AutoCAD is virtually synonymous with computer-aided-design. Using AutoCAD, you can design everything from tools to buildings to missiles. As an AutoCAD draftsman with solid skills, you can land an entry-level job that will give you potential for solid career growth. When you have a good grasp of AutoCAD design techniques, you can take that skill to other jobs if better opportunities beckon.
To become a good AutoCAD designer, you need both the design skills and a well-rounded education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most entry-level CAD jobs require an associate degree in addition to CAD proficiency. If you plan to go into architectural CAD work, you probably need a four-year degree. Take courses in math, computer technology, science and graphics design to gain a good understanding of the work you will be doing. Investigate community colleges and continuing-education courses for affordable ways to learn AutoCAD. Autodesk provides a variety of training opportunities, including instructor-led, self-paced learning and online instruction. Autodesk also has a student version of AutoCAD; practice is the best way to get good at what you do.
As a CAD draftsman, you will work under the supervision of an engineer or architect. Working with diagrams and their notes, you will design projects, filling in details based on your knowledge and experience, which is why a well-rounded education is important. Depending on the project, you will make two-dimensional drawings and three-dimensional renderings. In architectural design, for example, the three-dimensional rendering gives you and the architect an opportunity to “see” a building before it is built.
You will improve your skills by learning from others. Affiliating yourself with a professional organization such as the American Design Drafting Association, at adda.org, and becoming active in a local chapter, can demonstrate your initiative and help you network with other design professionals. If you are still in school, check to see if your school has a student chapter. Certification is an important credential to prove your ability. Autodesk offers two levels of certification – certified associate and certified professional. You must first be an associate before becoming a professional.
CAD has applications in a wide array of fields. Architects use CAD to design buildings from houses to multifloor office buildings. Civil engineers use AutoCAD to design roads, water and sewer lines and flood-plain drainage. Aeronautical engineers find AutoCAD to be invaluable in designing airplanes and missiles. Mechanical engineers use AutoCAD in designing machinery and mechanical devices. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for architectural and engineering draftsmen in 2010 was $47,880. Although opportunities for industry growth are below the national average, the field is still expected to grow at a six percent rate through 2020.
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.