A draftsman turns ideas into detailed plans for the engineering, manufacturing or construction industries. Typically using computer design and drafting software, draftsmen produce technical drawings to serve as a visual guide during manufacturing or building. Also called drafters, they make working plans for buildings, roads, bridges, vehicles and all kinds of manufactured products, including electronics.
Conferring with architects and engineers, a draftsman gains an understanding of the scope and requirements of a project. Using both manual drawings and computer-based applications, such as computer-assisted drafting, the drafter creates two-and three-dimensional renderings of the finished project. Once drafts have been completed, the architects and engineers review them and decide on necessary changes. The draftsman then produces the revised renderings.
Educational institutions that train draftsmen typically maintain a career services office to help graduates find work. Draftsmen can also access networking and educational resources by joining the American Design Drafting Association, or ADDA, the professional certifying organization. For example, the national ADDA sponsors industry events and publications, while local chapters provide employment resources. Newspaper classifieds and Internet job boards are other sources of job leads.
A good draftsman needs artistic ability to interpret the vision of the engineer, designer or architect and translate it into a technical drawing. A drafter also needs mastery of computer-aided design and drafting software, or CADD. The ability to follow directions and a keen attention to detail are crucial. In addition, a draftsman must have the ability to maintain many projects at once and meet deadlines.
Drafting jobs usually require an associate degree in drafting from a technical school or community college, although certificate programs are also available. The course of study typically includes classes in sketching, design and computer drafting software. Some draftsmen also complete a four-year degree in a related field, such as architecture or engineering. Drafters can receive optional certification by meeting the examination requirements of the American Design Drafting Association.
The average annual salary of draftsmen varies with the specialty. As of 2013, architectural and civil draftsmen received an average annual income of $51,250, while mechanical draftsmen averaged $54,510 annually according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Electrical and electronic drafters averaged $60,350 annually, and all other drafters averaged $50,930 per year. The BLS predicts only 1 percent growth between 2012 and 2022 for drafters overall, compared to 10 percent for all occupations. However, the government expects a 10 job percent increase for electrical and electronics drafters and a 5 percent decline for mechanical drafters.