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The use of handheld tools and digital technology combine to give us computer aided design and drafting (CAD).

This system utilizes software in order to help workers visualize a design before putting it into production. Associates with CAD drafter jobs may work in one of the following specialties:

  • Architectural design
  • Electrical systems
  • Mechanical design
  • Civil engineering

Educational Requirements

Many prospects take drafting classes after completing high school. To begin their education they attend trade schools, technical schools, or community colleges.

Some even enroll in diploma programs to earn a drafting degree, awarding them additional employment options.

What Employers Look For

Most employers prefer recruits with experience in drawing, graphics software, and math. Depending on the nature of the job, companies may seek recruits who specialize in certain CAD branches, such as architectural or mechanical drafting.


Prospects can also seek certification from the American Design Drafting Association, or ADDA. The organization offers credentials in many of the field’s specialties, including mechanical and civil drafting.

While not required for most jobs, certification shows potential employers that prospects are motivated and serious about their careers.


Below are average salaries and wages for each state.

State Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
Alabama $25.33 $52,690.00
Alaska $35.48 $73,790.00
Arizona $28.05 $58,340.00
Arkansas $25.12 $52,240.00
California $32.25 $67,080.00
Colorado $33.80 $70,310.00
Connecticut $30.27 $62,950.00
Delaware $27.12 $56,420.00
District of Columbia $37.07 $77,100.00
Florida $28.20 $58,660.00
Georgia $29.63 $61,620.00
Guam $20.97 $43,620.00
Hawaii $29.12 $60,560.00
Idaho $26.06 $54,210.00
Illinois $30.21 $62,830.00
Indiana $27.14 $56,450.00
Iowa $28.87 $60,050.00
Kansas $26.64 $55,420.00
Kentucky $24.27 $50,470.00
Louisiana $36.20 $75,290.00
Maine $26.41 $54,930.00
Maryland $33.96 $70,630.00
Massachusetts $32.00 $66,560.00
Michigan $26.40 $54,920.00
Minnesota $29.89 $62,160.00
Mississippi $28.12 $58,490.00
Missouri $28.79 $59,870.00
Montana $28.12 $58,480.00
Nebraska $26.20 $54,490.00
Nevada $32.91 $68,460.00
New Hampshire $29.16 $60,650.00
New Jersey $31.33 $65,160.00
New Mexico $26.36 $54,840.00
New York $32.92 $68,460.00
North Carolina $28.81 $59,920.00
North Dakota $26.36 $54,820.00
Ohio $28.96 $60,230.00
Oklahoma $30.43 $63,300.00
Oregon $31.43 $65,380.00
Pennsylvania $28.20 $58,660.00
Puerto Rico $15.59 $32,420.00
Rhode Island $29.79 $61,970.00
South Carolina $29.00 $60,310.00
South Dakota $22.14 $46,060.00
Tennessee $29.50 $61,360.00
Texas $28.06 $58,350.00
Utah $27.26 $56,690.00
Vermont $27.49 $57,170.00
Virginia $28.18 $58,620.00
Washington $31.63 $65,790.00
West Virginia $27.50 $57,200.00
Wisconsin $28.71 $59,720.00
Wyoming $26.26 $54,620.00


Occupation:Architectural and Civil Drafters (SOC Code173011)

What Is CAD?

Computer Aided Design Definition

You may notice both CADD and CAD used when referring to computer aided design and drafting.


CAD refers more so to the digital aspect of computer aided drafting, specifically the design phase. This is the time when workers draw floor plans for homes, buildings, and other structures. CAD software gives workers the power to create objects in both 2D and 3D space.


The term CADD refers more to the entire process of design as a whole. For example, CAD software works in conjunction with building information modeling (BIM) or product data management (PDM) software. This allows colleagues to collaborate on projects via the internet. It gives architects and engineers the opportunity to see how their efforts affect the overall project.


Designers and engineers use computer aided design software to draw plans for homes, buildings, and skyscrapers. These programs allow drafters to create 3D models and form structures digitally. In turn, this increases efficiency and safety during the building process.

The most commonly used software in the industry is AutoCAD by a company called Autodesk. Due to its popularity, the term AutoCAD is used by some people in place of CAD or computer aided design.

Those with CAD designer jobs use software during the construction and restoration of buildings.

Technical Drawings

They generate technical drawings and show what a project will look like when finished. This, along with information such as building dimensions and needed materials, is included as well.

Drafters make technical drawings of engineer and architect designs. To do this, they use advanced 3D modeling and imaging programs.

Used in Various Niches

Many drafters make a living working on construction projects. Other workers specialize in certain types of structural designs, such as skyscrapers or residential housing.

Some are experts in specific building materials such as concrete, wood, or steel. However, construction is not the only option for those seeking CAD drafting jobs.

Computer-aided design software is used in the production of the following items:

  • Bottles and containers for refillable products
  • Artificial limbs and other prosthetics
  • Vehicles
  • Boats and ships
  • Airplanes and helicopters
  • Pieces of machinery and other tools
  • Special effects and animation in movies

Career Overview

CAD Job Duties

When working on civil engineering or construction jobs, drafters draw topographical maps of roadways and other land-based features.

