What It Takes to Become an Architectural Drafter

Architectural drafters work in the technology and design industries. They design and develop architectural and structural features of buildings for construction projects.

Certain architectural drafters specialize in either residential or commercial buildings, while others have specializations for materials such as wood, steel or reinforced concrete. From 2016 to 2026, the projected growth in the architectural drafting career field is expected to be from 5 to 9 percent increase, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job openings in this field are expected to increase to 9,500 positions from 2016 to 2016. Individuals with experience and knowledge in architectural methods and with various computer programs will excel in this field of work. To find out more on the competitive career field, check out the sections provided below.

Qualifications and Requirements

Architectural drafters must possess building design knowledge and skills, along with knowledge regarding the use of different design software programs. This occupation typically requires an individual to have an associate’s degree in architectural drafting. However, some employers prefer a candidate who has received certification or education within the field or has graduated with a bachelor’s degree.

Voluntary certifications are available for individuals through the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) at various community colleges and technical institutions. The ADDA provides certification to individuals who pass a 90-minute drafter exam with a score of 75 percent or higher. Certifications must be renewed every five, although drafters who have been employed for at least three years are automatically eligible for a renewal. The certification exam consists of drafting theories, principles and possible occupational scenarios. The certification program also includes courses like:

  • Computer-assisted drafting.
  • Building systems.
  • Design elements.
  • Structural analysis.
  • Technical writing.
  • Construction materials.
  • Civil drafting.

The responsibilities for these jobs include creating blueprints for various buildings and properties using an array of design skills and computer-assisted design (CAD) systems. Since architectural drafters design and develop their blueprints and plans through various CAD systems, they must be familiar with an array of different programs.

Familiarity with development environment software like Microsoft.NET Framework is also important because it is frequently required by numerous employers. Some other technological skills and knowledge that might be required for architectural drafters include:

  • Document management software – Adobe Systems Adobe Acrobat.
  • Graphics or photo imaging software – Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Visio.
  • Map creation software – Geomechanical design analysis GDA software.
  • Enterprise resource planning ERP software – ERP software.
  • Data base user interface and query software – ARCOM Masterspec.

Architectural drafters must possess the necessary creativity to turn blueprints and concepts into technical drawings to be successful in the industry. The technical drawings serve as guides for real buildings, tools and systems. They must be detail-oriented to ensure that the blueprints and plans are precise and correct according to the specified guidelines.

Communications skills are also essential, as drafters interact consistently with clients, management, architects, engineers and other members of the design team. Architectural drafters typically work under strict deadlines, so having the appropriate time-management skills are crucial to succeeding in this occupational field. Advanced math skills are also necessary because of the various mathematical calculations architectural drafters are faced with involving angles, weights and costs.

Job Responsibilities

Architectural drafters create architectural and structural blueprints of buildings or landscapes for construction projects using different types of software programs. They must evaluate technical data to determine the effects on the design or blueprint and collect information regarding different worksites to ensure the success of the operation.

Along with these tasks, architectural drafters suggest technical layout or operational changes to increase efficiency, quality or performance. They estimate technical or resource requirements and costs for the construction of the project. Meeting these job responsibilities helps to ensure that the project deadline will be met and the project will run as efficiently as possible. Architectural drafters oversee procedures for compliance with construction standards, so they must work with trade workers and engineers.

Drafters must also communicate with a wide variety of people to ensure that the operation is running successfully. Typically, a drafter will provide information and updates to co-workers, supervisors and others by email, phone or in person. Establishing communication lines with entities outside the company or organization is also an important task for architectural drafters. Collecting information and data from the public, government and other external sources is crucial for the success of the project.

Wages for Architectural Drafters

As of 2017, the median wage for architectural drafting careers is $52,870. The median annual wage refers to the middle wage for the industry, meaning that half of the workers in the field received more than the amount and half earned less. The bottom 10 percent made less than $34,350, while the top 10 percent received more than $84,180.

The highest-paying industry in the architectural drafting careers field is in other electrical equipment and component manufacturing, which has a $71,470 annual mean wage. The second-highest paying industry is scientific research and development services which has an annual mean wage of $70,870.

Job Outlook

Architectural drafters spend most of their workday on the computer in an office. On some occasions, they must visit job sites to discuss various aspects with architects and engineers. In 2016, about 99,600 architectural and civil drafters were employed in the United States. However, overall competition for architectural drafters is expected to be strong throughout the country.

Architectural drafters may experience more competition compared to other drafters because of the high number of students graduating into this field. In some instances, the number of graduates in architectural programs significantly surpasses the number of available positions. Demand for architectural drafters depends on the area of the country, since jobs are dependent on the needs of the local industries. The industries with the highest levels of employment in this field are the following:

  • Architectural, engineering, and related services – 71,130
  • Residential building construction – 3,080
  • Nonresidential building construction – 2,460
  • Fabricated metal product manufacturing – 3323 and 3324 only – 1,740
  • Local government (not including schools and hospitals) – 1,710

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