Spotlights

Job Description

Have you ever looked at a building or product and wondered how it was made? There are countless people involved in creating the structures we live in and the objects we interact with. But when it comes to preliminary design stages for these things, most people think of architects or engineers and forget about Drafters! 

Drafters take the concepts of architects or product designers and the technical ideas of engineers and turn them into detailed schematics. These schematics, created with computer-aided drafting tools, can be programmed into building information modeling systems and other software so that construction managers, manufacturers, engineers, and others can review 3D representations. 

The drafting career field can be broken into various areas of specialization. These include:

  • Aeronautical drafting (for aircraft)
  • Architectural drafting (for buildings)
  • Civil drafting (for topographical maps)
  • Electrical drafting (for electrical equipment)
  • Electronics drafting (for wiring diagrams, circuit boards, etc.)
  • Mechanical drafting (for machinery and mechanical equipment)
  • Pipeline drafting (for distribution of oil, gas, etc.)

Clearly, Drafters can find all sorts of work with the right skills and education! 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Playing an integral part in the design stages of construction and manufacturing projects
  • Helping potentially hundreds or thousands of employees earn a living working on large-scale projects  
  • Being part of the creation of buildings that people live and work in, or otherwise use; or in the creation of products or parts needed by consumers 
2021 Employment
192,200
2031 Projected Employment
185,400
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

Drafters have typical full-time schedules, with overtime necessary depending on project goals and timeframes. Work is usually indoors, with some travel needed from time to time.  

Typical Duties

  • Review sketches, illustrations, paintings, or other visual materials related to the building or product being designed 
  • Review technical drawings, schematics, blueprints, written objectives, specifications, and other data 
  • Consider topographic surveys, well logs, and other reports, as applicable 
  • Meet with clients, managers, project team members (architects, engineers, additional Drafters), and other stakeholders to discuss desired mediums, deliverables, budgets, and timeframes
  • Design building, electronic, mechanical, or product plans utilizing computer-aided design tools and engineering and manufacturing principles 
  • Layout specific rooms for building projects
  • Work closely with and take guidance from applicable team members, as needed
  • Add pertinent details, including dimensions, suggested materials, costs, quantities, features, and other notes
  • Verify the accuracy of details by cross-checking against documentation
  • Make changes or corrections, as directed
  • Explain diagrams, graphs, and other visuals to clients
  • Calculate excavation tonnage, heat loss or gain, and other factors relevant to construction
  • Visit job sites, when necessary, for field surveys or inspections
  • Save, organize, manage, and protect digital files throughout their lifecycle

Additional Responsibilities

  • Stay up-to-date by reading drafting publications
  • Advertise services to attract new clients, as needed
  • Train and mentor new Drafters, technologists, and technicians
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Analytical
  • Compliance-oriented
  • Critical thinking
  • Detail-oriented
  • Discipline
  • Planning and organization
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Sound judgment 
  • Strong communication skills
  • Teamwork
  • Time management 

Technical Skills

  • Analytical/scientific software such as MathWorks MATLAB
  • Basic mathematics, algebra, Cartesian math, geometry, and trigonometry
  • Building information modeling systems (BIM)
  • Computer-aided design programs like AutoCAD
  • Computer-aided manufacturing 
  • Database user interfaces
  • Development environment software
  • Document management 
  • Enterprise resource planning 
  • Geographic information systems
  • Industrial control software such as SCADA
  • Map creation software
  • Presentation tools
  • Process mapping and design like MS Visio
  • Project management 
  • Knowledge of technical drawing and associated tools, such as scales, triangles, curves, protractors, T-squares, drafting tape and tubes, templates, reference tables, boards, blueprint measuring tools, lettering pens, etc.
Different Types of Organizations
  • Architectural and civil drafter services
  • Construction industry
  • Electronics makers
  • Manufacturing
  • Mechanical drafting services
  • Waste management
Expectations and Sacrifices

Drafters need to pay extremely close attention to detail as they work, to ensure their output is accurate and thorough. They must draw information from multiple sources while trying to form a cohesive picture that meets everyone’s criteria. Sometimes there might be conflicting desires from various stakeholders or team members, but the Drafter has to try and get everyone on the same page. 

In addition, they’ll have to keep up with changes in technology as advances in CAD and BIM transform the field. Some of these changes may impact the long-term job outlook of Drafters, so it may be necessary to specialize in areas with more future opportunities. For example, the job outlook for mechanical drafters indicates a projected employment decrease of 9%, whereas architectural and civil drafts have only a projected 1% decrease.

Current Trends

There are several innovations and trends running across multiple areas of drafting. Many are related to the incredible advances in technologies such as CAD, BIM, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence automation, 3D printing, robotics, and the cloud. There’s also a massive shift toward renewable energy drafting. Architectural drafting, for instance, has been affected by the push for more green, environmentally-friendly buildings and products that rely on sustainable materials. 

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Drafters often have a unique combination of imagination and technical skills, which allows them to create highly-detailed representations of proposed structures, products, and electrical or mechanical objects. They may have loved both math and art (with a focus on photorealism, detail, and accurate perspectives). Because drafting requires so much work with computers and software, they were likely very comfortable using the latest technologies to bring their visions to life. 

