How to Become a Professional Draftsman in 5 Steps

Drafters take the ideas of designers and translate them into reality by creating complex visual representations of designs. Most draftsmen work with computer-aided design (CAD) software, but some still sketch their designs. Being a drafter requires formal training, usually at a technical school or community college. Schools offering Building Information Modeling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Professional Draftsman?

Professional draftsmen work with architects and engineers. They compile the design plans and specifications of projects and use computer-aided design (CAD) software to produce technical drawings, such as blueprints. They may have to add details to the rough designs provided or verify measurements and materials during this process. Professional draftsmen are also known as drafters or CAD operators. They may specialize in a particular field and work as an architectural drafter, a civil drafter, an electrical drafter, an electronics drafter or a mechanical drafter. Architectural drafters work on building projects. Civil drafters focus on engineering projects, such as bridges. Electrical drafters prepare diagrams of wiring for places like power plants, and electronics drafters produce diagrams of wiring for electronic devices. Machinery and mechanical tools are the focus of mechanical drafters, who prepare layouts of these devices that may be used for assembly or repair. Below you can learn some details about a career possibilities you could pursue as a professional draftsman:

Architectural & Civil DrafterElectrical & Electronics DrafterMechanical Drafter
Degree RequiredCertificate, Associate'sCertificate, Associate'sCertificate, Associate's
Education Field of StudyArchitectural drafting, civil draftingElectrical drafting, electronics draftingMechanical drafting
Key ResponsibilitiesPrepare maps used for civil engineering projects like bridges and highways, specialize in drawing structural features for buildings and construction projectsCreate electrical wiring diagrams and drawings that are used by workers who install equipmentPrepare diagrams and drawings that detail the dimensions and inner workings of various mechanical tools and machinery
Licensure RequirementsVoluntary certification availableVoluntary certification availableVoluntary certification available
Job Growth (2014-2024)*-3%5%-7%
Median Salary (2015)*$50,710$59,520$53,520

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Research Duties and Education

Draftsmen usually earn a diploma or associate's degree in drafting from a technical school or a community college. These programs typically take two years. A draftsman may continue their education at a four-year university, but it's not typically required. A draftsman can choose from several specializations that can influence their career paths. Opportunities as aeronautical, civil, architectural, electrical, mechanical, and pipeline drafters are available.

Step 2: Prepare with High School Courses

Though not required, taking science, math, and computer courses in high school is excellent preparation for community college or technical school programs in drafting. Drafting requires precise calculations and the ability to use complex software. If students are able to cultivate these skills early, they'll be more prepared upon entering a professional draftsman degree program.

Step 3: Apply to a School Offering Degree Programs in Drafting

Most draftsman degree programs are offered at technical schools or community colleges rather than at four-year institutions. A community college that offers a drafting degree will usually focus more on general education requirements and basic skills. A technical school, in contrast, typically focuses solely on drafting, and students earn fewer general education credits.

Step 4: Earn a Diploma or Associate's Degree

Students can usually finish a drafting degree program in two years. Due to the emphasis on drafting using CAD software, many students are able to take drafting courses online. This means that students who don't live near a school are still able to get a professional draftsman education. Courses include basic drafting, mechanical design, residential CAD, construction documents, and 3-D AutoCAD.

Step 5: Pursue Additional Education or Search for a Drafting Job

Students who earn a drafting degree sometimes choose to transfer to a four-year institution to pursue a more advanced degree. Students who transfer from a community college with a drafting degree can often apply their coursework towards an engineering or architectural degree. Students with degrees in engineering or architecture and drafting experience can pursue a number of careers. Career options for recent drafting graduates may include positions in civil, electrical, mechanical, and architectural drafting. Drafting professionals may work for architecture or manufacturing firms, government agencies, or a variety of other organizations.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are some aspects of a professional draftsman's job that are similar to the work that architects and engineers do; however, architects and engineers need a bachelor's degree, while professional draftsmen need a diploma or associate's degree. Civil engineering technicians are professionals who assist engineers in the design process; like professional draftsmen, they need knowledge of the building process and materials and are required to have an associate's degree. Electro-mechanical technicians operate and test electromechanical equipment; they can prepare for their careers by completing an associate's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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