Computer Drafting & Design Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Info

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What will you learn in a computer drafting and design degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Computer Drafting and Design: Degrees at a Glance

Enroll in one of these programs and you'll receive a thorough grounding in the latest software and hardware used in the drafting and design fields. You'll learn to draw by hand and by computer. In addition to the practical hands-on training you'll receive, you'll also study theoretical concepts behind drafting and design, such as product design methodology and manufacturing theory.

If your career objective is to get an entry-level position as a drafter, then the associate's degree might be the right choice for you. However, architectural drafting often requires a bachelor's degree. Also, if your desired job is in the design field, you may want to pursue the bachelor's degree. Job opportunities for drafters are expected to increase at a slower-than-average rate over the coming decade, although those with at least two years of education should have the best chances.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in an entry-level position in the drafting and design fields Those interested in drafting and design leadership roles
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) Drafter ($52,000) - Drafting supervisor (salary not available)
- Industrial Designer ($64,000)
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements None Many programs feature a required internship
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Yes No

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's Degree in Computer Drafting and Design

In this program you'll learn how to draft with computers as well as how to draw freehand. It is common for the curriculum to be structured so that you study mechanical drafting in your first year and computer-aided drafting and design in your second and final year. You'll also enroll in math courses, such as statistics and pre-calculus. Many of these programs are designed so that upon graduating you can transfer to a 4-year school in pursuit of a bachelor's degree in drafting and design or a related field.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You'll be finished with your education in two years
  • These programs can often be found at technical schools or community colleges, both of which tend to feature a more affordable tuition than 4-year schools
  • After just two years in school, you'll be eligible to pursue jobs with competitive salaries

Cons

  • May not allow you to pursue as many job opportunities as a bachelor's degree
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for drafters were expected to increase by only 6% over 2010-2020, which is slower than the national average for all occupations
  • Drafters often work under deadlines, which can be stressful

Courses and Requirements

Traditional classroom lectures will comprise some of your core courses, while the computer drafting classes will take place in a computer lab. In addition to your required drafting and design courses, you'll also enroll in a number of humanities electives, such as world history or social science courses. Below are listed some sample course titles.

  • Sketching and design
  • Design manufacturing
  • Parametric modeling
  • Statistics
  • Blueprint reading

Online Degree Options

Online degree programs for this field do exist. They are offered in a variety of formats. Some programs can be found completely online, while others exist in a hybrid format, combining both distance-learning and traditional classroom instruction. Online programs can be found at both for-profit and non-profit institutions. If your plan is to eventually pursue a bachelor's degree, you'll want to research your program carefully to make sure your credits will be transferable.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

If you're looking for a way to stand out in your field, you may want to consider pursuing a drafting and design internship. Most 2-year programs do not offer internships for their students; however, the summer in between the two academic years could be an ideal time to contact the engineering and architectural firms in your area to inquire about their internship opportunities. You won't get class credit for such an internship, but it will provide valuable work experience and could help to separate you from the pack.

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Drafting and Design

These programs are similar to the 2-year variety with a few important exceptions. Firstly, you'll receive a more in-depth exposure to the art and science of 2D and 3D drafting and design. Secondly, you'll enroll in a much broader scope of general education electives.

You'll study all the relevant forms of drafting and design, including electrical, residential and mechanical. You'll learn to build models and read blueprints. Advanced instruction in methods of freehand drawing are also often part of the curriculum. Some programs allow you to choose a concentration within the degree, thus allowing you to tailor your education to your career goals.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Programs often include an internship, in which you'll gain valuable professional experience while receiving course credit
  • This degree program may help prepare you for leadership roles in the drafting and design fields
  • Could be an academic jumping-off point for other fields, such as architecture or mechanical engineering

Cons

  • In some instances, you'll be competing for jobs with people who have an associate's degree
  • There is a small number of 4-year programs that teach computer drafting and design, so admissions could be competitive
  • There may be other degree programs that provide study of computer drafting and design, while also offering more or better employment opportunities

Courses and Requirements

Along with the standard drafting and design courses, there will also be a set of management or leadership courses to better prepare you to pursue executive career opportunities. In addition, you'll enroll in a set number of general education electives. Below are listed some sample core course titles

  • Design fundamentals
  • Technical drawing
  • Manufacturing and assembly
  • Architectural illustration

Online Degree Info

Bachelor's degree programs in this field that are entirely online do not exist. One of the reasons for this is the overall small number of bachelor's degree programs that concentrate exclusively on computer drafting and design. It is more common to pursue a certificate or an associate's degree in this field, which are available online.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Since this is such a technologically driven field, the more drafting and design software programs you have used and are familiar with, the better. You will undoubtedly receive training in many of these programs as part of your academic journey. However, there will always be new programs and new applications that you haven't yet studied. The wider your expertise is, the better you can demonstrate to a potential employer that you have what it takes, so consider practicing with software suites on your own if possible.

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