Education and Training Needed

Education Needed

  • After high school, Drafters usually finish a drafting associate’s degree or certificate program at a technical school or community college. Some go on to complete a bachelor’s or master’s, but that isn’t usually needed for entry-level roles
  • Common associate-level courses include drawing, sketching, computer-aided design, design fundamentals, science, and math
    • In addition, Drafters usually specialize in one area, such as mechanical drafting, and thus need to customize their degree with applicable electives
  • Some Drafters apply for paid apprenticeship programs. Per Zippia, having some college education can make you a more competitive applicant for apprenticeships, though many learn the prerequisite skills on their own
  • Drafters often complete optional certifications during their careers. These demonstrate competence to employers and may qualify you for raises or promotions 
  • Certification options vary by specialty. A few of the numerous certifying organizations are American Design Drafting Association and Autodesk 

Specialized certs are offered in:

Things to look for in an university
  • Decide if you want to complete a certificate, associate’s, or bachelor’s before choosing your school. A technical school or community college should be far less expensive than a four-year institution
  • Consider the cost of tuition, discounts, and local scholarship opportunities (in addition to federal aid)
  • Think about your schedule and flexibility when deciding whether to enroll in an on-campus, online, or hybrid program
  • Check out the program’s faculty awards and accomplishments to see what they’ve worked on
  • Review job placement stats and details about the program’s alumni network
Things to do in High School and College
  • Sign up for plenty of mathematics, science, design, drafting, and computer graphics courses in high school, to help prepare you for college-level courses
  • Consider building a portfolio to show schools and prospective employers
  • Get some real-world job experience via part-time jobs related to drafting 
  • Volunteer for student activities where you can manage projects and learn practical soft skills
  • Learn about the various areas of specialization, such as aeronautics, architecture, electronics, and pipelines, or civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting
    • Tailor your education accordingly
  • Take ad hoc classes online, from Coursera, Udemy, or other sites
    • Coursera has a ton of CAD-related classes and programs, including official ones from Autodesk
    • Note, many courses will require access to software that you might have to purchase or subscribe to, such as Autodesk Fusion 360
  • Review job postings in advance to see what the average requirements are
  • Seek out internships to get some hands-on experience 
  • Keep track of contacts who might serve as future job references 
  • Study books, articles, and video tutorials related to different types of Drafting and the applicable tools and technologies
  • Engage in online forums to ask questions and learn from seasoned pros 
  • Engage with professional organizations to learn, share, make friends, and grow your network (see our list of Resources > Websites)
  • Start crafting a resume early. Keep adding to it as you go, so you don’t lose track of anything
How to Land your 1st job
  • There are different types of Drafters, so look for postings that match your background and qualifications
  • Let your LinkedIn network know you’re looking for openings 
  • Contact references to inquire if they are willing to recommend you or write letters of reference 
  • Create a drafting portfolio to showcase your work 
  • Get some practical work experience under your belt before applying, if possible
  • A degree isn’t always needed to get started working in this field but may put you ahead of the competition
  • Check out job portals such as Indeed, Simply Hired, and Glassdoor, as well as the career pages of companies you are interested in working for
  • Screen ads carefully and only apply if you’re fully qualified
  • Drafting-related apprenticeships can help get your foot in the door. They look great on resumes plus may yield some personal references for later
  • Ask working Drafters for job-seeking tips
  • Move to where the most job opportunities are! Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Drafters page for links to data maps 
  • Employers often recruit grads from drafting programs, so ask your technical school or college’s career center for help connecting with recruiters and job fairs
  • Check out Drafter resume templates to get ideas 
  • Tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for, versus sending out the same resume to every employer
  • Review Drafter job interview questions 
  • Dress appropriately for job interview success!
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Expect to start out in entry-level roles then work your way up to positions of greater responsibility
  • Let your supervisor know when you’re ready to tackle more or larger projects 
  • Knock out relevant certifications to bolster credentials and make you more competitive 
  • If you don’t have a bachelor’s, consider pursuing one. If you have one, think about doing a master’s if it’ll help qualify you for advancement 
  • Utilize the most up-to-date programs and techniques 
  • Never stop seeking creative inspiration. Study the work of more advanced Drafting professionals
  • Learn as much as you can about the various aspects of Drafting while specializing in your chosen field 
  • Turn in high-quality work by due dates. If there’s a problem, offer solutions to help address it
  • Collaborate effectively on teams, stay focused and realistic, and demonstrate leadership
  • Grow your network by participating in professional organizations
Plan B

Drafting can be a dynamic profession but there are times when work is stressful or cumbersome. If you’re curious about related occupations, the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests the following options:

  • Architects
  • Civil Engineering Technologists and Technicians
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technologists and Technicians
  • Electrical and Electronics Engineers
  • Industrial Designers
  • Landscape Architects
  • Mechanical Engineering Technologists and Technicians
  • Mechanical Engineers
  • Surveying and Mapping Technicians
  • Surveyors

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