aircraft, missiles, and other aeronautic projects.

Process piping or pipeline drafters prepare plans and drawings that will be used to develop, construct, and operate gas and oil fields, chemical plants, refineries, or to develop piping systems.

Employment outlook and earnings

For the next decade, the employment outlook for drafters is pretty stable though electronics drafters will remain to be in higher demand than other specialists, and competition for jobs is expected to be strong. Specifically, civil and architectural are likely to experience a lot of competition for positions, as there are more graduates in civil and architectural educational programs than available positions. Candidates who are very proficient in BIM and PDM computer programs will probably have pretty good job opportunities. In 2013, the median hourly wage of drafters, in general, was around $24, while the median annual salary was around $49,830, though electric and electronics drafters made more.

 

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