Architectural and Civil Drafters Overview
Opportunities should be best for the architectural and civil drafter with at least 2 years of postsecondary drafting training. Overall, average employment growth is expected.
Nature of the Work for Architectural and Civil Drafters
An architectural and civil drafter prepares technical drawings and plans, which are used by construction and production workers to build everything from skyscrapers to microchips.
Drawings from an architectural and civil drafter provide guidelines for creating a structure or product. They include technical details, dimensions, materials and procedures. They use rough sketches, specifications and calculations made by scientists, engineers and surveyors. Sometimes an architectural and civil drafter uses his knowledge of standardized building techniques to draw the details of a structure, others may determine design elements such as the types of fasteners needed to assemble a machine. Tables, calculators, computers and technical handbooks are all used on the job of an architectural and civil drafter.
Typically, an architectural and civil drafter uses Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) systems for their drawings, and so some may be referred to as CADD operators. Using these systems, a architectural and civil drafter can program drawings directly into automated manufacturing systems. They also allow drafters to quickly prepare variations on a design. Even for the architectural and civil drafter who uses CADD extensively, traditional drafting techniques are required.
Specifically architectural drafters draw structural and architectural building features for new construction projects. They may specialize in a type of material such as timber, concrete, masonry or steel, or they may specialize in a type of building such as commercial or residential.
Civil drafters on the other hand are involved in major construction and civil engineering projects including pipelines, bridges, highways, flood-control projects and sewage and water systems. These drafters create topographical maps, relief maps and drawings.
Usually an architectural and civil drafter spends the day in a comfortable office, with many long hours in front of a computer. Hand and wrist problems, eyestrain and back discomfort can occur. A standard 40-hour workweek is the norm for the architectural and civil drafter.
Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Architectural and Civil Drafters
Most employers look for post-secondary school training in drafting from a technical school, community college or even some 4-year colleges and universities. An architectural and civil drafter should have a solid background in CADD, well-developed mechanical drawing and drafting skills as well as knowledge in science, math, engineering technology and drafting standards.
While technical schools offer intensive technical training, community colleges add the element of a general education, which can also be beneficial for an architectural and civil drafter. Many technical schools offer 2-year associate degree programs, though programs vary in length and some are certificate programs.
Community colleges include more drafting theory classes and general education classes. These programs are more likely to be accepted later at 4-year colleges. With a 2-year degree, the architectural and civil drafter can find a job or continue their education at a 4-year college in a related field such as engineering, mathematics or architecture, which are also useful in drafting careers.
Armed Forces technical training can also be applied to civilian drafting jobs, though some additional training may be required.
The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) has a certification program from drafters. Certification isn’t required, but a certified architectural and civil drafter demonstrates knowledge and an understanding of practices. For certification, an architectural and civil drafter must pass a Drafter Certification Test covering geometric construction, architectural terms and standards and basic drafting concepts.
Those interested in becoming an architectural and civil drafter should have visual aptitude and mechanical ability. They must be able to draw and perform detailed work. A knowledge of manufacturing and construction methods along with artistic ability is helpful. Interpersonal skills can help the architectural and civil drafter work with architects, surveyors, engineers and sometimes customers.
At the entry-level, the architectural and civil drafter usually works closely under a supervisory. With experience, junior drafters become intermediate drafters taking on more challenging work, exercising more judgment, performing calculations and preparing drawings. Eventually, they may become senior drafters, supervisors or designers. Employers often pay for continuing education and some can earn the appropriate college degree to become an engineer, architect or engineering technician.
Employment and Job Outlook for Architectural and Civil Drafters
About 251,900 drafters are working and 47 percent of these jobs belong to architectural or civil drafters. Overall, the field of drafting is expecting slower than average employment growth. However, architectural and civil drafting will be the fastest growing specialty. Job growth should be about 9 percent, which is about as fast as the average. US population growth and the increase in construction activity due to a need to improve the country’s infrastructure should lead to increased job growth for the architectural and civil drafter.
CADD systems will allow many tasks to be completed by technical professionals outside of drafting, decreasing the need for drafters. Plus, because CADD files can be sent over the Web, work can be outsourced to other countries.
Individuals with 2 years or more of postsecondary training in drafting with strong CADD and technical skills will find the best architectural and civil drafter opportunities. CADD has enhanced drafting because the possibilities are much greater for design and drafting and productivity has increased. Employers will seek the architectural and civil drafter who has a technical sophistication and strong fundamental drafting principles. Most openings will come from workers leaving the field or labor force.
Most drafting jobs are tied to industries sensitive to cyclical economy changes including manufacturing and construction. Drafters are often laid off during recessions. Temporary or contract work is more available though.
Earnings and Salary for Architectural and Civil Drafters
Median annual wages for architectural and civil drafter workers were $45,600. The highest 10 percent earned above $69,610, the lowest 10 percent earned below $29,050 and the middle 50 percent earned between $36,170 and $57,420. The architectural and civil drafter working in architectural, engineering and related services earned wages of $44,390.