Computer Aided Design Associate Degree Programs

A computer-aided design associate's degree program can get you started in a career as a mechanical drafter, circuit designer or engineering technician. Read on to learn about degree programs, potential coursework and possible career paths.

What Is a Computer-Aided Design Associate's Degree Program?

Computer-aided design associate's degree programs give you the technical skills needed to work in a variety of industries. These programs are often referred to as computer-aided design (CAD) programs. In some cases, you can specialize your training to focus on a particular field. Online programs in computer-aided drafting aren't common.

You can find computer-aided design associate's degree programs at community colleges and technical schools across the U.S. They typically provide facilities equipped with industry standard computers and software such as AutoCAD. An associate's degree in computer-aided design usually takes about two years of full-time study to complete, and some students go on to earn 4-year bachelor's degrees in engineering technology or a related field.

Program Overview Programs take about two years to complete and aren't typically offered online due to hands-on training requirements
Common Courses Mechanical drafting, blueprint reading, civil drafting, engineering graphics, solid modeling
Job Outlook 7% growth* projected for 2016-2026 (for all drafters)
Median Salary (May 2018) $55,550* (for all drafters)
Certification Optional certification by the American Design Drafting Association

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Courses Will I Take?

The curriculum of a computer-aided design associate's degree program gives you a deep understanding of how to render project plans and use computer systems for creating and storing the plans. Your first courses typically cover the basics of CAD, and then begin to focus on the software used in the industry. AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Architectural Desktop, MicroStation, Revit, PADS-PCB and Autodesk Inventor are common software tools covered, but not all associate's degree programs cover all software applications. Many of your courses include extensive lab time, providing you with an opportunity to practice your skills through hands-on experiences. Courses may include:

  • Mechanical drafting
  • Engineering graphics
  • Solid modeling
  • Design for manufacturing
  • Blueprint reading
  • Parametric modeling and design
  • Structural drafting
  • Civil drafting
  • Geometric dimensioning
  • Topographical drafting

What Can I Do With My Degree?

With an associate's degree in computer-aided design, your job options include CAD operator, CAD manager, CAD designer, draftsperson or technical salesperson. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for all drafting careers is expected to grow by 7% from 2016-2026. The bureau determined that the median annual salary for all drafters is $55,550. The BLS also states that you can become a certified drafter by passing the American Design Drafting Association's Drafter Certification Test. Most employers don't require certification, the BLS said, but having it signifies your ability to adhere to national industry standards ( and provides additional appeal in a competitive market.