Drafters usually need some postsecondary education, such as an associate’s degree, to enter the occupation.
Employers prefer applicants who have completed postsecondary education in drafting, typically an associate’s degree from a technical institute or community college. Drafters who specialize in architecture may need a higher degree, such as a bachelor’s degree. To prepare for postsecondary education, high school courses in mathematics, science, computer technology, design, computer graphics, and, where available, drafting, are useful.
Technical institutes offer focused technical education in topics such as design fundamentals, sketching, and CADD software. They award certificates or diplomas, and programs vary considerably in length and in the types of courses offered. Many technical institutes also offer associate’s degree programs.
Community colleges offer programs similar to those in technical institutes but typically include more classes in drafting theory and often require general education classes. Courses taken at community colleges are more likely to be accepted for credit at colleges or universities. 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 that are useful for obtaining a job as a drafter.
Technical training in the military also can be applied in civilian drafting jobs. Some additional training may be necessary, depending on the technical area or military specialty.
Critical-thinking skills. Drafters help the architects and engineers they work for by spotting problems with plans and designs.
Detail oriented. Drafters must pay attention to details so that the plans they are helping to build are technically accurate to all detailed specifications.
Interpersonal skills. Drafters must work closely with architects, engineers, and other designers to make sure that final plans are accurate. This requires the ability to take advice and constructive criticism, as well as to offer it.
Technical skills. Drafters in all specialties must be able to use computer software, such as CADD, and to work with database tools, such as BIM.
Time-management skills. Drafters often work under deadlines. They must be able to produce their output according to set schedules and so must plan their time well.
The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) offers a certification program for drafters. Although employers usually do not require drafters to be certified, certification shows drafters’ knowledge and an understanding of nationally recognized practices. The test does not cover software, which is specific to CADD or graphic production
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition