drafters image
Drafters take designs from engineers and architects and convert them into plans needed for construction.
Quick Facts: Drafters
2012 Median Pay $49,630 per year
$23.86 per hour
Entry-Level Education Associate’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 199,800
Job Outlook, 2012-22 1% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2012-22 2,200

What Drafters Do

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

Work Environment

Although drafters spend much of their time working on computers in an office, some must visit job sites in order to collaborate with architects and engineers. Most drafters work full time.

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.


The median annual wage for drafters was $49,630 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of drafters is projected to show little or no change from 2012 to 2022. Although drafters will continue to work on technical drawings and documents related to the design of buildings, machines, and tools, new software programs are making the work more efficient, thus requiring fewer workers. Competition for jobs is expected to be strong.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of drafters with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about drafters by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Drafters Do About this section

Drafters prepare technical drawings and plans.

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


Drafters typically do the following:

  • Design plans using computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software
  • Work from rough sketches and specifications created by engineers and architects
  • Help design products with engineering and manufacturing techniques
  • Add details to architectural plans from their knowledge of building techniques
  • Prepare multiple versions of designs for review by engineers and architects
  • Specify dimensions, materials, and procedures for new products
  • Work under the supervision of engineers or architects

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

Drafters work with CADD so they can create schematics that can be viewed, printed, or programmed directly into building information modeling (BIM) systems and product data management (PDM) 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. PDM software helps workers track and control data, such as technical specifications, related to projects.

Just as BIM is changing the work of architectural drafters, PDM is changing the work of mechanical drafters. These software systems allow drafting and design work to be done simultaneously with the work done by other professionals involved in the project.

The following are examples of types of drafters:

Aeronautical drafters prepare engineering drawings that show detailed plans and specifications used in manufacturing aircraft, missiles, and related parts.

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 major construction or civil engineering projects, such as highways, bridges, and flood-control projects.

Electrical drafters prepare wiring diagrams that other 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. Workers sometimes create production molds.

Process piping or pipeline drafters prepare plans used in the layout, construction, and operation of oil and gas fields, refineries, chemical plants, and process piping systems.

Work Environment About this section

Drafters use computer software to do their work.

Drafters held about 199,800 jobs in 2012. The industries that employed the most drafters in 2012 were as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services47%

Work Schedules

Although drafters usually work with computers in an office, some projects require visits to a job site in order to collaborate with architects and engineers.

Most drafters work full time.

How to Become a Drafter About this section

Drafters add structural details to architectural plans from their knowledge of building techniques.

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.


Employers generally prefer applicants who have completed postsecondary education in drafting, typically a 2-year associate’s degree from a technical institute or community college.

Technical institutes offer instruction in design fundamentals, sketching, and CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) software. They award certificates or diplomas, and programs vary considerably in length and in the types of courses offered. Some institutions may only specialize in one type of drafting, such as mechanical or electrical drafting.

Community colleges offer programs similar to those in technical institutes but typically include more classes in drafting theory and often require general education classes. 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. Courses taken at community colleges are more likely to be accepted for credit at colleges or universities.

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

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

Critical-thinking skills. Drafters help the architects and engineers they work for by spotting problems with plans and designs.

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

Interpersonal skills. Drafters 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.

Math skills. Drafters work with technical drawings that may require solving mathematical calculations involving angles, weights, and costs.

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

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

Pay About this section


Median annual wages, May 2012

Drafters, engineering technicians, and mapping technicians




Total, all occupations



The median annual wage for drafters was $49,630 in May 2012. 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 $32,190, and the top 10 percent earned more than $77,770.

The median wages for detailed drafting occupations in May 2012 were as follows:

  • $55,700 for electrical and electronics drafters
  • $50,360 for mechanical drafters
  • $47,870 for architectural and civil drafters
  • $46,110 for drafters, all other

Although drafters usually work with computers in an office, some projects require visits to a job site in order to collaborate with architects and engineers.

Job Outlook About this section


Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Total, all occupations


Drafters, engineering technicians, and mapping technicians





Overall employment of drafters is projected to show little or no change from 2012 to 2022. Employment growth will vary by specialty.

