The Day-to-Day as a CAD Designer
CAD Designers use software to create technical drawings for complex projects. These designs may be surface modeling (2D), 3D images, or solid modeling. CAD Designers work on: civil engineering projects, architecture, electronics, fashion, cars, or medical equipment designs. CAD Designers work on a team with Engineers, Architects, Scientists, and Designers. CAD Designers work a typical 40-hour workweek and rarely work overtime unless there is a problem with a project.
CAD Designers can find work at architecture firms, mechanical manufacturing facilities, civil engineering companies, construction companies, the fashion industry, electronics and tech companies. They usually pick one area of expertise such as architecture, engineering, fashion design, interior and exterior design, game design, or industrial design. They can find work freelance, full-time, onsite, or remotely.
On a daily basis, you can find CAD Designers doing tasks like establishing timelines and budgets for their design projects, using AutoCAD to create plans and models, keeping up with CAD trends, arranging and attending meetings with collaborators and managers, creating models or drawings with CAD software, optimizing workflows with their team and other teams in their company, gathering reference information from other teams or clients, making revisions to drawings, or keeping a database of design records.
What Skills Should CAD Designers Have?
CAD Designers must be proficient in AutoCAD, Microstation, and other computer design software. Each company will have their preferred software and it helps to be an expert in one software and look for companies that use it. Most companies will also use project management software, which can be web-based, like Monday or JIRA; tickets based, like One Desk; or desktop software, like Autodesk Vault. CAD Designers will be expected to become proficient in their employer’s preferred project management software.
They must have knowledge of their industry, the materials used in that industry, engineering standards, machines, and maths. Any CAD Designer should understand the basics of spatial reasoning, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. CAD Designers learn throughout their careers. Material innovations and CAD updates and trends change regularly, so CAD Designers should expect to educate themselves on those developments as they happen. They’ll also need to use critical thinking skills collaboratively with their teammates to compile project data into budgets, timelines, and solutions.
Learn the Skills You Need to Become a CAD Designer
AutoCAD is a commercial computer-aided design and drafting software developed by Autodesk. AutoCAD is used to create 2D drawings and 3D models.
CAD Designer Salaries
A CAD Designer in the United States makes, on average, $60,005 annually, according to Indeed.com.
Salaries for CAD Designers vary by region within the the United States. Listed below are some CAD Designer salaries for specific areas with the United States compared with the average national salary:
- U.S. Average $60K source n/a
New York City
Los Angeles, CA
Orange County, CA
- U.S. Average $60K source n/a
Typical Qualifications to Become a CAD Designer
CAD Designers are expected to have a minimum of an associate's degree and some companies will require a bachelor’s degree. This requirement can be bypassed with a certificate program or some freelance experience and a fantastic portfolio. CAD Designers can get certified through The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) or directly from Autodesk, the maker of AutoCAD.
Searching for CAD Designer Jobs
CAD Designers can find jobs on CAD-specific job boards or on general job boards. They can find work at architecture firms, mechanical manufacturing facilities, civil engineering companies, construction companies, the fashion industry, and electronics and tech companies. They work freelance, full-time, onsite, or remotely.
CAD Designers can find jobs on these sites:
- CAD Design Crossing
- Simply Hired
- Career Builder
- Peak Jobs
- CAD Recruiters
CAD Designers can find freelance jobs on these sites:
Tips to Become a CAD Designer
CAD Designers might find the job search competitive, but it can help to first narrow down which industry you want to specialize in. Industries include architecture, engineering, fashion design, interior and exterior design, game design, and industrial design. You can focus even further from thereby deciding on a specific type of project or company within those industry categories. Specializing is crucial in this field because each industry has its own best practices, materials, and specific knowledge that you’ll need to master. Get to know those key characteristics for the industry you chose. Knowing the lingo and specifics will be crucial for making it through first-round job interviews.
If you do not have a degree, getting certified will be a major boost to your resume or application. If you have no experience, getting both The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) and Autodesk certifications can tremendously help your employment chances. Additionally, if you have no experience, you should attempt to land an internship or some freelance work so that you have some relevant experience on your resume – even when you’re applying for entry-level positions.
CAD Designers should have a portfolio ready to show professionals. A simple portfolio website is recommended for any CAD designer, but especially freelance CAD Designers. Create drawings using AutoCAD and any other relevant software that you see mentioned on job board listings to build out your portfolio. Of course, include any freelance or internship work – NDAs permitting. Depending on your industry, begin with small, simple components and work on bigger, more complicated projects over time. You might also want to include a blog on your site to share case studies. Case studies are a great way to flesh out your process so that employers can see who they’re actually hiring.
What Job Titles Would a CAD Designer Hold?
CAD Designer is a relatively standardized position. CAD Designers can specialize in: architecture, engineering, fashion design, interior and exterior design, game design, or industrial design and find jobs in those respective industries. CAD Designers might find that some companies use niches in their job titles while others simply use CAD Designer no matter the industry to specialization.
CAD Designers can look for these job titles:
- CAD Designer
- CAD Technician
- AutoCAD Operator
- Survey CAD Technician
- Architectural CAD Designer
- Mechanical CAD Designer
- Electronics CAD Designer
- Commercial CAD Designer
- Industrial Designer
- Engineering CAD Designer
If you’re a CAD Designer who wants to keep doing CAD but wants to work in a different industry, you might try taking a step back and applying for Drafter positions to get used to the new industry’s best practices, materials, and engineering.
CAD Designers can also look for work as Designers or Graphic Designers. These positions use similar software to produce drawings and designs. To become a Graphic Designer or a Designer, CAD Designers would need to learn design best practices, the Adobe creative suite, and build up their portfolio in a specific design specialty. However, CAD Designer is by far the most well-paying position of these options.
Salary Comparison to CAD Designer
Drafters work with architects and engineers to create technical plans. After gathering all required drawings and specifications and determining material and equipment needs, drafters use CAD software to develop detailed diagrams, maps, and schematics. Drafters must have deep expertise in 3D modeling, engineering, and architectural concepts, and methods to calculate design limitations and resource needs.Learn about becoming a Drafter
Graphic designers work with both digital and physical media to create art that communicates and inspires. Using graphics, text, colors, and animations, graphics designers develop media assets for branding, advertising, and messaging. Graphics designers can work for agencies or themselves. They create a wide variety of design elements, such as brochures, infographics, marketing material layouts, and design elements for print, video, or web use.Learn about becoming a Graphic Designer
Designers work in a wide variety of industries and specialize in just as many mediums. Most designers create digital assets, but some designers work with hand-drawn sketches and illustrations. They start with an understanding of the best design principles and functional aesthetics. Common fields for designers include web, apps, print, fashion, animation, advertising, and UX design.Learn about becoming a Designer