Architectural Drafter Job Facts

Research what it takes to become an architectural drafter. Learn about job duties, educational requirements, certifications and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Building Information Modeling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Architectural Drafter?

Architectural drafters work with architects. They take specifications provided by architects, such as dimensions, materials and other factors, and use computer-aided design software to produce technical drawings of projects the architect has designed. They may produce blueprints for residential houses, factories or businesses. Some architectural drafters specialize in a specific building type, such as residential structures or commercial structures. Architectural drafters primarily work in an office, although they may occasionally visit job sites.

Degree Required Certificate or associate's degree
Education Field of Study Computer-aided design (CAD), architectural drafting
Key Skills Using AutoCAD to assist in architecture or engineering firms
Job Growth (2014-2024) -3%, all architectural and civil drafters*
Average Salary (2015) $53,470, all architectural and civil drafters*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does an Architectural Drafter Do?

As an architectural drafter, you create blueprint drawings of buildings and structures that serve as a reference for construction. The architectural drawings are based off from the notes and information given to you by the project electricians, engineers, designers and architects. To make these highly detailed and accurate blueprints, you use computer-aided design software and spend a lot of time with your immediate supervisor drawing up plans, finishing drawings, adding design details and inserting dimensions.

Where Would I Work?

Architectural drafters are often found in architectural and engineering firms, as well as construction companies and within engineering departments of a large corporation. You may start out as junior drafter working under the direction of a senior drafter but then take on more responsibilities as you gain experience. Common duties include using AutoCAD to enter in dimensions and specifications, checking various calculations during the final stages of a drawing and proofing the final blueprint for errors. You may choose to specialize in a specific type of building structures, such as commercial or residential buildings, or types of construction materials, such as steel, wood, iron or concrete.

What Skills or Training Do I Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers often look for architectural drafters who have completed a formal education program in this area, know how to use CAD programs and have exceptional skills in drafting (www.bls.gov). Technical schools and community colleges often offer certificate and associate degree programs in computer-aided design and architectural drafting. While enrolled in these programs you take classes in architectural fundamentals, urban planning, drafting techniques, building information modeling and architectural visualization. The programs also teach you to use specific computer-aided design and modeling programs such as AutoCAD, Revit, Photoshop and Sketchup.

If you want to pursue more advanced positions in architecture or design, you may wish to enter a bachelor's degree program in architecture or engineering instead. These programs often have a large drafting component, but also include courses on design and architecture theory. You still learn about drafting tools, techniques and software, but you also gain a more in depth look at the process, materials, construction techniques and building codes used by architects. This degree may allow you to grow into more professionally responsible positions once you gain enough experience as an architectural drafter.

Do I Need to Be Certified?

You don't need to be certified to work as architectural drafter; however, the American Design Drafting Association offers Apprentice Drafter (AD) and Certified Drafter (CD) designations for professionals who have completed an approved education program and passed an exam. Both the AD and CD programs are available with an architectural drafting focus.

How Much Could I Earn?

In 2015, the BLS reported that all architectural and civil drafters earned an average salary of $53,470 per year. Competition for architectural drafting jobs should be strong, as employment was expected to decrease 3% from 2014-2024. According to the BLS, more students are graduating from architectural drafting programs than there are jobs available; so graduates that are skilled in product data management and building information modeling could have the best prospects.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Civil engineering technicians and mechanical engineering technicians have aspects of their careers that are similar to the work of an architectural drafter. These professionals need an associate's degree. Civil engineering technicians assist civil engineers with designs of things like bridges, roads or other infrastructure projects. Mechanical engineering technicians work with mechanical engineers. They help design and develop machines and tools. As part of their duties they may produce sketches and layouts of the products they're working on.

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