The Day-to-Day as a Drafter
Drafters help create technical plans and designs for things small and large from microchips to bridges. They typically specialize in either architecture, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting. They work for architecture and engineering firms, manufacturing, construction, and waste management companies. Most Drafting positions are in-house but some of them are available remotely and they usually work a typical 40-hour week.
Drafters create technical plans by gathering drawings, determining specifications, outlining material and equipment needs, creating diagrams using computer-aided design (CAD) software, calculating design limitations, and dtermining resource needs. They work on a team with architects and engineers at engineering and architecture firms.
What Skills Should Drafters Have?
Drafters should be proficient in computer-aided design (CAD) and AutoCAD software, design fundamentals, sketching, and materials planning. They’ll need to be ready to work on a deadline and with a team. CAD is constantly changing, so being adaptable and keeping up with new developments in the industry is imperative for a career as a Drafter.
A good Drafter should be able to communicate their ideas clearly, actively listen to interpret the ideas of their team members, and explain their diagrams once they are completed. Drafters also use basic skills in mathematics and science. These skills and the depth of knowledge in these areas that each Drafter needs will vary based on their specialization.
Drafters usually choose a specialization. They can choose from architectural, civil, electrical, electronics, or mechanical drafting. These specializations can determine the Drafter’s pay-level and where the Drafter works. Drafters will need to acquire additional knowledge on top of diagram creation for their specific specialization.
Architectural Drafters will work on diagrams for buildings and construction projects. Architectural Drafters can specialize even further by choosing to work only on residential or commercial structures, they might even niche down on the materials they work on designing for like steel or concrete. Electrical Drafters create wiring diagrams for construction projects, power plants, and electrical distribution systems.
Drafters specializing in electronics also produce wiring diagrams. They also create assembly diagrams for circuit boards and layout drawings for the manufacturing, installing, and repairing electronic components. Mechanical Drafters create layouts for tools and devices like medical equipment and large construction tools.
Civil Drafters create topographical maps. These are used in construction and civil engineering projects including highways, bridges, and flood-control projects. Civil Drafters can find their niche in specific types of projects they work on, materials they work with, regions of a country they work in, and sometimes even missions. Civil Drafters can work on environmental projects like pipelines or environmental justice projects like water access projects as well.
Learn the Skills You Need to Become a Drafter
AutoCAD is a commercial computer-aided design and drafting software developed by Autodesk. AutoCAD is used to create 2D drawings and 3D models.
A Drafter in the United States makes, on average, $63,475 annually, according to Indeed.com.
Salaries for Drafters vary by region within the the United States. Listed below are some Drafter salaries for specific areas with the United States compared with the average national salary:
- U.S. Average $63K source n/a
New York City
Los Angeles, CA
Orange County, CA
- U.S. Average $63K source n/a
Typical Qualifications to Become a Drafter
Most Drafting positions require a two-year associate’s degree from a technical institute or community college. Some educational institutes specialize in one type of niche like mechanical or architectural drafting. Some entry-level positions will hire a Drafter that does not have a two-year degree if the Drafter can prove their proficiency or if they’ve done an apprenticeship program.
Drafters can also get an American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) certification which is optional but may boost their career. If you’d like to move into management positions a Professional Engineer certification from the National Society of Professional Engineers might be required and a four-year degree is necessary to obtain this certification.
Searching for Drafter Jobs
The most common Drafting jobs are in the architectural and civil specialties. Drafters can find work at architecture and engineering firms, manufacturing, construction, and waste management companies. Most Drafting positions are in-house but some of them are available .remotely. Freelance drafting is not as common but can be done as well.
Drafters can find jobs on these sites:
Drafters can find freelance gigs on these sites:
Drafters can find Internships on these sites:
Tips to Become a Drafter
The best way to begin the drafting job search is by choosing an industry or specialization first. Each industry and specialization will require different knowledge above and beyond computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting skills. Employers are looking for experience. This might be internships, apprenticeships, education, or freelance work. If you have no experience outside of your education, consider finding an apprenticeship or internship before a job or working freelance if you can’t afford to do an internship.
Your portfolio is an essential part of your job search. This is the best representation of your experience and your chance to show your expertise in CAD. Include anything you created at school that you feel was your best work, any freelance projects, any passion projects you chose to do on your own time, and anything you might have done at an internship that is not protected by a non-disclosure agreement. A great way to build your portfolio is through passion projects or doing small freelance projects within the specialization you’d like to go into. Passion projects illustrate your excitement, determination, and skills which employers are keen to see.
To get noticed by employers, Drafters should showcase their portfolio on their own professional website or blog. You can use a portfolio platform or a free WordPress website to save money and time. A blog is a great place to show that you’re keeping up with industry trends with a weekly roundup post or create a small case study each week about the items in your portfolio!
Sharing your blog posts or portfolio pieces through LinkedIn and other social media is a great way to get attention and maintain momentum. Make a genuine connection with anyone who interacts with your content, make connections with people in positions directly above the ones you are applying for at your dream employers, and network through events for drafters. Free workshops can also be a great way to meet people who have connections to potential employers while also upskilling.
What Job Titles Would a Drafter Hold?
Job titles for Drafters depend on their specialization. They can find highly specialized roles or more general, entry-level roles. Generalized roles might help the Drafter who doesn’t know where to specialize find their niche. Drafters can find roles in-house or remotely and they may even be able to find freelance work with some experience.
Drafters can look for these job titles:
- Engineering Drafter
- Civil Engineering Drafter
- Architectural Drafter
- Electrical Drafter
- Mechanical Drafter
- Environmental Drafter
- CAD Operator
- CAD Engineer
After a few years in the field, Drafters can look for roles as a CAD Designer. CAD Designers work on higher-level tasks than Drafters such as unsupervised drafting, creative modifications, optimizations on specific jobs, and quality assurance. There isn’t much upskilling required for this leveling up, it all comes down to experience. Drafters can look forward to a raise if they land a position as a CAD Designer.
Salary Comparison to Drafter
- Drafter $63K n/a
Indeed.com Avg. Salary
$60K / yearindeed.com
Glassdoor Avg. Salary
$95K / yearglassdoor.com
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.Learn about becoming a CAD Designer