Although architects and engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree in drafting and design can also open entry-level career doors. You could obtain your degree at a brick-and-mortar school or online. Your degree could prepare you for a career in one of several drafting specialties.
Nuts and Bolts of Design
An architect might be the creative genius behind a building or home, but the drafter is the person who translates the vision into blueprints. Drafters could specialize in aeronautical, architectural, civil, electrical or mechanical drafting. Although drafters' training covers all facets of drafting and design, most drafters specialize in a particular area, such as commercial or residential design, renovation and remodeling, or different kinds of allied design, such as mechanical, electrical or heating and cooling systems.
It's an Electronic World
Drafters use computer software to create architectural schematics, blueprints and other documents. The architect creates a rough design or sketch that the drafter translates into a detailed plan, complete with measurements and design information. Drafters might also add design details based on their knowledge of building techniques or prepare specifications for dimensions, materials and building procedures. They may also prepare multiple versions for engineers and architects that highlight specific aspects of a building’s design and use 3-D modeling to give a more lifelike view of a building.
About the Money
Drafters generally earn a good living, especially if they work full time. Although the average salary for drafters in 2013 was $53,640, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that earnings could vary depending on specialty. BLS salaries might include drafters who have education other than an associate degree. Architectural and civil drafters earned $51,250, while mechanical drafters took home $54,510. Electrical and electronics drafters, however, pocketed considerably more, with an average annual salary of $60,350. Salaries might also vary according to work setting, geographic location and experience.
Slow to No Growth
The job outlook for drafters is projected to show little or no growth between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS. As of 2014, the projected growth rate was 1 percent, compared to a projected average growth rate of 11 percent for all occupations. Competition for jobs will be very strong. Ironically, the development of computer-aided design in this field has reduced employment opportunities, according to the BLS, because a drafter using a computer can work much faster and more efficiently.
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.