Design and Drafting Associate's Degree

Completing training in design and drafting could teach you to produce the plans, guidelines and diagrams used for CAD across many industries. Find information on training, coursework and employment options in this field. Schools offering Building Information Modeling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Can I Expect in a Program?

An associate's degree program usually takes two years to complete and can consist of 60-69 credits. Training at a technical institute may include more technical training, while one at a community college could include more theory and general education courses. Although technical institutes award associate's degrees, according to the BLS, you might find that credits earned at a community college more readily transfer to a bachelor's degree at a 4-year school.

Some typical courses you might encounter include mechanical design and drafting, architectural drafting, 3-D applications, blueprint reading and computer-aided drafting and design (CADD). Schools often teach you the basics of using industry software, such as AutoCAD or Solidworks, to design structures or products and give them dimension. You might be required to complete a capstone project, illustrating your general competence in all areas of instruction. Schools could offer you the opportunity to complete an internship at a school-partnered, independent firm or agency.

Online programs in drafting and design are quite rare, though some schools might give you the option of completing the program in a hybrid delivery format. This means that you can complete some courses online and others at the campus. If the program entails an internship, you'll need to participate in on-site work.

Common Courses Mechanical design and drafting, architectural drafting, CADD
Online Availability Fully online programs are rare; some schools offer hybrid programs
Advantages Employers prefer graduates with college-level training; associate's degree offers better preparation for employment
Certification ADDA offers Certified Apprentice Drafter and Certified Drafter credentials
Job Outlook (2014-2024) -7% (for mechanical drafters); -3% (for architectural and civil drafters)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Why Should I Pursue a Design and Drafting Associate's Degree?

There are high schools and vocational secondary schools that offer design and drafting associate's degree programs. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers prefer to hire graduates who have completed a college-level training program in the field (www.bls.gov). While there are programs that lead to certificates, you could be better prepared for initial employment and have better potential for advancement by completing an associate's degree program.

What Are My Employment Projections?

The BLS expected employment opportunities for drafters would decrease by three percent from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). This projection varies with occupational specialties. For instance, opportunities for mechanical drafters are expected to decrease seven percent, while those for architectural and civil drafters are expected to decrease three percent over that time period.

Along with additional education, certification could enhance your chances of employment and advancement. The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) offers several designations, such as a Certified Apprentice Drafter or a Certified Drafter in either architecture or mechanical drafting. Though you might be better prepared having completed an associate's degree program, you can qualify to take a certification examination without any formal training, though recertification does require that you be employed in the field (www.adda.org).

In January of 2016, PayScale.com reported salary ranges for the majority of drafters in the mechanical, architectural and electrical disciplines. Mechanical drafters earned $13.52 - $24.68 per hour. Architectural drafters made $12.87 - $25.17, and electrical drafters took home $13.82 - $26.34.

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