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What do drafters do?  

Drafters make drawings and plans. These drawings and plans are used by others to build things. Some of these things are manufactured. These include things like toys, toasters, and machinery. Some are structures. These include things like houses, office buildings, and oil and gas pipelines.

The drawings that drafters make help guide others. They show technical details of products and structures. They show the dimensions, materials, and procedures. Drafters use drawings, rough sketches, and information given to them. Drafters use technical handbooks, tables, calculators, and computers to complete their work.

In the past, drafters sat at drawing boards. They used pencils, pens, compasses, protractors, triangles and other tools to do their job. Most drafters now use computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) systems for their drawings. CADD systems let drafters make changes and copies easily.

There are a number of different types of drafters:

Aeronautical drafters prepare drawings to be used to make aircraft, missiles, and related parts.

Architectural drafters prepare drawings of buildings and other structures. They may work on just one type of structure, such as residential or commercial. They may also work with just one type of material, such as concrete or steel.

Civil drafters prepare drawings used in major construction or civil engineering projects. These include such things as highways, bridges, and pipelines.

Electrical drafters prepare drawings used for electrical equipment and wiring.

Electronics drafters prepare drawings used to make, install, and repair electronic devices and components.

Mechanical drafters prepare drawings of machinery and mechanical devices.

Process piping or pipeline drafters prepare drawings used in the oil and gas fields, refineries, chemical plants and other systems.

Most drafters work a 40-hour week. A small number work part time. Drafters usually work in comfortable offices that are set up for their tasks. They work at computers much of the time. As a result, they may get eye strain, backaches, and hand and wrist problems.

How do you get ready?  

Employers like to hire people who have training in drafting after high school. This training is offered in trade schools, community colleges, and some 4-year colleges and universities. Employers want people with good drafting and mechanical drawing skills and who know drafting standards. It is important to be knowledgeable about math, science, and engineering technology and to know how to use a computer to design and draft. It's also important to be able to speak and write well and to solve problems.

All training to be a drafter involves math and communications skills. Beyond that, the training does differ by specialty. For example, if you want to be an electronics drafter you will study how to draw electronic components and circuits.

How much does this job pay?  

The middle half of all architectural and civil drafters earned between $30,170 and $45,500 in 2002. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $24,570. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $56,260.

The middle half of all mechanical drafters earned between $32,100 and $51,950 in 2002. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $25,950. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $64,780.

The middle half of all electrical and electronics drafters earned between $32,060 and $53,440 in 2002. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $25,710. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $68,000.

How many jobs are there?  

Drafters held about 216,000 jobs in 2002. About half of these were architectural and civil drafters. Another third were mechanical drafters.

Almost half of all jobs for drafters were in firms that work on a contract basis. More than a quarter of all jobs were in manufacturing industries. Most of the rest worked in the construction, government, wholesale trade, utilities, and employment services. Only a small number worked for themselves in 2002.

What about the future?  

Drafting jobs are expected to grow more slowly than the average for all jobs through 2012. The greater use of CADD equipment will mean fewer jobs for lesser skilled drafters.

People with at least two years of training in a drafting program after high school will have the best chance for a job. This training should provide strong technical skills. It should also give the student lots of experience with CADD systems.

Are there other jobs like this?  

  • Architects
  • Cartographers, photogrammetrists, and surveying technicians
  • Designers
  • Civil Engineers
  • Engineering technicians
  • Landscape architects
  • Science technicians
  • Surveyors

    Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics
Where can you find more information?  

More information about drafters can be found in the Careers Database.

Questions or Comments?
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