Residential Design Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a residential design technician's job duties, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a residential design technician career.
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Pros and Cons of a Residential Design Technician Career

Residential design technicians transform an architect's ideas into blueprints and drafts that engineers, architects and construction managers can use to create a home. Continue reading to learn about the pros and cons of a career in residential design technology to decide if it's right for you.

Pros of a Residential Design Technician Career
A bachelor's degree or less is required*
Opportunity to specialize (residential, commercial, concrete, steel or wood)*
The architectural field employs the largest number of drafters (about 44% in 2010)*
Job can include benefits (health, dental and retirement)**

Cons of a Residential Design Technician Career
Slower-than-average career growth (one percent between 2012 and 2022)*
Work can be stressful***
May work more than 40 hours per week*
Requires working under supervision of others (engineers and architects)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics **Job postings from Monster.com, ***U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net Online

Career Info

Job Description

Residential design technicians, also called architectural drafters, use CADD (computer-aided drafting and design) technology to create home designs. Typically, this would mean drafting a 3-D model that coincides with structural and electrical necessities, as well as codes and specifications from architects and engineers. You could be required to visit job sites, take measurements and work from blueprints in order to accomplish this. You might also supervise other drafting professionals when working on larger projects. Considering costs and materials would typically be a part of your job as a drafter.

Career Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment outlook for drafters is slower than the average, at only 1 percent from 2012-2022. As of May 2014, the median annual salary for architectural drafters was about $49,970, the BLS reported. Individuals working in architectural and engineering services earned a mean annual salary of about $51,890 that year, according to the BLS.

Education and Training

Most drafters only need an associate degree to enter the field, but the BLS states that architectural drafters may need a bachelor's degree. This training will include studies in the basics of design, architecture and structure. You'll explore construction materials, including what they're used for, and learn to read and create blueprints. Other classes address green technology and sustainable design, which includes modern trends in energy efficiency. Some of the useful skills you could acquire include:

  • Ability to incorporate energy efficiency in designs
  • CAD strategies
  • Familiarity with building codes
  • Time-management skills

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers look for people who have skills in drafting, design and CAD who are able to create designs using modern tools. They want someone who has a background in design or architecture and familiarity with construction and building codes, and a degree is typically preferred. The following job listings for residential design technicians are from April 2012:

  • A homebuilding company in Houston wanted to hire a 3-D residential designer who could use AutoCAD or architecture desktop to design 3-D architectural plans for custom single-family homes. The ideal person would have experience working with residential plans and would be willing to verify that the design complied with local building codes. A degree in architectural design and two years of work experience were required.
  • A construction company in Boise, Idaho, advertised for a residential mechanical drafter with CAD experience to design residential and commercial buildings. The ad requested someone with a background in mechanical design, good people skills and familiarity with building codes and the construction processes.
  • A building company in San Mateo, California, advertised for an AutoCAD drafter who could create AutoCAD layouts for homes, work on their own, meet deadlines and communicate well with engineers and other members of the design team. At least an associate degree was required, but a bachelor's degree in architectural design was preferred.
  • An architectural firm in Houston was looking for a draftsman with a degree in architecture or drafting and 2-5 years of experience. The ideal person would have experience with Auto CAD and be able to produce construction documents.

How to Stand Out in the Field

One of the best ways to stand out in the field of residential design technology is to complete a specialization degree in residential design. This can provide you with insight into residential building codes, materials used in home construction, and home design blueprints. You should also complete an internship. Try to find one that is available specifically in home design so that you can gain work experience and insight into home design and relevant building codes.

You can also stand out by earning certification as a drafter through the American Design Drafter Association. The certification doesn't demonstrate your proficiency in CAD, but it can indicate that you're able to design multiple views of a building, add dimensions, make it to scale and create a design that architects and engineers can use. To take the exam, you need to have at least three years of experience in the field. Once you earn your certification, you need to renew it every five years.

Alternative Career Paths

Architect

If you're interested in planning and designing buildings instead of creating the drafts and blueprints of other people's designs, you could become an architect. Architects typically earn a five-year bachelor's degree in architecture, but some employers might require a master's degree. You'll also need to earn an architectural license and you can earn voluntary certification. This field is expected to see an employment growth rate of 24% from 2010-2020 and these professionals earned a median annual salary of $73,000 as of May 2011, according to the BLS. To succeed in the field, you should be creative, organized and able to work well with others.

Construction Manager

If building is more interesting to you than designing, you might consider becoming a construction manager. These professionals need a bachelor's degree or less in construction or building science, but they made about $84,000 per year as of May 2011, according to the BLS. Employment is expected to increase by about 17% for construction managers, which is average career growth for between 2010 and 2020. For this job, you'll work outdoors and oversee other individuals to ensure that the designs created by architects and drafters are constructed properly.

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    1. Penn Foster

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