Structural drafters prepare technical drawings, plans and cost estimates that provide their employers with visual guidelines for construction of buildings, bridges, manufacturing plants and other structures. They often use computer-aided design software (CAD) with their understanding of structural engineering and design to provide details and recommend changes to designs. Structural drafters work for construction companies, architectural firms, manufacturing firms, transportation firms, and departments of state and federal government.
Structural drafters must complete high school and some post-secondary education in engineering or architecture, along with a completed drafting course from a vocational or technical school. An additional two-year period of supervised work is a requirement. Certification in drafting may be obtained from the American Design Drafting Association and though not always a requirement, employers recognize certification as proof that an applicant understands basic drafting concepts, architectural terms and recognized practices. Many employers prefer employees to have a working knowledge of CAD systems.
Structural drafters produce technical drawings based on rough sketches, specifications and calculations from engineers, surveyors and architects. They add or make necessary changes to designs while checking and verifying that drawings conform to specifications. They consult with other drafters, architects, designers, construction supervisors and clients. Structural drafters write detailed reports, calculate material amounts and costs and prepare construction specifications and timelines. They operate CAD systems to create multi-dimensional graphic views, flow charts, layouts and detailed working drawings to simulate and analyze potential design problems. They also use calculators, slide rules, squares, drafting tables and other drawing equipment to check for mistakes and make corrections by hand. Structural drafters often team with or supervise other drafters.
Structural drafters often advance in their firms to become supervisors, senior drafters and designers. Additional experience will increase employment opportunities, such as building inspector or CAD operator. With continued education, they can become architects or engineers or open their own consulting and drafting companies. Career options include surveyor, cartographer, and building and construction specialist.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of structural drafters is expected to increase by 9 percent from 2008 to 2018. Structural drafters with strong backgrounds in basic drafting and design principles and extensive experience using CAD systems will experience the best opportunities.
According to PayScale, the hourly salary for a structural drafter ranged from $15.23 to $21.72 in July 2010. With overtime, bonuses and profit sharing, the annual pay ranged from $34,615 to $52,057.
2016 Salary Information for Drafters
Drafters earned a median annual salary of $53,530 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, drafters earned a 25th percentile salary of $42,430, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $67,020, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 207,700 people were employed in the U.S. as drafters.