Drafters primarily produce technical drawings and plans which are utilized by production and construction workers to create a variety of products such as machinery, toys, houses and airplanes. The drawings specify the technical details, dimensions, materials and procedures for producing products and building structures.
Drafters add additional details provided by engineers, architects, scientist and surveyors. Drafters typically have a basic knowledge of standardized building techniques, engineering and manufacturing theory and standards for drawing components of machinery. They also utilize technical handbooks and calculators to finish their drawings.
The majority of drafters utilize computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) systems to produce their drawings. Some drafters are called CADD operators. By using CADD systems, drafters have the opportunity to produce and electronically store their drawings, which allows the drawings to be printed, easily viewed or programmed directly into automated manufacturing systems. Although CADD systems are excellent tools, drafters still need training in traditional drafting techniques.
Drafting offers a variety of specialty areas including:
- Aeronautical drafters create engineering drawings which display the plans and specifications required for the manufacturing of airplanes, missiles and related parts.
- Architectural drafters produce structural and architectural elements for buildings and a variety of structures. Some drafters in this field specialize in commercial or residential structures.
- Civil drafters are asked to create drawings as well as topographical and relief maps which are utilized for construction and civil engineering projects. Typical projects are water and sewage systems, highways and bridges.
- Electrical drafters provide wiring and layout diagrams to workers who erect, install and repair electrical equipment in structures such as power plants, buildings and communication centers.
- Electronic drafters produce drawings which display circuit board assembly diagrams, wiring diagrams and schematics. They also prepare drawings required for manufacturing and installing and preparing electronic devices and components.
- Mechanical drafters create drawings that are utilized in manufacturing items such as tools, machinery, automobile parts and other types of mechanical items.
- Process piping or pipeline drafters provide drawing utilized in layout, construction and the operation of chemical plants, oil and gas fields, refineries and process piping systems.
Drafters create the technical drawings and plans which are necessary to produce a wide variety of products and structures. The drawings must provide the technical details and state the types of materials to be used. For civil engineering projects, drafters provide topographical and relief maps. Drafters involved in the design of buildings are responsible for providing the structural and architectural aspects of structures.
Drafters typically have comfortable work environments. Most of their time is spent working at computer terminals performing detailed work. Mechanical ability, visual aptitude and attention to detail are vital for the profession. Good communication skills are helpful due to working with engineers, architects and other professionals. The vast majority of drafters work full-time.
Architectural and civil drafters typically have over 40% of the total amount of drafting jobs while mechanical drafters hold about 30% of the positions. Electrical and electronics drafters combined usually have about 14% of the drafting jobs. Close to half of drafting positions were provided by engineering, architectural as well as related services companies which design construction projects or provide engineering work on a contract basis. About one-quarter of the jobs were provided by manufacturing industries. Only about 5% of drafters are self-employed.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (USDL BLS), the growth rate for drafters from 2006 to 2016 is expected to be about 6% which is a slower growth rate than the average projected employment growth for all occupations. Growth in the field may be stimulated by industrial growth and also by drafters performing tasks usually given to engineers and architects. Also, improvements in CADD systems make simple tasks easier to perform which may reduce the demand for lower skilled drafters since these tasks may be accomplished by other types of technical professionals.
Outsourcing of drafting work may increase due to the availability of sending CADD files via the Internet. Mechanical, civil and mechanical drafters are projected to see the greatest demand for drafters. Also, drafters with a minimum of two years of post-secondary training that also have experience with CADD systems and have good technical skills will have the best opportunities to acquire employment in the field. The demand for drafters is created primarily in industries that are sensitive to the cyclical changes to the economy.
The earnings of drafters primarily depends on factors such as their area of specialization, where they are located and their level of responsibility. The median yearly earnings for civil and architectural drafters in 2006 was $41,960. The top ten percent earned over $63,310 while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $27,010. The median annual earnings for mechanical drafters in 2006 was $43,700 and for electrical and electronics drafters it was $46,830.
Drafting Schools, Certification, and Licensing
Drafters must be highly skilled at drafting and design and have expertise with CADD systems. Training is provided by vocational schools, community colleges and by the armed forces. Two-year associate degrees are available in drafting. The quality of training in these settings may vary.
Most four-year colleges do not offer specific degrees in drafting. However, the majority of four-year colleges provide college courses in architecture, computer science, engineering and mathematics which can be useful when seeking a position as a drafter. Many of the colleges have included CADD classes in their architecture, engineering and computer science curriculums. In addition, a certification program for drafters is offered by the American Design Drafting Association. Students seeking a career in drafting may want to contact prospective employers and ask for a list of the schools they prefer.
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology
- American Design Drafting Association
The primary opportunities for employment for drafters are found with companies in the fields of manufacturing, engineering and electronics as well as companies involved in construction or civil engineering projects. Also, employment opportunities are found in companies that provide services for these industries.
Schools for Drafters are listed in the Browse Schools Section.