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What Does an Architectural Drafter Do?

If you’re a problem-solver with a creative streak, here’s an exciting career path to consider. Drafters use computer-aided design (CAD) software to transform designs into technical drawings. In the construction industry, drafters work with architects and engineers. Their skills are needed in many fields, which is why drafters generally specialize. Architectural drafters create drawings for buildings or structures, but there are also civil, aeronautical and mechanical drafters.

Architectural drafters — also called CAD drafters, CAD operators or AutoCAD drafters — create technical drawings that pull together all the needed information about how to build a commercial, residential or industrial structure. They bring accuracy and precise specifications to an idea that started as a sketch.

Architectural CAD drafters often specialize in types of buildings or even types of materials. Increasingly, many use building information modeling (BIM) software that creates 3D models.

Why is this career exciting? Because the drawings that drafters create are the starting point for a building. The architectural draftman’s work is what site managers, engineers and managers use to set everything else in motion. The architectural draftman’s precision matters at every stage of the process, so he or she needs to be an excellent communicator even after the drawings are done — especially if changes are needed.

Read on to learn more about what it takes to become a drafter, and hear from an expert who's done the job for years. 

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$ 34,000 - $ 84,000
$ 57,000
9,900+
An architectural drafter uses computer-aided drafting (CAD) software to review drawings
An architectural drafter uses computer-aided drafting (CAD) software to create the drawings that make an architect’s vision a reality. (Credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock)

What's It Like To Be a Drafter?

Image
Coby Godfrey, architectural drafter, stands in front of a mantle

What's It Like To Be a Drafter?

Coby Godfrey always had an appreciation for architecture. 

"I had a desire to be a fully licensed architect but started college in my 30s so the full architecture program wasn’t in the cards." Instead, he got an associate degree, and that turned out to be a great move.

The residential design and draftsman stays busy. Because the company he works for is small, team members wear many hats in a given day, from drafting to on-site measurements to drawing contracts. It's a role that is ever-changing yet still fulfilling.

"I don’t just design buildings," says Coby. "I design places where people will live their lives and raise their children — and that matters to me."
 

Job Responsibilities

  • Translate specifications created by engineers and architects into a plan
  • Design plans using computer-aided design (CAD) or traditional drafting methods
  • Add details based on knowledge of building techniques, building codes and site requirements
  • Go to the construction site before and during construction to understand site requirements and changes
  • Spell out type and amount of needed materials
  • Ensure work complies with laws and regulations
  • Prepare cost estimates

How to Become an Architectural Drafter: FAQs

What are the requirements to become an architectural drafter?

High school graduates who want to be architectural drafters typically earn an associate of applied science in drafting degree or a certificate program from a community college or technical school. Both paths include instruction in design fundamentals, sketching and CAD software.

How long does it take to become an architectural drafter?

An associate degree generally requires about two years of full-time education. Certificate programs vary in length but generally require less time to complete than an associate degree.

What other qualifications do I need?

High school classes in math, science, computers, design or graphics will be useful if you plan to be an architectural draftsman.

What about certifications?

Certification isn’t required for drafters, but it may give you an advantage with employers. The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) certifies drafters.

What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

You are more likely to succeed in this line of work if you:

  • Are creative
  • Are detail-oriented
  • Have good interpersonal and presentation skills
  • Are good at math
  • Enjoy problem-solving
  • Have strong computer skills
  • Manage your time well and work efficiently on deadline 

The bottom line on becoming an architectural drafter

If you want to become a crucial player in the creation of buildings or any kind of structure, this career could be for you. It's not only satisfying to see the finished product, but also exciting to be a part of a team on a quick-paced project. 

Architectural Drafter Training in Your Area

Coordinates

Engineering Technology-Drafting Certificate

Butler Community College
El Dorado (81.0 Miles)
Hutchinson Community College logo

Computer Drafting Technology, A.A.S.

Hutchinson Community College
Hutchinson (138.4 Miles)
Oklahoma City Community College logo

Computer-Aided Design, A.A.S.

Oklahoma City Community College
Oklahoma City (156.7 Miles)
Oklahoma City Community College logo

Computer-Aided Design Certificate

Oklahoma City Community College
Oklahoma City (156.7 Miles)
University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton logo

Drafting Certificate Of Proficiency

University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton
Morrilton (212.8 Miles)
University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton logo

Drafting Technical Certificate

University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton
Morrilton (212.8 Miles)
University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton logo

Drafting, A.A.S.

University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton
Morrilton (212.8 Miles)
University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton logo

AutoCAD Workforce Development

University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton
Morrilton (212.8 Miles)
University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton logo

Drafting Workforce Development

University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton
Morrilton (212.8 Miles)
Grayson College logo

CAD- Basic Computer Aided Drafting Non- Credit Certificate

Grayson College
Denison (239.5 Miles)
University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College logo

Drafting and Design Technology Certificate

University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College
North Little Rock (248.8 Miles)
University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College logo

Drafting and Design Certificate of Proficiency

University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College
North Little Rock (248.8 Miles)