Pros and Cons of Becoming an Architectural Drafter
Architectural drafters use designs from architects to create technical plans for buildings and other architectural structures. Find out the pros and cons of becoming an architectural drafter to decide if it's the right career path for you.
|Pros of an Architectural Drafting Career|
|An associate's degree is usually enough for most entry-level positions*|
|Higher median salary than other occupations with similar education requirements (architectural drafters earned a median salary of about $49,970 in 2014)*|
|Most employers offer a standard 40-hour week*|
|Variety of specializations (can choose different building types or materials)*|
|Advancement opportunities (senior drafter, architect, designer)**|
|Cons of an Architectural Drafting Career|
|Slower-than-average job growth (projected 1% growth between 2012 and 2022)*|
|Additional education may be required for some specialties (usually a bachelor's degree)*|
|Economic changes can have a big effect on job security (fewer construction projects during recessions)*|
|Possible injuries include eye strain, back, hand and wrist problems***|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Mesa Community College, ***O*NET Online.
Essential Career Info
Job Description and Duties
Architectural drafters usually work in an office using computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software and mechanical drawing techniques. They utilize specifications, sketches and other data to create structure and building plans that meet building code laws. They may also determine the type and quantity of materials needed to complete a project. You'd generally work with an architect who would give you the specifications of the project you're assigned to. Drafters need to pay close attention to detail to ensure that drawings are exact and measurements are accurate.
Architectural drafters may specialize in a particular type of structure, such as commercial buildings or residential homes. Some architectural drafters work with a particular material, including wood, concrete and steel.
Salary Info and Job Prospects
According to the BLS, architectural drafters earned a median salary of about $49,970 in 2014. Metropolitan areas generally paid higher wages to architectural drafters than rural areas.
The BLS also reported that job opportunities nationwide for all types of drafters were expected to increase by 1% from 2012-2022, which was slower than the average for all occupations. According to the BLS, the best job openings would be found by drafters who know how to use the newest drafting software.
What Are the Requirements?
Most employers look for architectural drafters who have some type of formal training or education in drafting. An associate's degree from a technical school or a community college is usually enough to qualify you for most entry-level or junior drafting positions; however, advanced positions or specialized drafting jobs in architecture may require a bachelor's degree. You can start preparing in high school with courses in math, computer graphics and drafting.
Even though drafters do not need extensive education, employers want to see particular traits and skills from job candidates. Here are a few examples of valuable qualities and knowledge that can help you stand out from other candidates:
- Great communication skills
- Understanding how to use the latest drafting software
- Having a solid grasp of technical terms used by engineers and architects
- Extensive knowledge of building codes
What Employers Are Looking For
Employers typically look for applicants who have experience with computer-aided design programs, such as AutoCAD. Additional skills in design and drafting software can provide an edge in obtaining a position. Here are a few examples of job postings found online in March 2012:
- A company in Utah was looking for an architectural drafter with 5 years of experience in architectural drafting or landscape detailing, plus experience using Revit and AutoCAD. No educational requirements were listed, but an ideal candidate would be highly organized, efficient and detail oriented.
- A Florida architectural firm advertised for an architectural drafter with 2 years of experience. Job candidates should have CADD experience and be willing travel occasionally. No education requirements were listed.
- A design firm in California advertised for an architectural drafter with a bachelor's degree. No experience is required, and the firm will provide training. Applicants should have good communication skills, basic architecture skills and knowledge of AutoCAD.
How to Stand Out in the Field
You may increase your chances of landing a position as an architectural drafter by obtaining a certification, according to the BLS. The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) offers a number of certification options, including the Certified Apprentice Drafter and Certified Drafter designations. There are no education or experience requirements, but applicants should have a good understanding of basic drafting concepts and architecture standards. To become certified, you'll need to pass the exam that pertains to the particular designation you're pursuing. The certification needs to be renewed every 5 years, with proof of employment for 3 years in the field.
Alternative Career Options
Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technician
If you're interested in designing electronics instead of buildings, a career as an electrical and electronics engineering technician may be the right fit for you. The job requires design and technical skills, creativity and mechanical aptitude. You could work with computers, medical devices and all kinds of other electrical and electronic technologies. Most employers require you to have an associate's degree. Similar to architectural drafters, you'd be working closely with the engineers who designed the products you're working on. The BLS reported that electrical and electronics engineering technicians tend to earn a higher salary than architectural designers, with a median salary of about $57,000 in 2011. However, you may have some difficulty finding a job; the BLS predicted that these professionals would only see a 2% increase in jobs from 2010-2020.
If you'd rather be the person designing the structures and buildings that drafters draw out, then you might want to think about becoming an architect. Architects talk to clients to figure out what features need to be included in a new structure and then create the design concept. The requirements to become an architect are more extensive than those for drafters; you'll need to obtain a professional bachelor's degree, complete an internship and become licensed. However, architects were expected to experience faster-than-average growth, with a projected 24% increase in jobs between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. You'll also have much higher earning potential than drafters. The BLS stated that architects earned a median annual income of approximately $73,000 in 2011, while the top 10% of architects made over $119,000 in the same year.