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.
- 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 drafters typically earn an associate of applied science degree in drafting or a similar certificate program from a community college or technical school. Both paths include instruction in design fundamentals, sketching and CAD software.
This is one of the best careers that can be obtained with an associate degree. (There are many others, too!)
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. This relatively short window of preparation with the payoff of a good salary is one of the reasons architectural drafter is one of the best skilled trade jobs.
What other qualifications do I need?
High school classes in math, science, computers, drawing, design or graphics will be useful if you plan to be an architectural draftsman. If you get the opportunity to work around an architectural office, take it!
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