If you have ever worked through a set of instructions to build something, you have been touched by the work of a drafter. Drafters create instructions, blueprints, drawings and plans for everything from toys to houses. The work of drafters is very careful and precise and involves making clear the measurements, instructions and materials needed to turn their drafted plans into reality. Getting started as a drafter begins with the proper education and certification.
How to become a drafter
There are many different types of drafting jobs. For instance, mechanical drafters create plans for machinery, electrical drafters plan out wiring, and architectural drafters create blueprints for houses and buildings. No matter the type of drafter you want to be, some of the requirements remain the same.
Most employers look for applicants who have at least an associate degree or higher, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012). Associate degrees in drafting can be found at community colleges or technical schools. Other employers might look for a particular skill set, such as design fundamentals, sketching or operation of CAD(D) software.
For some drafters, such as architectural drafters, a bachelor's degree or higher might be required. Though most four-year colleges don't offer degrees in drafting, they do offer degrees in related subjects, such as architecture or engineering. These related degrees can be beneficial to those who want to embark on a drafting career.
While employers might not require drafting certification, earning it proves that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to be proficient in your field. The American Design Drafting Association offers certifications in many different areas. The drafter certification exam is open to anyone, regardless of the level of formal education reached or membership in the ADDA.
The renewable drafting certification is valid for five years. Recertification requires proof of employment as a drafter for a period of at least three years. Those who are not ADDA members are required to pay a $35 fee.
How important is CAD(D) certification?
Many employers like to see a CAD(D) certificate on the resume, as it proves that you are proficient with computer-aided drafting and design. In fact, many drafting jobs rely heavily upon the software in order to create plans and designs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that sometimes drafters are even referred to as CADD operators (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012).
Earning CAD(D) certification can be done in as little as a few months or it can take up to a year, depending upon the program you choose. Some programs offer in-depth information on other software, while others focus solely on computer-aided drafting.
You can also choose the kind of CAD(D) certification you want to pursue. For instance, some programs may offer several courses that focus on different specialties, such as a CAD Management Certificate, a Civil CAD Certificate, or an Integrated Circuit Layout and Design Certificate.
Earning certificates in the use of other software programs might be beneficial as well. Product data management (PDM) is often used by mechanical drafters, and building information modeling (BIM) can be used by architectural drafters, engineers and designers. Earning certifications relevant to your particular career path might give you a boost when hiring or promotion time rolls around.
American Design Drafting Association/American Digital Design Association, Professional Certification Program, 2006, http://www.adda.org/content/view/25/39/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition: Drafters, June 26, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/drafters.htm#tab-1