Mechanical Drafters Overview
Mechanical drafters with 2 years or more of postsecondary training in drafting will find the best job opportunities. Job growth is expected to be slower than average overall, but demand varies based on the needs of the local industry.
Nature of the Work for Mechanical Drafters
Mechanical drafters prepare plans and technical drawings, which help production and construction workers create everything from skyscrapers to microchips. The drawings help others construct products or structures. They include technical details and specifications. Mechanical drafters must fill in details using specifications and calculations made by an array of other specialists including scientists, architects, engineers and surveyors. Many mechanical drafters use their understanding of manufacturing theory to draw parts of a machine for example, or they may determine design elements or fastening requirements using engineering standards. Calculators, tables, technical handbooks and computers are all tools of the trade.
Most mechanical drafters use Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) systems for their drawings, and so many are called CADD operators. Drafters can create and store drawings electronically, which allows them to be programmed into automated manufacturing systems. Plus, mechanical drafters can use CADD systems to create design variations quickly. Despite extensive CADD use, traditional drafting techniques are also necessary to grasp drafting concepts.
Specifically, mechanical drafters create drawings that show the methods and details for assembling a variety of machinery and mechanical devices. They also indicate requirements including dimensions and fastening requirements.
Typically mechanical drafters work in comfortable offices. However, they may experience back discomfort, eyestrain and hand and wrist problems due to working in front of a computer for long hours. A 40-hour workweek is typical.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Mechanical Drafters
Employers look for mechanical drafters who have completed postsecondary training in drafting. Technical schools and community colleges, as well as a limited number of 4-year colleges and universities, offer these programs. The most favorable employees have knowledge of drafting standards, engineering technology, science and mathematics. Plus, they need a solid CADD background and well-developed mechanical drawing and drafting skills.
At community colleges, mechanical drafters will take course in drafting theory as well as general education. These credits are more likely to be accepted if a student later transfers to a 4-year college. While few drafting bachelor’s degrees are offered, some mechanical drafters may wish to obtain a degree in engineering, mathematics or architecture, all of which are helpful in the career.
Mechanical drafters should have mechanical ability and visual aptitude. They should be able to draw well and perform detailed work. Artistic ability and a knowledge of manufacturing methods will come in handy. Interpersonal skills are also key as many mechanical drafters work closely with surveyors, engineers and other professional.
A certification programs is offered to mechanical drafters through the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA). While certification isn’t required, it demonstrated knowledge and understanding of practices. To earn the certificate, mechanical drafters must pass an exam on working drawings, geometric construction, drafting concepts and architectural terms and standars.
Junior or entry-level drafters being working under close supervision. With experience they become intermediate drafters, completing more challenging work, using judgment and performing calculations. Eventually mechanical drafters may earn senior or supervisory roles. Continued education is often paid for by employers and with the appropriate degree mechanical drafters can become engineers, engineering technicians or architects.
Most Popular Mechanical Drafting and Mechanical Drafting CAD/CADD Schools
1. Purdue University, Main Campus (West Lafayette, Indiana)
2. Henry Ford College (Dearborn, Michigan)
3. Davenport University, Macomb Community College (Warren, Michigan)
4. Indiana University - Purdue University, Indianapolis (Indianapolis, Indiana)
5. Trident Technical College (Charleston, South Carolina)
6. Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College (Orangeburg, South Carolina)
7. Technical College of the Lowcountry (Beaufort, South Carolina)
8. YTI Career Institute, York (York, Pennsylvania)
9. Oakland Community College (Bloomfield Hills, Michigan)
10. Grand Rapids Community College (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Employment and Job Outlook for Mechanical Drafters
Number of People in Profession
Changing Employment (2008-2018)
Employment is projected to little or no change (decrease or increase by 2%).
About 251,900 drafters are working and 31 percent of those workers are mechanical drafters. Little or no change is expected for employment of mechanical drafters. This is because many mechanical drafters work in slow-growing or declining manufacturing industries. However, jobs will be found in engineering and drafting services firms as mechanical drafters are needed to solve complex design problems that come with new products and manufacturing processes.
CADD systems will also take away some jobs previously given to mechanical drafters because other technical professional can complete the tasks. Plus, because CADD files can be sent online, jobs can be outsourced to other countries where employers can pay lower wages.
The best job opportunities will go to those with at least 2 years of postsecondary drafting training. They need to learn strong technical skills and gain experience with CADD systems. CADD has opened up the possibilities for designa dn drafting, but workers still need strong backgrounds in fundamental drafting principles. Many of the available jobs will arise due to workers leaving the field.
Drafting jobs are also tied to cyclical changes in the economy, as many are in construction and manufacturing. So during recessions mechanical drafters may be laid off. That said, more consulting, contract and temporary positions should be available.
Earnings and Salary for Mechanical Drafters
The median annual wages for mechanical drafters was $47,790. The highest 10 percent earned above $73,050, the lowest 10 percent earned below $30,640 and the middle 50 percent earned between $37,840 and $59,740. In architectural, engineering and related services, wages for mechanical drafters were $47,630.
Annual Salary for Mechanical Drafters
On average, Mechanical Drafters earn $47,790 per year.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook