Technical Drafting Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a technical drafting 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 Technical Drafting: Degrees at a Glance

Enroll in a technical drafting degree program and you'll learn the art of freehand technical drafting along with the science of computer-aided design. The associate's degree is usually the entry-level degree required to begin a career in mechanical, electrical or architectural drafting. However, some architectural drafting positions require a bachelor's degree.

The job prospects for the drafting profession are mixed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), drafters were expected to experience slower-than-average job growth from 2010-2020. However, the BLS does report that those with the most up-to-date computer skills would still be in demand. The BLS also stated that mechanical drafters were expected to see an increase in job opportunities about equal to the average for all careers.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in pursuing entry-level drafting work Individuals interested in pursuing leadership positions in a drafting field
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Drafter ($48.000*)
- Civil drafter ($50,000)
- Electrical drafter ($57,000)*
- Mechanical drafter ($52,000)*
Time to Completion Two years full-time Four years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements Roughly 61 credits Roughly 122 credits
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED - High school diploma
- SAT scores
Online Availability Yes No

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

Associate's Degree in Technical Drafting

Students enrolled in an associate's degree program in technical drafting study a range of drafting applications, including mechanical, architectural and electrical drafting. Some program concentrate on a particular area, such as architectural drafting. In either type of program, you'll study drawing and drafting techniques, including computer-aided drafting. Your class time will be divided between classroom lectures and lab time. This degree is usually offered through an Associate of Applied Science program.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You can be finished with your degree in two years of full-time study
  • Programs offered at community colleges often offer more affordable tuition rates than universities
  • Upon graduating, you may be able to transfer your credits to a 4-year college in pursuit of a bachelor's degree

Cons

  • Some courses taken at technical schools may not transfer to 4-year universities
  • Employment opportunities for drafters will increase by only six percent from 2010-2020, which is slower than the national average*
  • May not afford you the same job opportunities as a bachelor's degree

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

You'll study technical as well as computer-aided drafting (CAD). In addition to these drafting courses, you'll also enroll in electives such as English, math and computer literacy courses. Programs at community colleges often feature more electives than those offered at technical schools. Below are a few common course topics you'll likely encounter.

  • Principles of dimensioning
  • Mechanical systems
  • Construction scheduling
  • Technical illustration
  • Blueprint and drawing reading

Online Course Info

Online associate's degree programs are available in drafting and drafting technology. They are not generally listed as technical drafting degree programs. Instead, they come with headings such as drafting and design technology or computer-aided design and architectural drafting. The coursework is roughly the same. However, if you plan on pursuing a 4-year degree, be certain that the program you choose is accredited so that your credits will transfer.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

One way to separate yourself from the competition is through voluntary industry certification. The American Design Drafting Association offers a certification program that is open to students and apprentices as well as working professionals. The process consists of a proficiency exam that is offered on a number of experience levels. Becoming a certified drafter is one possible way to indicate to future employers or educational institutions that you have the skills and commitment necessary for the job.

Bachelor's Degree in Technical Drafting

Technical drafting as a degree program generally is not offered at the bachelor's degree level. However, 4-year drafting programs offer technical drafting courses. In these programs you'll study the software and technological tools used to design and create models and drawings for mechanical, architectural and electrical drafting applications. Most of these programs concentrate on the latest software and hardware used in the drafting process. These programs are generally offered as Bachelor of Science programs.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can lead to jobs in a range of industries, including engineering, architecture or multimedia
  • Upon graduating you'll be familiar with a wide range of software and technology platforms
  • According to the BLS, drafters who have mastered the latest in design software may have the most employment opportunities

Cons

  • A bachelor's degree may be a higher educational level than is required for this career
  • The BLS reported that drafting jobs in fields such as manufacturing and building construction are affected by the intermittent nature of those industries
  • Job prospects for drafters are less robust than the national average for all other jobs*

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

Courses and Requirements

Much of your coursework will take place in computer labs. Not only will you study computer-aided drafting software, but you'll also work with multimedia tools such as animation and 3D design programs. You'll also enroll in general education courses in math, English and the sciences. Below are listed some sample course topics.

  • Machine design
  • CAD drafting
  • Product design
  • Applied mechanics

Online Program Info

Online bachelor's degree programs in drafting are not available as of September 2012. If you want to study drafting in a 4-year program, you'll have to attend a traditional campus-based program. These types of programs allow you to interact with your fellow students and the teaching professionals in your program. Also, the campus-based program allows you to take advantage of the technology that your institute has to offer.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

If you're looking for a way to get ahead with your degree, consider pursuing an internship. Internships can be a great way to get valuable professional experience that will add to your resume. It's never too early to start looking for these opportunities. You can start by contacting the architecture, engineering and design firms in your area to see if they offer any internship possibilities. Multimedia companies and website design houses might also offer opportunities.

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