Associates develop complex wiring diagrams used in buildings, power plants, and distribution systems.

They produce circuit board assembly diagrams and prepare the layout drawings used in electronic devices and manufacturing facilities.

In their plans, workers must convey mechanical details for things like machine tools and medical equipment. They also have to explain the functions of assembly requirements, fastening systems, and product dimensions. This requires familiarity with necessary concepts.

In entry level CAD jobs, recruits perform what are known as redlines. This involves correcting existing designs and blueprints.

Other early tasks include making copies of drawings and filing them for future reference.

Eventually, workers input designs into computers under the supervision of architects or senior CAD designers.

Other CAD worker duties include the following:

  • Use CAD software to draft plans and 3D models
  • Review drawings and blueprints for errors
  • Keep manufacturing techniques in mind while designing items
  • Create prototypes, production molds, or 3D-printed models
  • Draw upon experience to improve blueprints or other plans

 Work Environment

In the Office

Drafters spend most of their time in offices sitting at desks while working on computers, laptops, or tablets. They occasionally stand or sit in high-up drafting chairs while drawing plans with pencil and paper.

On Site

Sometimes workers travel to construction sites to get a feel for the environment and speak with engineers or architects.


Those with CAD jobs are always working against deadlines, which can lead to stressful situations. Despite this, associates must remain calm and avoid errors.

The process of fixing mistakes can cost thousands of dollars and may involve molding new pieces and disassembling machinery.

What Types of Skills Should Drafters Possess?

Associates use CAD software to optimize a building’s spatial dimensions. They decide the placement of things like doors, walls, windows, and ventilation systems.

Workers make detailed plans of interiors that include small things like the locations of power outlets and light switches. When finished, they store and archive their digital drawings for future reference.

They also send their designs to architects or engineers for review and approval.

Those with drafting jobs design 3D models of many items, from computer chips to airplanes.

Computer Knowledge

In order to fashion this large array of items, drafters rely heavily on their computers. This is why they should have knowledge of computer repair in case hardware or software problems arise.

While some associates may find part-time roles, most drafters work full-time schedules. It’s not uncommon for them to put in more than 40 hours per week, especially to meet tight deadlines.


Robust math skills are crucial to determine financial costs and weight limits. Designers must know how to find the most structurally sound angles or curves for a given building or car design.

Technical Writing

They should also be able to write directions, as CAD drawings include instructions on how to build a machine or structure.

Workers use CAD software to lay out the major elements of a building. They create 3D models that include details about a structure’s physical and functional characteristics.

This information is helpful to construction workers when it comes time to build a design.

Traditional Drafting

Drafting, also known as technical drawing, is the art of creating sketches that describe the construction and function of an item.

Technical drawing skills carry over well to 3D modeling and computer aided design. This is why the majority of CAD designers have experience in this discipline.

Drafting classes teach students important concepts dealing with geometrics and multi-view drawing. Knowledge of these basics become essential when prospects begin designing things digitally with CAD software.

Courses in drafting also explain how to build 3D models and edit them using nodes and extrusions.

Other Useful Skills

  • A deep understanding of algebra, trigonometry, and calculus
  • An eye for specifics, as mistakes can have severe consequences
  • Time-management abilities, as drafters usually work under strict deadlines
  • Computer literacy while using CAD software and database tools
  • A detail-oriented mindset to follow specifications and include needed material information
  • Creativity to visualize and produce accurate technical drawings of systems, tools, and structures
  • Knowledge of the construction and fabrication industries
  • Experience with 3D printers

Where Can They Work?

With the vast amount of industries utilizing CAD software, prospects have many employment options. Workers may find themselves in specialized AutoCAD jobs or similar roles using specific software. Good-paying drafting careers are available in the following industries:

  • Architectural firms
  • Manufacturing companies
  • Construction outfits
  • Waste management services
  • Engineering companies
  • Wholesale trade businesses

What Are Some Other Career Options?

Electrical Engineers

Those who love to design electronic systems should consider careers as electrical engineers. These colleagues not only develop electronic equipment but also run diagnostic tests to ensure working order.

Electrical engineers develop both large systems found in power plants and small frameworks used in GPS systems and mobile phones.

Associates also work on the following:

  • Broadcast communications systems
  • Electronic radar devices
  • Electric motors and cars
  • Power generation equipment
  • Communication units

On average, electrical engineers earn yearly salaries around $96k. The most experienced workers make over $150k per year. Job growth is steady, meaning prospects will be able to find work after earning their bachelor’s degrees.

Career Outlook

Society depends on drafters to design safe and efficient buildings, automobiles, and tools. Increased construction around the world is driving up the demand for talented workers.

CAD specialties can differ based on location. For example, a drafter who specializes in pipes and plumbing is unlikely to find much work in rural areas with sparse populations. However, in big cities with lots of people and overworked sewage systems, their skills might be in high demand.