Drafters

Summary

drafters image
Drafters take designs from engineers and architects and convert them into plans needed for construction.
Quick Facts: Drafters
2015 Median Pay $52,720 per year
$25.35 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 204,400
Job Outlook, 2014-24 -3% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2014-24 -6,200

What Drafters Do

Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings. Most workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.

Work Environment

Although drafters spend much of their time working on computers in an office, some may visit jobsites in order to collaborate with architects and engineers. Most drafters work full time.

How to Become a Drafter

Drafters typically need specialized training, which can be accomplished through a technical program that leads to a certificate or an associate’s degree in drafting.

Pay

The median annual wage for drafters was $52,720 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of drafters is projected to decline 3 percent from 2014 to 2024. Although drafters will continue to work on technical drawings and documents related to the design of buildings, machines, and tools, new software programs are making drafters and related professionals more efficient, thus requiring fewer workers. Competition for jobs is expected to be strong.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for drafters.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of drafters with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about drafters by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Drafters Do

Drafters
Drafters prepare technical drawings and plans.

Drafters use software to convert the designs of architects and engineers into technical drawings. Most workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.

Duties

Drafters typically do the following:

  • Design plans using computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • Work from rough sketches and specifications created by engineers and architects
  • Design products with engineering and manufacturing techniques
  • Add details to architectural plans from their knowledge of building techniques
  • Specify dimensions, materials, and procedures for new products
  • Work under the supervision of engineers or architects

Many drafters are referred to as CAD operators. Using CAD systems, drafters create and store technical drawings digitally. These drawings contain information on how to build a structure or machine, the dimensions of the project, and what materials are needed to complete the project.

Drafters work with CAD so they can create schematics that can be viewed, printed, or programmed directly into building information modeling (BIM) systems. These systems allow drafters, architects, construction managers, and engineers to create and collaborate on digital models of physical buildings and machines. Through three-dimensional rendering, BIM software allows designers and engineers to see how different elements in their projects work together.

Architectural drafters draw architectural and structural features of buildings for construction projects. These workers may specialize in a type of building, such as residential or commercial. They may also specialize by the materials used, such as steel, wood, or reinforced concrete.

Civil drafters prepare topographical maps used in construction and civil engineering projects, such as highways, bridges, and flood-control projects.

Electrical drafters prepare wiring diagrams that other construction workers use to install and repair electrical equipment and wiring in power plants, electrical distribution systems, and residential and commercial buildings.

Electronics drafters produce wiring diagrams, assembly diagrams for circuit boards, and layout drawings used in manufacturing and in installing and repairing electronic devices and components.

Mechanical drafters prepare layouts that show the details for a wide variety of machinery and mechanical tools and devices, such as medical equipment. These layouts indicate dimensions, fastening methods, and other requirements needed for assembly. Mechanical drafters sometimes create production molds.

Work Environment

Drafters
Drafters spend much of their time working on computers in an office.

Drafters held about 204,400 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most drafters were as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services 49%
Manufacturing 26
Construction 9

Although drafters spend much of their time working on computers in an office, some may visit jobsites in order to collaborate with architects and engineers.

Work Schedules

Most drafters work full time.

How to Become a Drafter

Drafters
Drafters add structural details to architectural plans from their knowledge of building techniques.

Drafters typically need specialized training, which can be accomplished through a technical program that leads to a certificate or an associate’s degree in drafting.

Education

Drafters generally need to complete postsecondary education in drafting. This is typically done through a 2-year associate’s degree from a technical institute or community college.

Technical institutes offer instruction in design fundamentals, sketching, and CAD (computer-aided design) software and award certificates or diplomas upon completion. Programs vary in length but are generally 2 years of full-time education. The types of courses offered will also vary by institution. Some institutions may specialize in only one type of drafting, such as mechanical or architectural drafting.

Community colleges offer programs similar to those in technical institutes that lead to an associate of applied science in drafting or related degree. After completing an associate’s degree program, graduates may get jobs as drafters or continue their education in a related field at a 4-year college. Most 4-year colleges do not offer training in drafting, but they do offer classes in engineering, architecture, and mathematics.

To prepare for postsecondary education, high school students who take courses in mathematics, science, computer technology, design, computer graphics, and where available, drafting, may find such classes useful.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) offers certification for drafters. Although not mandatory, certification demonstrates competence and knowledge of nationally recognized practices. Certifications are offered for several specialties, including architectural, civil, and mechanical drafting.

Important Qualities

Creativity. Drafters must be able to turn plans and ideas into technical drawings that will guide the creation of real buildings, tools, and systems.

Detail oriented. Drafters must pay close attention to details so that the plans they convert are technically accurate according to the outlined specifications.

Interpersonal skills. Drafters work closely with architects, engineers, and other designers to make sure that final plans are accurate. This requires the ability to take advice and constructive criticism, as well as to offer it.

Math skills. Drafters work on technical drawings. They may be required to solve mathematical calculations involving factors such as angles, weights, and costs.

Technical skills. Drafters in all specialties must be able to use computer software, such as CAD, and work with database tools, such as BIM (building information modeling).

Time-management skills. Drafters often work under strict deadlines. As a result, they must work efficiently in order to produce the required output according to set schedules.

Pay

Drafters

Median annual wages, May 2015

Drafters, engineering technicians, and mapping technicians

$54,140

Drafters

$52,720

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for drafters was $52,720 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,590, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $83,350.

