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Drafting Careers

Career Description

Drafters prepare technical drawings and plans, which are used to build everything from manufactured products such as toys, toasters, industrial machinery, and spacecraft to structures such as houses, office buildings, and oil and gas pipelines.

Common Work Tasks

  • Use Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) systems to prepare drawings
  • Store drawings electronically so that they can be viewed, printed, or programmed directly into automated manufacturing systems
  • Fill in technical details using drawings, rough sketches, specifications, and calculations made by engineers, surveyors, architects, or scientists
  • Use their knowledge of standardized building techniques to draw in the details of a structure
  • Use their understanding of engineering and manufacturing theory and standards to draw the parts of a machine
  • Determine design elements
  • Use technical handbooks, tables, calculators, and computers
  • Use pencils, pens, compasses, protractors, triangles, and other drafting devices to prepare a drawing by hand

Other Job Titles

Drafters are also known by other titles, including:

  • CADD Operator
  • Architectural Drafter
  • Mechanical Drafter
  • Electrical Drafter
  • Civil Drafter

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Employers prefer applicants who have also completed training after high school at a technical institute, community college, or 4-year college or university. Technical institutes offer intensive technical training, but they provide a less general education than do community colleges. Either certificates or diplomas may be awarded. Many technical institutes offer 2-year associate degree programs, which are similar to, or part of, the programs offered by community colleges or State university systems. Community colleges offer courses similar to those in technical institutes but include more classes in theory and liberal arts. Often, there is little or no difference between technical institute and community college programs. However, courses taken at community colleges are more likely to be accepted for credit at 4-year colleges. After completing a 2-year associate degree program, graduates may obtain jobs as drafters or continue their education in a related field at a 4-year college. Most 4-year colleges do not offer training in drafting, but they do offer classes in engineering, architecture, and mathematics that are useful for obtaining a job as a drafter.

Technical training obtained in the Armed Forces also can be applied in civilian drafting jobs. Some additional training may be necessary, depending on the technical area or military specialty.

Licensure and Certification
The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) has established a certification program for drafters. Although employers usually do not require drafters to be certified, certification demonstrates knowledge and an understanding of nationally recognized practices. Individuals who wish to become certified must pass the Drafter Certification Test, administered periodically at ADDA-authorized sites. Applicants are tested on basic drafting concepts, such as geometric construction, working drawings, and architectural terms and standards.

Mechanical ability and visual aptitude are important for drafters. Prospective drafters should be able to draw well and perform detailed work accurately and neatly. Artistic ability is helpful in some specialized fields, as is knowledge of manufacturing and construction methods. In addition, prospective drafters should have good interpersonal skills because they work closely with engineers, surveyors, architects, and other professionals and, sometimes, with customers.


The median annual salary for a Drafter is $44,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $72,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $29,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of drafters are:

  • Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services - $45,460
  • Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing - $64,570
  • Employment Services - $45,380
  • Building Finishing Contractors - $40,790
  • Local Government - $40,880

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  6%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 15,000
  • Employment 2006 : 253,000
  • Employment 2016:  268,000
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