Drafting & Design Engineer Careers

What is Drafting and Design Engineering?

Drafting and Design Engineering is an exciting career that allows the engineer to be involved in all stages of the design process, from conception to presentation of the finished plans. This career requires a working knowledge of drafting and design principles, material types and properties, and manufacturing processes.

What Do Drafting and Design Engineers Do?

Drafting and design engineers prepare mechanical or digital drawings, diagrams or blueprints and/or models of various products or structures to guide product makers, architects or construction personnel in the manufacture, implementation or building process. Often using computer-aided drafting (CAD) and/or computer-aided drafting and design (CADD) software, drafting and design engineers provide the vital link between design theory and practical application by translating critical design concepts into workable plans for tangible, buildable mechanical and architectural end-products.

A Day in the Life of a Drafting and Design Engineer

Drafting and design engineers create the designs and sketch out the detailed plans for construction projects such as commercial, industrial, and civil sector structures (buildings, bridges, tunnels and roads) and a wide variety of manufactured products (automobiles, airplanes, computers and heating and air conditioning systems, to name but a few).

Becoming a Drafting and Design Engineer

Candidates for this field can either begin by seeking professional certification as a drafting and design technologist, later moving on to an engineering degree program, or they can sign up for an Associates or Bachelors program in drafting and design from the start.

Drafting and Design Engineer Schools

Certification Programs

A list of certified high schools, colleges and technical schools that offer training programs to prepare drafting and design students for certification can be found on the American Design Drafting Association/American Digital Design Association (ADDA) website. The ADDA also offers a professional certification program that allows drafting and design professionals to demonstrate their expertise in the field by passing one of the association's specialized examinations. Candidates are not required to be ADDA members to complete the testing and qualify for the certificate.

Degree Programs

For those who prefer to enter a degree program from the start, drafting and design engineering degree programs are also available at many colleges and universities. Associates, Bachelors, and graduate-level degree programs offer opportunities for advancement within the field. It is recommended to look for a degree program that is accredited by ABET.

Preparation and Coursework

In addition to the required engineering courses for your area of specialization, the following classes can help you prepare for a career as a drafting and design engineer:

  • Computer Technology
  • Computer Graphics
  • Principles of Design
  • Technical Drafting
  • Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD)
  • Computer-Aided Drafting and Design (CADD)

Drafting and Design Engineer Employment Opportunities

Employment opportunities are available for drafting and design engineers in fields such as the following:

  • Architecture
  • Business
  • Electronics
  • Government
  • Manufacturing
  • Mechanics
  • Medicine

Examples of specific industries requiring the expertise of drafting and design engineers include the following:

  • Aeronautics
  • Automotive
  • Computer Hardware
  • Construction
  • Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
  • Information Technology
  • Medical Equipment

Salaries and Outlook for Drafting and Design Engineering Careers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), simple drafters earn a median salary of $47,880 per year or a median hourly wage of $23.02 per hour. Most who earn this level of compensation will hold an Associates degree. However, because this compensation represents the more moderate pay scale of drafters in general, those who specialize in both drafting and design or who qualify as a drafting and design engineer can expect to earn more. When drafting and design professionals bring these two valuable skills into the engineering field, they can expect to command more lucrative compensation — possibly 50 percent more.

Mechanical and civil engineering are two areas in which a drafting and design engineer can specialize. The BLS lists mechanical engineering median salaries/wages at $71,160 per year or $37.58 per hour and civil engineering median salaries/wages at $77,560 per year or $37.29 per hour. While the BLS predicts that job growth in drafting technology will reach 6 percent between 2010 and 2020, it expects mechanical engineering growth to hit 9 percent and civil engineering growth to hit 19 percent during the same period.

Is Drafting and Design Engineering for You?

If you are technically oriented, mechanically inclined, good at mathematics and talented at translating intangible concepts into hands-on project plans, and you enjoy being involved in the practical application of complex theoretical principles, you may be well-suited to the drafting and design engineering field.

Engineering Associations for Drafting and Design Engineers

The following engineering organizations can provide a wealth of information for anyone interested in drafting and design engineering:

American Design Drafting Association/American Digital Design Association (ADDA)

National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)

American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)

Society of Women Engineers (SWE)

National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)

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