Quick Facts: Drafters
2017 Median Pay $54,170 per year 
$26.04 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 207,700
Job Outlook, 2016-26 7% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 14,600

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Drafting Career, Salary and Education Information

What Drafters Do

Drafters use software to convert the designs of architects and engineers into technical drawings. Most workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.


Duties of drafters

Drafters typically do the following:

  • Design plans using computer-aided design (CAD) software

  • Work from rough sketches and specifications created by engineers and architects

  • Design products with engineering and manufacturing techniques

  • Add details to architectural plans from their knowledge of building techniques

  • Specify dimensions, materials, and procedures for new products

  • Work under the supervision of engineers or architects

Many drafters are referred to as CAD operators. Using CAD systems, drafters create and store technical drawings digitally. These drawings contain information on how to build a structure or machine, the dimensions of the project, and what materials are needed to complete the project.

Drafters work with CAD so they can create schematics that can be viewed, printed, or programmed directly into building information modeling (BIM) systems. These systems allow drafters, architects, construction managers, and engineers to create and collaborate on digital models of physical buildings and machines. Through three-dimensional rendering, BIM software allows designers and engineers to see how different elements in their projects work together.

The following are examples of types of drafters:

Architectural drafters draw architectural and structural features of buildings for construction projects. These workers may specialize in a type of building, such as residential or commercial. They may also specialize by the materials used, such as steel, wood, or reinforced concrete.

Civil drafters prepare topographical maps used in construction and civil engineering projects, such as highways, bridges, and flood-control projects.

Electrical drafters prepare wiring diagrams that construction workers use to install and repair electrical equipment and wiring in power plants, electrical distribution systems, and residential and commercial buildings.

Electronics drafters produce wiring diagrams, assembly diagrams for circuit boards, and layout drawings used in manufacturing and in installing and repairing electronic devices and components.

Mechanical drafters prepare layouts that show the details for a wide variety of machinery and mechanical tools and devices, such as medical equipment. These layouts indicate dimensions, fastening methods, and other requirements needed for assembly. Mechanical drafters sometimes create production molds.

Work Environment for drafting

Drafters held about 207,700 jobs in 2016. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up drafters was distributed as follows:

Architectural and civil drafters: 99,600

Mechanical drafters: 64,800

Electrical and electronics drafters: 27,400

Drafters, all other: 15,900

The largest employers of drafters were as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services: 49%

Manufacturing: 25%

Construction: 9%

Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services: 4%

Wholesale trade: 2%

Although drafters spend much of their time working on computers in an office, some may visit jobsites to collaborate with architects and engineers.

Work Schedules

Most drafters worked full time in 2016.

How to Become a Drafter

Drafters typically need specialized training, which can be accomplished through a technical program that leads to a certificate or an associate’s degree in drafting.


Drafters generally need to complete postsecondary education in drafting. This is typically done through a 2-year associate’s degree from a technical institute or community college.

Technical institutes offer instruction in design fundamentals, sketching, and computer-aided design (CAD) software and award certificates or diplomas upon completion. Programs vary in length but are generally 2 years of full-time education. The types of courses offered will also vary by institution. Some institutions may specialize in only one type of drafting, such as mechanical or architectural drafting.

Community colleges offer programs similar to those in technical institutes that lead to an associate of applied science in drafting or related degree. After completing an associate’s degree program, graduates may get jobs as drafters or continue their education in a related field at a 4-year college. Most 4-year colleges do not offer training in drafting, but they do offer classes in engineering, architecture, and mathematics.

To prepare for postsecondary education, high school students may find it useful to take courses in mathematics, science, computer technology, design, computer graphics, and where available, drafting.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) offers certification for drafters. Although not mandatory, certification demonstrates competence and knowledge of nationally recognized practices. Certifications are offered for several specialties, including architectural, civil, and mechanical drafting.

Important Qualities

Creativity. Drafters must be able to turn plans and ideas into technical drawings that will guide the creation of real buildings, tools, and systems.

Detail oriented. Drafters must pay close attention to details so that the plans they convert are technically accurate according to the outlined specifications.

Interpersonal skillsDrafters work closely with architects, engineers, and other designers to make sure that final plans are accurate. This requires the ability to communicate effectively and work well with others.

