The infrastructure of our country would not exist without architectural drafters. These visionaries are responsible for creating blueprints for the things we rely on daily.
Whether it is a building, a roadway, or a bridge, architectural drafters take a mere idea and turn it into a 3D model of the structure that ultimately comes to life via a construction project. Those in this creative role are strong mathematicians, creative and imaginative and detail oriented. All of these skills enable architectural drafters to create an exact specification that outlines materials, quantities, and cost required to make any construction project a success. The field is continuously growing, and drafters will find their skills in-demand in a variety of industries including government, construction and public services.
From buildings, to bridge, to highways and drainage systems, architectural drafters play a crucial role in designing the infrastructure that we rely on daily. Architectural drafters take designs from engineers and architects and turn them into detailed technical drawings. These drawings provide in-depth specifications that engineers use during construction. The plans also provide information on the exact materials and quantities required for the project.
As a highly technical role, architectural drafters use computer-aided drafting design (CADD) software to prepare their plans. The software lets the drafter create 3D models of the project to give everyone on the project a solid visualization of the structure. Drafters use the software to modify their design real-time so that they can incorporate feedback from the engineers to make design changes or add new elements. Additionally, the software allows them to work with other drafters to see how each component of the project works together. Drafters must have in-depth knowledge of construction methods and tools to help estimate costs for the project.
Architectural drafters often specialize in a particular field. Civil drafters, for instance, create blueprints for highways, bridges or topological layouts for housing developments. Those who specialize in electrical drafting focus on creating wiring diagrams for buildings, while electronics drafters create diagrams on a much smaller scale for things like computers and other electronic devices. Others specialize in mechanical drafting creating models of mechanical devices such as machinery used in factories or medical equipment. Some drafters can work as an aeronautical drafter, and this position requires diagrams and plans for manufacturing different types of aircrafts and other devices, like missiles.
Architectural drafters spend a great deal of their day at a computer preparing blueprints for their projects. They use their knowledge of construction methods to produce a design that reflects the best approach for building the structure. Outside of design, drafters also spend time working with engineers to recommend the type of materials to use, quantities required and estimates for labor. Although drafters spend a lot of time behind the computer, they often make site visits to view progress on the project and take an observation of any changes that may be required.
Many industries employ architectural drafters. Government agencies use architectural drafters to help with urban planning efforts. These drafters work closely with government officials to determine the scope and requirements for roadways, bridges, housing projects, parking garages and more. They may spend time working directly with code enforcement officials to ensure the project meets all building code requirements. Some architectural drafters work for construction companies. Drafters in this industry create blueprints for office buildings, retail shopping centers, and other commercial projects. They spend a great deal of time on the construction site working one-on-one with the project manager.
Regardless of the industry or project, architectural drafters are involved in every phase of the project from concept through construction. As project requirements change, drafters must be ready to update their diagrams to reflect those changes. Additionally, drafters may need to help troubleshoot issues that arise and may need to make suggestions on how to correct the problem.
Attention to detail is one of the key qualities of a successful architectural drafter. Engineers rely on their drawings, and as such, a drafter’s blueprints must have exact specifications. Not only that, drafters may need to modify their design several times and must have the patience to prepare the revisions necessary to get the design just right. Due to the precise nature of their work, drafters must have strong math skills to perform calculations to determine angles for a structure or come up with cost estimations for a project. As drafters rely heavily on the computer to create their designs, a good drafter is adept at operating computer equipment and navigating complex software. Architectural drafters often work on many projects at once, thus they must have strong organizational skills to keep everything on track.
Most employers require architectural drafters to complete post-secondary education in drafting and design. There are many programs available at community colleges that offer an associate’s degree or a certificate. The curriculum usually includes coursework in computer-aided design, drafting basics, and sketching. Drafters looking to advance their career often continue to a program that offers a four-year degree. The advanced level work includes engineering and math. Those interested in a career in architectural drafting should complete coursework in math, computers and engineering. Those seeking a career as an architectural drafting typically work for a company, but some drafters prefer the self-employed route.
Salaries for architectural drafters vary by industry. As of May of 2017, electrical drafters saw the highest median income at $59,690. On the lower end of the pay scale were civil drafters with a median income of $50,290. Drafters will continue to see job growth in industries such as civil drafting, electrical drafting and mechanical drafting. As technology continues to evolve, those with who have strong technical skills and advanced knowledge of CADD software will be in higher demand over the next few years. Many people enter this workforce, especially the civil and architectural, so potential drafters may have a lot of competition.