CAD Careers: Becoming a CAD Designer

CAD designers (also called CAD operators, CAD technicians, and drafters) use Computer Aided Design systems to prepare drawings and plans for production and construction. Drafters work as part of a team, supporting engineers, architects, surveyors or scientists. Their drawings guide the construction of a variety of products and structures. Consequently, CAD careers are prevalent in a broad range of industries, and CAD designers’ plans and drawings are used to build everything from toys to oil and gas pipelines to spacecrafts.

CAD Education Requirements

If you are still in high school, you can prepare for a CAD career by taking courses in math, science, computer graphics, design, and computer technology. For many employers, it is critical to complete postsecondary CAD training. Technical institutes and community colleges typically offer drafting and CAD design programs at the certificate and associate’s degree levels.

Training for CAD careers varies depending on the type of specialty you wish to pursue, but some courses you may take include mathematics, science, engineering technology, drafting standards, and CAD techniques. Those pursuing two-year degrees will take general education classes in addition to courses in drafting. While those interested in a certificate or diploma, will take part in intensive technical training and focus less on general education. Four-year schools typically do not offer degrees in CAD specifically, but they allow aspiring drafters to take courses in CAD, engineering, architecture, and mathematics, which may help them qualify for a higher CAD designer salary after graduation.

Job Overview for CAD Careers

CAD operators’ drawings specify materials, procedures, and dimensions to be used. They are generally created and stored electronically, so they can be programmed directly into automated manufacturing systems. In order to perform their work, CAD designers use technical handbooks, computers, tables, and calculators. They typically have knowledge of standardized building techniques, as well as engineering and manufacturing theory.

Skills that are often important for CAD operators to possess include mechanical ability, visual aptitude, and artistic ability. Drafters should also develop strong interpersonal skills, because they have to work well as part of a team. Furthermore, they must be detail-oriented, because they have to create complex, accurate drawings.

CAD Designer Salary and Employment Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average CAD technician salary varies depending on one’s location, specialty, and position. Electrical and electronics drafters earned the highest median annual wages at $54,470 in 2011. In contrast, the median annual CAD operator salary for mechanical drafters was $49,200, while architectural and civil drafters earned $47,250.

The BLS maintains that positions for drafters are expected to grow at a rate of 6% between 2010 and 2020, which is slower than average for all occupations. However, mechanical drafters are expected to experience growth that is about as fast as average. The employment of drafters depends largely on the health of the construction and manufacturing industries. CAD technicians with relevant experience, strong technical expertise, and the ability to take on a wider range of job responsibilities will have the best luck pursuing a CAD career. So, what are you waiting for? Start exploring information technology certifications and degree programs today!