How To Become A Drafter

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 2 minute read


Everything in engineering and architecture, from huge structures to teeny-tiny microchips, has to be designed first. Sketches can be beautiful, but only when they’re in the form of technical drawings can the project get started. Architectural and engineering drafters, also known as CADD operators, are the people who put pen to paper to produce these detailed technical drawings.

Drafters use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software to create technical drawings and three-dimensional electronic models. Plans and schematics that include technical specifications, dimensions, building materials (such as steel), engineering techniques (such as laser cutting), and manufacturing processes are created from the rough sketches of architects and engineers by these professionals.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are a variety of specialized drafters, including aeronautical, architectural, civil, electrical, electronics, mechanical, and process piping drafters (BLS). According to the BLS, almost half of all drafters are employed in the architectural or engineering fields. Manufacturing and construction industries employ the majority of the unemployed.


A four-year university or traditional college may not be necessary to obtain the training you need for a career in drafting. It is possible to earn an associate’s degree from either a community college or technical institute by completing a technical program.

A two-year program at a community college or a technical institute teaches you how to use CADD software as well as how to sketch, design, and create 3D models. While some of these programs will allow you to specialize in a particular area of study, others will focus on a single topic. Technical institutes and community colleges also offer shorter programs that don’t require a two-year commitment and instead award a certificate or diploma.

According to the BLS, students in community college programs, especially those leading to an associate’s degree, are more likely to take courses in drafting theory. Getting a well-rounded education may also entail taking a certain number of general education courses.

The American Design Drafting Association offers certification in a wide range of drafting specialties for those who are particularly ambitious. Prospective employers can see that a candidate has this certification and can demonstrate their knowledge and skills.


As of 2014, the BLS reported that drafters earned an average annual salary of $49,630. At $55,700 a year, electrical and electronic engineers command the highest salaries. Some specialties, like electrical and electronic drafting, are expected to see moderate growth over the next decade, despite the fact that the BLS expects little growth in the field. Product data management (PDM) and building information modeling (BIM) computer software are two skills that prospective drafters should learn if they want to stand out from the crowd, according to the BLS.

Bottom Line

Although drafters work under the direction of architects and engineers, their work is essential in that it allows these fields to function. Drafters use CADD software and their math, technical, and critical-thinking skills to create the detailed technical plans needed to build structures of all sizes.

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