Median annual wages for drafters in May 2015 were as follows:

Electrical and electronics drafters $59,520
Mechanical drafters 53,520
Architectural and civil drafters 50,710
Drafters, all other 49,650

In May 2015, the median annual wages for drafters in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Construction $53,330
Manufacturing 52,120
Architectural, engineering, and related services 52,030

Most drafters work full time.

Job Outlook

Drafters

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Drafters, engineering technicians, and mapping technicians

-1%

Drafters

-3%

 

Employment of drafters is projected to decline 3 percent from 2014 to 2024. Employment growth will vary by specialty.

Computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM) technologies allow engineers and architects to perform many tasks that used to be done by drafters, which may curb demand for all drafters. However, CAD and BIM software both require someone to build and maintain large databases, and drafters experienced with this software will be needed to work with these databases.

Employment of mechanical drafters is projected to decline 7 percent from 2014 to 2024. Although some mechanical drafters will be needed to aid in designing machines, vehicles, and medical equipment, increased use of CAD by related engineers will reduce the need for these workers compared with what would have been required without the use of these technologies by engineers.

Employment of architectural and civil drafters is projected to decline 3 percent from 2014 to 2024. Although construction projects will likely result in some demand for architectural and civil drafters, other related occupations, such as architects and engineers, are using CAD and BIM more frequently. This will reduce the need for these types of drafters, compared with what would have been required without the use of these technologies by architects and engineers.

Employment of electrical and electronics drafters is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Electrical and electronics drafters will continue to be needed to work on the electrical system designs in buildings, cars, and devices that have electrical systems.

Job Prospects

Overall competition for jobs is expected to be strong.

Specifically, architectural and civil drafters may experience more competition for jobs than mechanical or electrical drafters due to the relatively high number of students graduating in those drafting specialties. Typically, the number of graduates in architectural and civil programs greatly exceeds the number of available positions.

Demand for particular drafting specialties varies across the country because jobs depend on the needs of local industries. Job prospects for mechanical drafters should be best in large manufacturing hubs.

Because many drafting jobs are in construction and manufacturing, job opportunities for drafters will be sensitive to fluctuations in the overall economy.

Candidates proficient in CAD and BIM are likely to have better job opportunities.

Employment projections data for drafters, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Drafters

17-3010 204,400 198,300 -3 -6,200 [XLSX]

Architectural and civil drafters

17-3011 94,000 91,200 -3 -2,800 [XLSX]

Electrical and electronics drafters

17-3012 30,100 31,700 5 1,600 [XLSX]

Mechanical drafters

17-3013 65,700 61,200 -7 -4,500 [XLSX]

Drafters, all other

17-3019 14,700 14,200 -3 -500 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of drafters.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2015 MEDIAN PAY
Architects

Architects

Architects plan and design houses, factories, office buildings, and other structures.

Bachelor's degree $76,100
Civil engineering technicians

Civil Engineering Technicians

Civil engineering technicians help civil engineers to plan, design, and build highways, bridges, utilities, and other infrastructure projects. They also help to plan, design, and build commercial, industrial, residential, and land development projects.

Associate's degree $49,260
Electrical and electronic engineering technicians

Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and develop computers, communications equipment, medical monitoring devices, navigational equipment, and other electrical and electronic equipment. They often work in product evaluation and testing, using measuring and diagnostic devices to adjust, test, and repair equipment. They are also involved in the manufacture and deployment of equipment for automation.

Associate's degree $61,130
Electrical and electronics engineers

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, and power generation equipment. Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, such as broadcast and communications systems—from portable music players to global positioning systems (GPSs).

Bachelor's degree $95,230
Electrical and electronics installers and repairers

Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers

Electrical and electronics installers and repairers install or repair a variety of electrical equipment in telecommunications, transportation, utilities, and other industries.

Postsecondary nondegree award $55,160
Electro-mechanical technicians

Electro-mechanical Technicians

Electro-mechanical technicians combine knowledge of mechanical technology with knowledge of electrical and electronic circuits. They operate, test, and maintain unmanned, automated, robotic, or electromechanical equipment.

Associate's degree $53,340
Industrial designers

Industrial Designers

Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products, such as cars, home appliances, and toys. They combine art, business, and engineering to make products that people use every day. Industrial designers consider the function, aesthetics, production costs, and the usability of products when developing new product concepts.

Bachelor's degree $67,130
Landscape architects

Landscape Architects

Landscape architects design parks and the outdoor spaces of campuses, recreational facilities, private homes, and other open areas.

Bachelor's degree $63,810
Mechanical engineering technicians

Mechanical Engineering Technicians

Mechanical engineering technicians help mechanical engineers design, develop, test, and manufacture mechanical devices, including tools, engines, and machines. They may make sketches and rough layouts, record and analyze data, make calculations and estimates, and report their findings.

Associate's degree $53,910
Mechanical engineers

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

Bachelor's degree $83,590
Surveying and mapping technicians

Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth’s surface. Surveying technicians visit sites to take measurements of the land. Mapping technicians use geographic data to create maps. They both assist surveyors, cartographers, and photogrammetrists.

High school diploma or equivalent $42,010
Surveyors

Surveyors

Surveyors make precise measurements to determine property boundaries. They provide data relevant to the shape and contour of the Earth’s surface for engineering, mapmaking, and construction projects.

Bachelor's degree $58,020
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Drafters,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/drafters.htm (visited April 29, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015