Becoming a Draftsman: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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A draftsman can earn a mean annual salary of $52,000 or more, depending on the type of drafting and industry. Is it worth the training and job requirements? Learn the truth about the job description, career prospects and salary to decide if this career is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Draftsman Career

Draftsmen are often the behind-the-scenes workers who create technical drawings and plans based on manual sketches made by engineers, construction workers or other industry professionals. Reading the pros and cons of being a drafter can help you decide if this is the career you want.

PROS of Being a Draftsman
Specialization options*
Usually work conventional 40-hour week*
Can work in various industries*
Most work in comfortable office setting*
Technical or minimal training required for entry-level drafting positions
Advancement opportunities*

CONS of Being a Draftsman
Slower-than-average job growth (expected job growth of one percent between 2012 and 2022)*
Large amount of time spent in front of computer doing repetitive work, possibly causing eyestrain, headaches or wrist problems*
May have to handle stressful situations with extreme attention to detail*
Often laid off during economic recessions*

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

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Drafters are professionals who prepare technical drawings and plans based on rough sketches and drawings, calculations and dimensions made by architects, engineers, surveyors and related workers. Drafting is used in almost every industry involved with construction and production. When a product is still in the development stage, engineers or architects put their thoughts and ideas down on paper in terms of size, material and procedures to be used. Drafters take these thoughts and specifications and turn them into a technical drawing.

Most draftsmen today use CADD software to create their drawings. One big advantage to using CADD is that the drafters can go on the computer and view, edit or print the drawings, which is more cost-effective and timesaving than conventional hand drawings. Even with CADD, draftsmen combine their understanding of manufacturing and engineering theories with conventional drafting methods to create their drawings. Drafters can choose from several areas of specialization, including civil drafting, electrical drafting, electronic drafting, aeronautical drafting, architectural drafting, process piping drafting and mechanical drafting.

Job Growth and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall employment for drafters was projected to be slower than average, with only one percent growth expected between 2012 and 2022. Individuals with at least two years of postsecondary training should see the best employment opportunities; however, growth will vary by specialty and industry. For instance, electrical and electronics drafters should experience 10% employment growth, making it the fastest-growing specialty option, though this is only about average compared to all occupations. Mechanical drafters, on the other hand were predicted to see a decline in employment.

The BLS also reported that as of May 2014, civil and architectural drafters earned mean annual wages of near $52,000, while electrical and electronic drafters earned just over $62,000, and mechanical drafters averaged around $55,000 per year.

Education and Training Requirements

What Employers Are Looking for

If you're interested in becoming a draftsman, you need to complete a formal training program in drafting. It's also important that you have a solid understanding of drafting and mechanical drawing skills, basic drafting principles and standards and engineering technology, as well as a strong knowledge of CADD techniques.

Education Requirements

Drafting training programs can be found at technical schools and community colleges. Technical schools offer more technical training, while community colleges offer classes in drafting theory and might also require general education classes. Additionally, courses taken at community colleges may be transferred to a 4-year college. Although 4-year colleges offer courses related to drafting and engineering, they don't usually offer drafting programs. The technical school or community college curriculum includes courses and lab studies where students obtain hands-on training on the computer. Courses can cover topics such as blueprint reading, basic drafting, measuring and calculating, architectural drafting, landscape drafting, computer-aided drafting and design, manufacturing mathematics and tolerancing.

Job Postings from Real Employers

According to job postings from March 2012, employers often look for applicants with formal training and work experience, particularly in computer-aided drafting programs.

  • A Minneapolis construction industry is seeking an interior millwork drafter. Candidates must be experienced in construction document and Redline, millwork drafting and AutoCad 2005 or later.
  • A manufacturing company in Oklahoma is looking for a structural drafter to develop designs for engineering projects, as well as read and interpret engineering and field survey sketches. Completion of an associate's degree or technical school program in CAD or drafting, along with three years work experience is required. Applicants must also have experience in CAD and SolidWorks or Inventor.
  • A New York engineering company is seeking an organized and detail-oriented AutoCAD drafter with a degree or certificate in drafting, at least one year of AutoCAD experience and familiarity with dimension and scaling. The candidate will create and format drawings and layouts for industrial facilities based on the collaboration of various sources of information. Good communication skills are a must because the successful candidate must maintain communication with engineers and building departments.

How Can I Stand out?

Get Certified

Completing a drafting training program and obtaining work experience are both important for your career, but you can maximize your skills in other ways, such as being certified. Although certification might not be required for employment, it's a way to demonstrate your knowledge and proficiency in drafting. The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) offers a certification program for drafters. Candidates must pass a certification exam, which tests students on working drawings, geometric designs, tolerancing and basic drafting principles.

Continuing Education

Continuing education is often required to maintain certification. It's also beneficial for career advancement. With continuing education and experience, drafters can become designers, senior drafters or supervisors. Employers might often help pay for continuing education or additional training.

Alternative Career Paths

Engineering Technician

Individuals who enjoy careers in drafting technology might also choose careers as engineering technicians. Becoming an engineering technician typically requires completion of an associate's degree program. As an engineering technician, you might assist engineers, work in research and development or perform design work, often using CADD software. Engineering technicians, other than drafters, earned an average of around $60,000, which was slightly higher than drafters earned. Although the BLS predicted this profession could have a slower-than-average growth over then next decade, this also varies by specialty.


If you want to be more involved in design than drafting, you might want to look into a career as an engineer. Candidates must complete at least a bachelor's degree program to become engineers, which is substantially longer than being drafters. However, this can be an alternative career choice that offers a good employment outlook (19% job growth expected between 2010 and 2020 for civil engineers, per the BLS) though that depends on your specialty. Engineering offers many specialties, including civil, mechanical, electrical, industrial, nuclear and computer hardware, among others. Wages of engineers also vary by specialty. For instance, the BLS reported that mechanical engineers earned a mean annual wage of around $84,000 in 2011, while computer hardware engineers earned almost $101,000. Individuals who are interested in engineering but unable to attend college for four or more years could choose an engineering technology program, which requires only two years of education.

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