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Architectural Drafter Job Description, Career as an Architectural Drafter, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school plus training

Salary: Median—$39,190 per year

Employment Outlook: Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

Architectural drafters make detailed scale drawings used in construction. They draw building plans for office buildings, private homes, theaters, factories, and school buildings. Because buildings are constructed exactly as shown on these drawings, the work must be clear, complete, and accurate. Architects, engineers, and designers give sketches, notes, and other information to drafters who use it to make drawings. Drafters often work in the engineering, research, or development departments of large companies. They also work for architects and construction companies.

Drafters are classified by the type of work they do and by the amount of responsibility they have. Senior drafters take the initial information and ideas and develop the final construction drawings. These drawings include both the plans of the building and the details of construction. Junior drafters, who work under senior drafters, draw up plans and details that senior drafters have developed. Tracers make minor corrections to finished drawings and trace details onto final sheets. In the final stages of a project, some drafters act as checkers, who carefully examine the detailed drawings for mistakes. Many drafters specialize in certain types of structures, such as residential or commercial buildings, and certain types of construction materials, such a reinforced concrete or steel.

Traditionally, drafters have used pencils and pens, protractors, compasses, scale rulers, triangles, curves, lettering guides, and electric erasers. They have used Although drafters use computer-aided design (CAD) systems to prepare drawings, they still must be able to check the drawings for mistakes and make corrections by hand. (© Craig Lovell/Corbis.) calculators and engineering handbooks to solve technical problems. Most drafters now use computer-aided design (CAD) systems to prepare drawings. These systems allow the drafter to create a drawing on a video screen. The drawings can show a structure three-dimensionally, allowing architects and their clients a more realistic view. Several versions of the drawing can be made easily and alterations can be made quickly.

Despite advances in computer technology, architectural drafters still must rely on traditional skills such as doing detailed work with great accuracy. They should also be able to visualize objects in two and three dimensions. Drafters must have good eyesight, hand-eye coordination, and form perception. Form perception is the ability to see fine differences between shapes, lines, shadings, and forms.

Education and Training Requirements

Employers prefer applicants who have completed both high school and additional training in drafting, which is offered by junior and community colleges, some universities, and vocational and trade schools that offer two-year programs of study. Employers are especially interested in applicants with some knowledge of CAD systems. Drafters can be certified by the American Design Drafting Association. While employers do not usually require certification, they know that a certified drafter understands nationally recognized practices, basic drafting concepts, and architectural terms.

High school courses in science and mathematics, as well as in design, computer graphics, and drafting, are useful to those who want to go on to specialized training. Prospective drafters should be able to draw freehand, and some artistic ability is helpful.

Getting the Job

Students at a training school or junior college can get help from the school's placement service. Federal, state, and local governments also have jobs for architectural drafters. Applicants for government jobs must take a civil service examination. Architectural firms and job banks on the Internet are other sources of job information.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Usually drafters start as tracers and then advance to become junior drafters. After demonstrating skill and ability as junior drafters, they can advance within three to five years to become senior drafters. If drafters show leadership abilities and do outstanding work, they can become supervisors of other drafters. Some drafters become independent designers. Those who take engineering courses sometimes transfer to engineering jobs.

The employment outlook in this field is fair. Employment is sensitive to local industrial growth, so there is a demand for drafters when and where the economy is growing. Eventually, almost all drafters will use CAD systems, which simplify many traditional drafting tasks and reduce the demand for drafters.

Working Conditions

Architectural drafters work in clean, well-lighted, and well-ventilated offices. Drafters must sometimes work closely with architects or as part of a team of other drafters. Drafters use computers or draw on slanted desks while sitting on stools. Tracing and alterations are done on a glass table with a light built into it, called a light table. The light shines from underneath the paper or chart, making it easy to trace. Drafters who use CAD systems spend their days at the computer. Drafters may have to visit construction sites to get firsthand information.

Where to Go for More Information

American Design Drafting Association
105 E. Main St.
Newbern, TN 38059
(731) 627-0802

American Institute of Architecture Students
1735 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 626-7472

International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers
8630 Fenton St., Ste. 400
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3803
(301) 565-9016

Earnings and Benefits

The pay for architectural drafters varies according to their experience and the type of work they are doing. Median earnings in 2004 were $39,190 a year. Benefits often include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance and pension plans, and, in some cases, retirement plans and profit sharing.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesConstruction & Skilled Trades