Employment of architectural and civil drafters is projected to show little or no change from 2012 to 2022. Although construction projects will likely result in some demand for architectural and civil drafters, efficiencies gained from computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM) will continue to reduce the need for these specialists.

Employment of electrical and electronics drafters is projected to grow 10 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Electrical and electronics drafters will continue to be needed to work on the electrical system designs in buildings, cars, and devices that have electrical systems. However, employment growth might be tempered as computer software and database tools continue to make workers more efficient.

Employment of mechanical drafters is projected to decline 5 percent from 2012 to 2022. Although some mechanical drafters will to be needed to aid in designing machines, vehicles, and medical equipment, most of these workers are employed in declining or slow-growing manufacturing industries, offering few opportunities for growth from industry expansion.

CADD systems that are more user friendly and more powerful than current systems will allow other technical professionals, such as engineering technicians and engineers, to perform many tasks previously done by drafters. This development may curb demand for all specialty drafters. In addition, some drafting work may be outsourced to other countries at lower wages, further reducing the need for these workers.

Still, software such as PDM (product data management) and BIM (building information modeling) will require drafters to collaborate with other design workers, such as architects and engineers, on projects, whether constructing a new building or manufacturing a new product. This software requires that someone build and maintain large databases. Skilled drafters with knowledge of these systems will be needed to oversee these databases.

Job Prospects

Overall competition for jobs should be strong.

Specifically, architectural and civil drafters may experience more competition for jobs than mechanical or electrical drafters due to the 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 BIM and PDM are likely to have better job opportunities.

Employment projections data for drafters, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program


17-3010 199,800 202,000 1 2,200 [XLS]

Architectural and civil drafters

17-3011 87,900 88,500 1 700 [XLS]

Electrical and electronics drafters

17-3012 29,600 32,500 10 2,900 [XLS]

Mechanical drafters

17-3013 66,700 63,400 -5 -3,300 [XLS]

Drafters, all other

17-3019 15,600 17,600 13 2,000 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of drafters.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help


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

Bachelor’s degree $73,090
Civil engineering technicians

Civil Engineering Technicians

Civil engineering technicians help civil engineers plan and design the construction of highways, bridges, utilities, and other major infrastructure projects. They also help with commercial, residential, and land development. Civil engineering technicians work under the direction of licensed civil engineers.

Associate’s degree $47,560
Civil engineers

Ingenieros Civiles

Los ingenieros civiles diseñan, construyen, supervisan, operan y mantienen grandes proyectos de construcción, incluyendo carreteras, edificios, aeropuertos, túneles, represas, puentes, y sistemas de abastecimiento de agua y de tratamiento de aguas residuales.

Bachelor’s degree $79,340
Electrical and electronic engineering technicians

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, using measuring and diagnostic devices to adjust, test, and repair equipment.

Associate’s degree $57,850
Electrical and electronics engineers

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, such as broadcast and communications systems—from portable music players to global positioning systems (GPS).

Bachelor’s degree $89,630
Electrical and electronics installers and repairers

Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers

Electrical and electronics installers and repairers install, repair, or replace a variety of electrical equipment in telecommunications, transportation, utilities, and other industries.

Postsecondary non-degree award $51,220
Electro-mechanical technicians

Electro-mechanical Technicians

Electro-mechanical technicians combine knowledge of mechanical technology with knowledge of electrical and electronic circuits. They install, troubleshoot, repair, and upgrade electronic and computer-controlled mechanical systems, such as robotic assembly machines.

Associate’s degree $51,820
Industrial designers

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 focus on the user experience in creating style and function for a particular gadget or appliance.

Bachelor’s degree $59,610
Landscape architects

Landscape Architects

Landscape architects plan and design land areas for parks, recreational facilities, private homes, campuses, and other open spaces.

Bachelor’s degree $64,180
Mechanical engineering technicians

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.

Associate’s degree $51,980
Mechanical engineers

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

Bachelor’s degree $80,580
Surveying and mapping technicians

Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Surveying and mapping technicians assist surveyors, cartographers, and photogrammetrists. Together, they 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.

High school diploma or equivalent $39,670


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.

Bachelor’s degree $56,230
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Drafters,
on the Internet at (visited October 22, 2015).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014