Bureau of Labor Statistics

Drafters

drafters image
Drafters take designs from engineers and architects and convert them into plans needed for construction.
Quick Facts: Drafters
2020 Median Pay $57,960 per year
$27.87 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2020 191,800
Job Outlook, 2020-30 -2% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2020-30 -3,600

Summary

What Drafters Do

Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings.

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 complete education after high school, often through a program at a community college or technical school. Some programs lead to an associate of applied science in drafting or a related degree. Others result in a certificate or diploma.

Pay

The median annual wage for drafters was $57,960 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of drafters is projected to decline 2 percent from 2020 to 2030.

Despite declining employment, about 17,500 openings for drafters are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

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

Some 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 to 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.

The following are examples of types of drafters:

Architectural drafters draw structural features and details for buildings and other 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 dams.

Electrical drafters prepare wiring diagrams that 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 variety of machinery and mechanical tools and devices, such as medical equipment. These layouts indicate dimensions, fastening methods, and other requirements for assembly. Mechanical drafters sometimes create production molds.

Work Environment

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

Drafters held about 191,800 jobs in 2020. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up drafters was distributed as follows:

Architectural and civil drafters 99,900
Mechanical drafters 53,600
Electrical and electronics drafters 24,000
Drafters, all other 14,400

The largest employers of drafters were as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services 51%
Manufacturing 22
Construction 10
Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services 3

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

Work Schedules

Most drafters work full time. Some work more than 40 hours a week.

How to Become a Drafter

Drafters
Drafters generally need to complete postsecondary education in drafting.

Drafters typically complete education after high school, often through a program at a community college or technical school. Some programs lead to an associate of applied science in drafting or a related degree. Others result in a certificate or diploma.

Education

Drafters typically need an associate of applied science in drafting or a related degree from a community college or technical school. Some drafters prepare for the occupation by earning a certificate or diploma.

Programs in drafting may include instruction in design fundamentals, sketching, and computer-aided design (CAD) software. It generally takes about 2 years of full-time education to earn an associate’s degree. Certificate and diploma programs vary in length but usually may be completed in less time.

Students frequently specialize in a particular type of drafting, such as mechanical or architectural drafting.  

High school students may begin preparing by taking classes in mathematics, science, computer technology, design, computer graphics, and, where available, drafting.

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 of buildings, tools, and systems.

Detail oriented. Drafters must take care 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 communicate effectively and work well with others.

Math skills. Drafters work on technical drawings. They may be required to calculate angles, weights, costs, and other values.

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

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

Pay

Drafters

Median annual wages, May 2020

Drafters, engineering technicians, and mapping technicians

$58,900

Drafters

$57,960

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for drafters was $57,960 in May 2020. 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 $36,470, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,970.

Median annual wages for drafters in May 2020 were as follows:

Electrical and electronics drafters $62,100
Mechanical drafters 58,270
Architectural and civil drafters 57,500
Drafters, all other 54,500

In May 2020, the median annual wages for drafters in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Construction $58,720
Architectural, engineering, and related services 58,120
Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services 57,930
Manufacturing 56,210

Most drafters work full time. Some work more than 40 hours a week.

Job Outlook

Drafters

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Total, all occupations

8%

Drafters, engineering technicians, and mapping technicians

2%

Drafters

-2%

 

Overall employment of drafters is projected to decline 2 percent from 2020 to 2030.

Despite declining employment, about 17,500 openings for drafters are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Expected employment decreases in manufacturing and engineering services will more than offset the small increases in construction. These decreases will be driven by the use of computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM) technologies, which allow engineers and architects to perform many tasks that used to be done by drafters.

Employment projections data for drafters, 2020-30

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

Occupational Title

Drafters

SOC Code17-3010
Employment, 2020191,800
Projected Employment, 2030188,200
Percent Change, 2020-30-2
Numeric Change, 2020-30-3,600
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Architectural and civil drafters

SOC Code17-3011
Employment, 202099,900
Projected Employment, 203099,000
Percent Change, 2020-30-1
Numeric Change, 2020-30-900
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Electrical and electronics drafters

SOC Code17-3012
Employment, 202024,000
Projected Employment, 203024,500
Percent Change, 2020-302
Numeric Change, 2020-30600
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Mechanical drafters

SOC Code17-3013
Employment, 202053,600
Projected Employment, 203051,000
Percent Change, 2020-30-5
Numeric Change, 2020-30-2,500
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Drafters, all other

SOC Code17-3019
Employment, 202014,400
Projected Employment, 203013,600
Percent Change, 2020-30-5
Numeric Change, 2020-30-800
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Architects Architects

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

Bachelor's degree $82,320
Civil engineering technicians Civil Engineering Technologists and Technicians

Civil engineering technologists and technicians help civil engineers plan, design, and build infrastructure and development projects.

Associate's degree $54,080
Electrical and electronic engineering technicians Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and develop electrical and electronic equipment.

Associate's degree $67,550
Electrical and electronics engineers Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment.

Bachelor's degree $103,390
Industrial designers Industrial Designers

Industrial designers combine art, business, and engineering to develop the concepts for manufactured products.

Bachelor's degree $71,640
Landscape architects Landscape Architects

Landscape architects design parks and other outdoor spaces.

Bachelor's degree $70,630
Mechanical engineering technicians Mechanical Engineering Technologists and Technicians

Mechanical engineering technologists and technicians help mechanical engineers design, develop, test, and manufacture machines and other devices.

Associate's degree $58,230
Mechanical engineers Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices.

Bachelor's degree $90,160
Surveying and mapping technicians Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth's surface.

High school diploma or equivalent $46,200
Surveyors Surveyors

Surveyors make precise measurements to determine property boundaries.

Bachelor's degree $65,590

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Drafters,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/drafters.htm (visited October 05, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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