How Do I Become a Drafter?

Are you computer-savvy, conscious of how important details are to a finished product and a great critical thinker? If so, you might be wondering how to become a drafter. With the help of computer software, drafters translate designs for electronic parts, buildings and other physical structures proposed by engineers and architects into technical drawings with the necessary details and specifications for production and construction. Drafters most frequently work in engineering and architectural firms, construction, and the manufacturing of transportation equipment, metal products and machines.

Drafters must comprehend both manufacturing and engineering techniques thoroughly enough to successfully design products. To do this, drafters use computer-aided design and drafting software, also known as CADD software, which allow drafters to make and save technical drawings in electronic files. In their plans, drafters must include information on the materials, dimensions and procedures that need to be taken to complete the manufacturing or construction process. A drafter will also add the necessary structural details to a drawing created with the help of CADD software. CADD software is so significant in the professional lives of drafters that they are sometimes called CADD operators.

Drafters may choose to specialize in particular fields. Aeronautical drafters focus on aircraft plans. Civil drafters work with the plans for bridges, roadways and other civil engineering projects. Architectural drafters specialize in buildings and may further narrow their focus to commercial or residential buildings. Both electrical and electronic drafters are concerned with diagramming wiring, though electronic drafting is particularly concerned with the wiring inside an electronic device, while electrical drafting focuses on wiring in buildings. Mechanical drafters draw the plans for mechanical devices and other machines. Process piping drafters, also known as pipeline drafters, devise plans for process piping systems such as those found in chemical plants, refineries and oil and gasoline fields.

To begin a career as a drafter, candidates must first pursue higher education. Drafters typically earn an associate’s degree in drafting from a community college or technical institute. Coursework in an associate’s-level drafting program might include sketching, the use of CADD software, design fundamentals and potentially liberal arts courses. Students who wish to pursue a higher level degree in order to expand future employment opportunities can earn their bachelor’s degree in architecture, mathematics or engineering.

In May 2010, drafters earned a median salary of $47,880 each year, according to the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is a step up from the $33,840 national median salary of all occupations. Civil and architectural drafters earn the highest salaries of all drafters, followed by mechanical drafters, electronic and electrical drafters and finally drafters of other types. If you possess critical-thinking abilities, a thorough attention to detail and the kind of technical skills needed to learn to use computer databases and CADD software, a career as a drafter might be for you. Now that you know how to become a drafter, you have the information to begin preparing for a rewarding technical career.

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