Design Drafter Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a design drafting career? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a design drafter is right for you.
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Design Drafter: Pros and Cons

After the initial idea or plan is setup, the design drafter helps flesh out the project with sketches and designs for the builders. Read on to find out some of the pros and cons of becoming a design drafter.

Pros of Being a Design Drafter
Career advancement opportunities to intermediate and senior positions*
Many different educational routes (college, community college, technical school, training, etc.) *
Multiple specialties available*
Full-time, part-time and contract based work opportunities*

Cons of Being a Design Drafter
Extended periods in front of a computer may cause injuries (eyes strain and wrist problems)*
Little to no change in job growth (1% growth from 2012-2022)*
Employment is tied to factors like manufacturing, construction and the economy*
Job outsourcing*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Info

Job Description

Drafters create plans and technical drawings used by workers in construction and production. A drafter might create the plans for a wallet or a statue. After receiving the guideline for the project, you'll start out with some rough sketches. They use computer-aided drafting (CAD) software to create design elements.

A drafter can work in a wide variety of different industries. Career specialization options for design drafters include aeronautical, architectural, civil, electrical, electronics, mechanical and pipeline. Job duties can alternate a little depending on the industry you're employed in. For example, civil drafters may create blueprints of construction or engineering projects, while electrical drafters create wiring diagrams.

Salary Information

The salary of a design drafter is dependent upon the drafter's area of specialization. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2014 reported that architectural and civil drafters had an average income of about $52,000 ( Electrical and electronics drafters made around $62,000 on average, while mechanical drafters averaged about $55,000.

Career Requirements

While you're in high school, you'll want to take classes in computer graphics, design, science and mathematics. If your high school offers a drafting program, then you may want to enroll in it. Drafters typically require some form of postsecondary education, such as a certificate, diploma or associate's degree; 4-year programs in drafting are rare, but may be available. Drafting programs may include courses in mathematics, computer-aided design, design applications and product drawing. Your program may vary depending on your specialty. Additionally, some employers offer technical training in drafting, like the Armed Forces.

What Employers Want in a Design Drafter

Before entering into a specific field of drafting, you should attempt to learn more about that industry. For example, if you're going to be an architectural drafter, you'll want to study and learn about buildings. An employer wants a design drafter who is knowledgeable about the employer's field. Check out what a few employers were specifically looking for in a design drafter in March 2012 on and

  • An information technology business in Mississippi needs an electrical systems drafter with an eye for finding and preventing errors due to the sensitivity of the projects the company works on. Applicants must have an associate's degree and 3-6 years of experience.
  • In Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, a manufacturing business seeks a team-oriented drafter with knowledge of circuit breaker design and a 2-year degree.
  • An automated processing systems company in Walla Walla, Washington, requires a design drafter familiar with Solid Works.
  • A New York business that makes liquid temperature control systems wants a design drafter with experience in AutoCAD and Solid Works.
  • A piping company in Washington needs a drafter with communication and organization skills. To qualify, you must have an associate's degree and two years of experience, as well as strong problem-solving skills.

How to Stand Out as a Design Drafter

The BLS states that employers are most interested in drafters that have some postsecondary training in CAD and technical drawing. Additionally, you can stand out as a drafter by completing contests or joining student organizations that allow you to network with other drafters and potential employers. The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) offers student chapters that promote professional development.

Get Certified

Certification is an excellent way to stand out amongst other applicants for a design drafter position. While certification isn't typically required, it demonstrates an additional level of professional commitment. The ADDA requires you to receive a 75% or better on the Drafter Certification Examination ( This 90-minute examination covers different situations a design drafter is likely to encounter on the job. Some examples of things you could be tested on include working drawings, architectural terms and geometric construction. This certification is open to anyone, although recertification is required every five years.

Additional Vocational Paths

Surveying or Mapping Technician

If you like the idea of drawing up plans, but you'd rather be working with maps, then look into becoming a surveying and mapping technician. In this occupation, you'll go out to a location and collect data for creating maps and other layouts using computer-aided drafting programs. A bachelor's degree is normally necessary for this occupation, although there are other educational paths to consider at technical schools and community colleges. The BLS reported that surveying and mapping technicians made about $40,000 annually on average in May 2010.


If you like drafting, but you also want to oversee the actual building, consider becoming an architect. An architect designs and oversees the construction of buildings and other structures. Architects must complete a 5-year bachelor's degree or master's degree and gain a state license prior to gaining employment. On average, architects (excluding landscape and naval) made about $79,000 on average yearly, according to the BLS in May 2010.

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