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Professionals that have expertise on computer aided design and drafting or CADD are typically known as drafters. In this position, professionals are charged with the responsibility of translating blueprints and visual guidelines into computer generated plans that can be used by engineers, architects and construction workers. The use of CADD systems requires drafters to have a strong background in technical and computer skills. Drafters that use this technology must also be able to employ traditional drafting techniques in order to effectively transfer specifications to the CADD system.
While some CADD drafters will be able to acquire the skills needed for employment via high school vocational career programs, employers seeking drafters typically prefer to employ individuals that have at least two years of post-secondary education. Education provided through a community college (Associates Degree) or a vocational or technical school is desired for this position. Because drafters are required to have such an extensive background in CADD programs and mechanical drawing, these types of programs provide intensive training needed for the professional to achieve a high degree of proficiency. Most drafters work in professional organizations such as construction companies or architectural firms.
Drafting work is typically performed in an office setting with the use of a computer.
Generally speaking, CADD operators perform the same type of services across most industries. Careers in CADD are often segregated by the type of industry in which CADD services are needed. Some common examples of CADD services include:
• Aeronautical Drafters: In this position, CADD drafters provide computerized drawings of aircraft and other types of aviation equipment.
• Architectural Drafters: Professionals working in this position will provide computerized drawings of buildings, including both residential and commercial spaces. Architectural drafters may be employed with an architecture firm or a construction company.
• Civil Drafters: Civil drafters work on public engineering projects that include the development of new bridges, roads and water systems. Professionals employed in this field will be responsible for developing topographic maps using CADD technology.
• Mechanical Drafters: Mechanical drafters are responsible for using CADD technology to develop and design assembly and manufacturing line layouts. These designs include the machines that will be used and the requirements for machine operation.
Salaries for CADD drafters will vary based on the specific area in which the professional specializes. Salaries will also vary based on the geographical location of the profession, the responsibilities involved with the job and the professional’s level of education and experience. In 2008, median annual salaries for drafters ranged from $36,490 to $65,400. CADD drafters working electronics drafting were able to command salaries higher than those working in architectural or civil drafting: $79,790 and $67,110 respectively. Drafters typically enter the field in entry level positions. After several months of experience, these professionals can be promoted into intermediate level jobs with more responsibility. In these positions, drafters will command higher salaries and will be responsible for more independent work. Professionals that remain in the same position over the long-term may be promoted into a supervisory position. In this role, the professional will command a top salary and will be responsible for overseeing other drafters working in the organization.
The job outlook for drafters is contingent upon the area of specialization for the professional. CADD drafters entering into the architectural or civil industries will see average job growth through 2018. Demand for professionals in these positions will be fueled by new construction projects and efforts to improve the nation’s aging infrastructure. Professionals seeking positions in mechanical or electronic drafting will not see considerable job growth. Mechanical and electronic drafters typically work in manufacturing positions that have seen a contraction of their workforces in recent years. Demand for drafters may also decline as a result of efforts to make CADD programs more user friendly. As less technical expertise is needed to use CADD tools and more professionals such as architects are able to use CADD, overall demand for drafters and operators will decline. Individuals with at least two years of post-secondary education will have the most job opportunities in the profession.