If you’re looking for a creative career with job security, benefits, and good wages, Computer-Aided Design (CAD) might be the field for you.
CAD professionals use specialized software to create plans, drawings, and schematics. CAD used to be confined to the engineering field, but it has now expanded to include areas such as. architecture, interior design, product design, and electronics, to name just a few.
There are three basic tiers of CAD jobs: CAD drafters, CAD designers, and CAD engineers. This article will break down the basic duties and requirements of each job.
CAD drafters, also called CAD technicians, are entry-level design professionals. They have general knowledge of CAD design software like AutoCAD and SolidWorks.
Drafters often take plans created by designers or CAD managers and translate them into drawings. Manufacturers and builders then use those drawings in their work.
One advantage of the CAD drafter career path is that you don’t need a four-year college degree. Many schools offer a CAD certificate or two-year associate degree programs that will prepare you to become a drafter. If you follow this path, it’s helpful to take advanced STEM classes in high school and join engineering or robotics teams if available.
Typically, CAD drafters specialize in one particular field such as a type of engineering project such as architecture, civil engineering, or electrical engineering for example. In specific engineering fields, drafters can also specialize in a specific type of construction material such as steel or concrete.
CAD drafters earn $50-60K per year on average. If you want to progress in your CAD career to the more advanced designer, manager, or engineer positions, it is helpful/necessary to get a Bachelor’s degree. Obtaining an AutoCAD certification is helpful for all CAD careers, as it indicates that you can use the software at a high level.
CAD designers combine design software knowledge with advanced training in a specialized subject area. Common specialties include architecture, interior design, electronics, and manufacturing. Designers often learn the details of their specialty while working as drafters and then earn a promotion. Beyond the responsibilities of a CAD drafter, CAD designers would know more specifically that regulations and rules associated with their specialization.
The next step up from being a designer is a CAD manager. Managers supervise teams of designers and drafters. They need to have expert knowledge of both their industry and design software. This allows them to solve their subordinates’ issues and lead effectively.
CAD designers can expect to earn $70K per year or more, while managers receive around $150 thousand a year on average.
Separate from CAD drafters and designers, in order to become a CAD engineer, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree in the field of engineering you want to work in.
You should pick a focus like computer engineering that will give you hands-on experience with CAD software. You will also need to get certified in AutoCAD or Solidworks before entering the workforce.
As an engineer, you will use your CAD skills to design structures, technical drawings, and products in your specific field. Typically oriented around business projects, a CAD engineer should also have skills in communication and decision making. Some examples for Bachelor’s studies to pursue include civil engineering, mechanical engineering, or industrial design. CAD engineers make $65K per year on average.
One example of the differences between CAD engineers and CAD designers in Mechanical Engineering can be seen below in the following video.
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A CAD career can give you a job in a variety of exciting industries, from engineering to product design to 3D printing. It provides a stable lifestyle, and the job itself is challenging and rewarding.
If you found this content helpful and are looking for more information related to CAD, 3D modeling, and design, check out our blog for a variety of publications in this field.