Math skills. Drafters work on technical drawings. They may be required to solve mathematical calculations involving factors such as angles, weights, and costs.

Technical skills. Drafters in all specialties must be able to use computer software, such as CAD, and work with database tools, such as building information modeling (BIM).

Time-management skills. Drafters often work under strict deadlines. As a result, they must work efficiently to produce the required output according to set schedules.

salaries for Drafters

The median annual wage for drafters was $54,170 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,350, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $84,180.


Median annual wages for drafters in May 2017 were as follows:

Electrical and electronics drafters: $59,690

Mechanical drafters: $55,130

Architectural and civil drafters: $52,870

Drafters, all other: $50,290


In May 2017, the median annual wages for drafters in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services: $56,920

Construction: $54,770

Manufacturing: $53,660

Architectural, engineering, and related services: $53,590

Wholesale trade: $53,020

Most drafters worked full time in 2016.

Job Outlook for drafters

Overall employment of drafters is projected to grow 7 percent from 2016 to 2026. Employment growth will vary by specialty. (See table below.)

Growth in the engineering services and construction industries is expected to account for most new jobs for drafters. However, computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM) technologies allow engineers and architects to perform many tasks that used to be done by drafters, which is expected to temper demand for all drafters.

Job Prospects

Overall competition for jobs is expected to be strong.

Specifically, architectural and civil drafters may experience more competition for jobs than mechanical or electrical drafters because of the relatively high number of students graduating in those drafting specialties. Typically, the number of graduates in architectural and civil programs greatly exceeds the number of available positions.

Demand for particular drafting specialties varies across the country because jobs depend on the needs of local industries. Job prospects for mechanical drafters should be best in large manufacturing hubs.

Because many drafting jobs are in construction and manufacturing, job opportunities for drafters will be sensitive to fluctuations in the overall economy.

Candidates proficient in CAD and BIM are likely to have better job opportunities.

Employment projections data for Drafters, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 207,700

Projected Employment, 2026: 222,300

Change, 2016-2026: +7%, +14,600

Careers Related to Drafting


Architects plan and design houses, factories, office buildings, and other structures.

Civil Engineering Technicians

Civil engineering technicians help civil engineers to plan, design, and build highways, bridges, utilities, and other infrastructure projects. They also help to plan, design, and build commercial, industrial, residential, and land development projects.

Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and develop computers, communications equipment, medical monitoring devices, navigational equipment, and other electrical and electronic equipment. They often work in product evaluation and testing, and use measuring and diagnostic devices to adjust, test, and repair equipment. They are also involved in the manufacture and deployment of equipment for automation.

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, and power generation equipment. Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, including broadcast and communications systems, such as portable music players and Global Positioning System (GPS) devices.

Industrial Designers

Industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products, such as cars, home appliances, and toys. They combine art, business, and engineering to make products that people use every day. Industrial designers consider the function, aesthetics, production costs, and usability of products when developing new product concepts.

Landscape Architects

Landscape architects design parks and the outdoor spaces of campuses, recreational facilities, businesses, private homes, and other open areas.

Mechanical Engineering Technicians

Mechanical engineering technicians help mechanical engineers design, develop, test, and manufacture mechanical devices, including tools, engines, and machines. They may make sketches and rough layouts, record and analyze data, make calculations and estimates, and report their findings.

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth's surface. Surveying technicians visit sites to take measurements of the land. Mapping technicians use geographic data to create maps. They both assist surveyors and cartographers and photogrammetrists.


Surveyors make precise measurements to determine property boundaries. They provide data relevant to the shape and contour of the Earth’s surface for engineering, mapmaking, and construction projects.

ArchitectsBachelor's degree$78,470
Civil Engineering TechniciansAssociate's degree$51,620
Electrical and Electronics Engineering TechniciansAssociate's degree$63,660
Electrical and Electronics EngineersBachelor's degree$97,970
Industrial DesignersBachelor's degree$65,970
Landscape ArchitectsBachelor's degree$65,760
Mechanical Engineering TechniciansAssociate's degree$55,360
Mechanical EngineersBachelor's degree$85,880
Surveying and Mapping TechniciansHigh school diploma or equivalent$43,340
SurveyorsBachelor's degree$61,140


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Drafters,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/drafters.htm