Draft and Design Engineering: Job Description, Salary & Degree

Get to know the education requirements, certification options, and skills necessary to begin a career in draft and design engineering. Research the median salary as well as the projected job growth to determine if this career is right for you. Schools offering Building Information Modeling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

The most common position in draft and design engineering is that of a drafter. Drafters are responsible for turning the designs of architects and engineers into technical drawings through the use of computer-aided design software programs. In the table below, you'll find information regarding the education, training, and skills required, as well as median income and projected job growth for drafters.

Education Required Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Drafting, computer-aided design (CAD)
Certification optional American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) certification
Required Skills Detail-oriented, technical skills, math skills, time management skills, creative thinking skills
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026) 7%*
Median Income (2017) $54,170 annually*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Drafter Do?

Drafters are responsible for using the initial designs made by architects and engineers to produce technical two-dimensional and three-dimensional drawings of products and buildings. Drafters use computer-aided design software programs and building information modeling (BIM) technologies to create digital blueprints of structures. Their drawings must include the exact dimensions of the structure as well as the correct materials for use. Drafters draw upon their foundational knowledge of building and manufacturing to determine the most effective means of design and construction.

There are several specializations within the field of draft and design engineering; drafter specializations include architectural, civil, electrical, aeronautical, and mechanical drafting.

What Education Is Required to Become a Drafter?

A career in drafting typically requires the completion of a 2-year associate's degree program from a technical institute or a community college. These programs teach students how to use CAD software and BIM technology, and they also include courses in the principle skills of design. Some institutions offer avenues of specialization while completing these 2-year programs, others offer an associate's degree in generalized drafting. Entry-level positions typically begin under the supervision of an experience drafter so that beginning drafters can develop their skills through applied use of the design software programs.

What Certifications Are Available for Drafters?

While certifications are not mandatory for draft and design engineers to obtain, the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) offers multiple certifications that highlight a candidate's proficiency, experience, and training. The professional certifications are obtained by passing an examination that measures an individual's competency level and ability to use the necessary software tools.

These exams ask questions regarding the necessary equipment, general terminology, dimensions and layouts, and professional workplace practice. The professional certifications last an initial 3 years and require renewal that can be completed through the completion of continuing education programs. Continued education consists of partaking in additional courses, videos, and online training programs.

What Skills Are Essential for Working as a Drafter?

Technical skills are essential for operating the design programs, saving blueprints, and accessing information provided by the architects or engineers. Math skills also prove crucial for drafters, because most of their work is done through precise measurements of both two-dimensional and three-dimensional structures. This type of work is extremely detail-oriented; it is essential for drafters to ensure that each measurement is exactly correct. Incorrect measurements or the use of incorrect materials can result in the production of a structure or product that cannot be used in the original design plan. Creative thinking skills allow a drafter to visualize the initial design of an architect or engineer and transform those early-stage designs into technical designs. They must use creative thinking skills to imagine how a product or building may look as a whole so that they understand the role that each individual part plays in the larger function of the product or building. As drafters play an integral role as part of the larger construction process, their work is often driven by tight deadlines. Time management skills are essential for drafters to ensure their work is done both effectively and efficiently.

How Much Do Drafters Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, drafters earned a median income of $54,170 annually as of May 2017, but this number can vary by specialization. For instance, electrical and electronics drafters earned a median salary of $59,690 at that same time, while mechanical drafters had a median salary of $55,130.

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