How to Become a Drafter
Drafter Careers & Degrees

Drafters use a variety of skills in order to create visual plans and drawings that are used to create a wide range of products and structures.

These professionals may also work in a variety of industries and can specialize in producing visual drafts for objects such as skyscrapers and microchips.

Drafters have a variety of skills including mathematical knowledge, visual aptitude and the use of design software and applications.

Drafters may lend their expertise and experience in the following specializations and industries:

  • Aeronautical drafters
  • Architectural drafters
  • Civil drafters
  • Electrical drafters
  • Electronics drafters
  • Mechanical drafters
  • Pipeline drafters

Continue reading below to learn more information regarding this career including education requirements, a general job description, salary and wage data for 2008 as well as the profession’s expected growth through the next decade.

Education Requirements to Become a Drafter

Students who want to become a Drafter should pursue a postsecondary education.

Candidates should study a drafting focus.

Drafting programs are offered at community colleges, technical institutes and some four year colleges or universities.

Drafting programs differ depending on the type of institution and curriculum a student joins.

Those who want to become a drafter will have to work on the skills employers look for in candidates to find jobs.

In order to become a Drafter with a competitive background, students must take courses that focus on their mechanical and technical skills.

Helpful courses candidates can take include drafting and mechanical drawing skills, mathematics, science, engineering technology and familiarity with drafting standards and procedures.

In addition, candidates with a strong knowledge and experience with CADD techniques are highly preferred by employers.

Certification is optional for the majority of Drafters; however, there are some employers who require candidates to be certified.

The Drafter Certification Test is administered by the American Design Association ADDA.

Candidates are tested on a variety of subjects including work drawings, drafting concepts, geometric construction, architectural terms as well as standards.

Candidates who seek certification show an aptitude and understanding of Drafting principles and practices and shows potential employers their capabilities.

Additionally, in order for Drafters to perform well in this profession they need some inherent skills that include having visual talent, mechanical aptitude and CADD systems that help Drafters create designs.

Drafter Job Description

Drafters are responsible creating technical plans and drawers for other professionals such as construction and production workers.

These professionals use their experience and skills in order to draft and develop visual plans used to create a variety of products and structures.

Exact job duties will depend on the specialty a Drafter goes into, however, the following information can apply to most specializations.

The majority of Drafters use computer systems such as the Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) to help them organize and plan drawings.

In addition to using computer programs, Drafters will also use traditional drafting methods in order to explain their drawings and plans to other individuals.

Drafters will need to make sure they create visuals that include information such as product dimensions, specifications, materials needed and other technical aspects.

Drafter Salary and Career Path

A professional Drafter’s salary and earnings heavily depend on the specialty, management responsibilities and their location.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the national median wage for Architectural and Civil Drafters in 2008 was approximately $44,500 per year.

Mechanical drafters had a median wage of $46,600 per year and Electrical and Electronics Drafter’s median wages in 2008 was approximately $51,000 per year.

The salary range during the same year for all professional Drafters was approximately $28,000 to $79,800 per year.

Employment growth for drafting professionals will depend on the specialty.

Overall, this growth is expected to increase very slowly at 4 percent through the year 2018.

Architectural and Civil Drafting positions will experience the fastest growth within this profession at 9 percent.

Growth for Architectural and Civil Drafters is attributed to population growth and the need to expand and improve the nation’s infrastructure.

Drafters with at least two years of formal education or post secondary education are expected to have the best job opportunities within all specialties.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$58,080
$35K
$44K
$58K
$69K
$82K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$53,780
Alaska$66,330
Arizona$57,760
Arkansas$46,590
California$64,000
Colorado$63,070
Connecticut$62,680
Delaware$52,960
District of Columbia$73,110
Florida$54,150
Georgia$55,360
Hawaii$56,290
Idaho$50,980
Illinois$64,450
Indiana$57,170
Iowa$57,760
Kansas$55,750
Kentucky$51,640
Louisiana$51,680
Maine$54,580
Maryland$66,400
Massachusetts$64,500
Michigan$51,580
Minnesota$55,060
Mississippi$48,710
Missouri$57,090
Montana$49,350
Nebraska$53,710
Nevada$51,340
New Hampshire$55,740
New Jersey$61,980
New Mexico$51,960
New York$61,840
North Carolina$55,350
North Dakota$56,460
Ohio$56,760
Oklahoma$54,800
Oregon$60,420
Pennsylvania$53,910
Rhode Island$53,830
South Carolina$56,000
South Dakota$44,220
Tennessee$56,390
Texas$57,060
Utah$52,940
Vermont$50,270
Virginia$57,380
Washington$60,800
West Virginia$55,680
Wisconsin$55,640
Wyoming$55,840
Guam$49,620
Puerto Rico$31,890

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $73,110.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $73,110
Maryland - $66,400
Alaska - $66,330
Massachusetts - $64,500
Illinois - $64,450
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Architectural and Civil Drafters, OCC Code 17-3011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is a drafter?

A drafter is someone who makes detailed technical plans and drawings for buildings, machinery, electronics, etc.

Drafters usually use CAD (computer-aided design) software to transform sketches made by architects and engineers into technical drawings.

Most drafters work full time but sometimes they may work more than 40 hours a week.

They are usually supervised by engineers and architects.

Drafters need a variety of skills, including creativity, math skills, technical skills, and time-management skills.

QuestionHow much does a drafter make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for drafters was $55,550 in May 2018.

How much a drafter actually makes depends on several factors, including their employer and expertise.

The median annual wage for architectural and civil drafters was around $55,000, while the median wage for electrical and electronics drafters was around $60,000, as of May 2018.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a drafter?

Most drafters complete education after high school, usually through a community college or technical school.

An associate’s degree program in drafting costs, on average, between $10,000-$20,000; tuition costs vary depending on the college you choose.

Some colleges also charge additional fees for software and lab use which may sum up to about $2,000.

The American Design Drafting Association offers certification for drafters.

Obtaining a certificate is not necessary if you want to practice as a drafter but it may demonstrate your competence to a potential employer.

QuestionWhat is the demand for drafters?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for drafters, in general, is expected to show little or no change in the next 10 years.

However, the demand varies depending on specialty.

For instance, employment for electrical and electronics drafters is expected to grow 3 percent from 2018 to 2028, while employment for mechanical drafters is expected to decrease 7 percent.

The demand for architectural drafters is expected to grow 2 percent, resulting in approximately 1,800 new jobs.

Competition for this profession is expected to be strong.

How many drafting jobs will be available in your area depends on your specialty and the local industries.

Drafters who are proficient in CAD and BIM (Building Information Modeling) should have the best job prospects.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a drafter?

If you want to become a drafter, you will usually need to graduate from an associate’s degree or a diploma program in drafting.

An associate’s degree in CAD and drafting can typically be completed in about two years.

Students usually specialize in a type of drafting, such as architectural or mechanical.

Continuing your education at a four-year college is also an option, but it is not a requirement.

Getting certified by the American Design Drafting Association can help you demonstrate your skills and abilities to potential employers.

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