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Mechanical Drafting Careers

Career Description

Mechanical Drafters prepare detailed working diagrams of machinery and mechanical devices, including dimensions, fastening methods, and other engineering information.

Common Work Tasks

  • Prepare drawings showing the detail and assembly of a wide variety of machinery and mechanical devices, indicating dimensions, fastening methods, and other requirements
  • Coordinate with and consult other workers to design, lay out, or detail components and systems and to resolve design or other problems
  • Review and analyze specifications, sketches, drawings, ideas, and related data to assess factors affecting component designs and the procedures and instructions to be followed
  • Compute mathematical formulas to develop and design detailed specifications for components or machinery using computer-assisted equipment
  • Position instructions and comments onto drawings
  • Modify and revise designs to correct operating deficiencies or to reduce production problems
  • Design scale or full-size blueprints of specialty items such as furniture and automobile body or chassis components
  • Check dimensions of materials to be used and assign numbers to the materials

Other Job Titles

Mechanical Drafters are also known by other titles, including:

  • CADD Operators
  • Surveyors
  • Civil Drafters
  • Electrical Drafters
  • Architectural Drafters

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 Mechanical Drafter is $44,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $68,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $28,000. Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of mechanical drafters are:

  • Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services - $47,410
  • Ship and Boat Building - $41,860
  • Architectural and Structural Metals Manufacturing - $43,290
  • Other General Purpose Machinery Manufacturing - $45,800
  • Metalworking Machinery Manufacturing - $48,200

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  5%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 4,100
  • Employment 2006 : 78,000
  • Employment 2016:  82,000
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