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Careers | Drafting (CADD)

Career Opportunities

Drafting graduates may pursue a career in a variety of employment situations in architectural, engineering, manufacturing, municipal offices, or in a production/construction setting.

After a few years in drafting many of our graduates move on to positions in sales, customer service, production management, estimating, CAD and network management and contract services (self-employment). Responsibilities can include design team management, project management of small projects, and production scheduling.

Job Description

Today's Drafters and Designers will use advanced CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) software to produce a variety of technical drawings in Architectural, Engineering and Construction, and Manufacturing design offices. Traditionally, drafters sat at drawing boards and used pencils, pens, compasses, protractors, triangles, and other drafting devices to prepare a drawing manually.

Drafters prepare technical drawings and plans used by manufacturing and construction workers to build everything from manufactured products, such as computers, refrigerators, industrial equipment, or automobiles. Drafters also prepare drawings for structures, such as houses, bridges, or oil refineries.

Their drawings provide visual guidelines, showing the technical details of the products and structures and specifying dimensions, materials to be used, and procedures and processes to be followed.  Drafters fill in technical details, using drawings, rough sketches, specifications, codes, and calculations previously made by engineers, surveyors, architects, or scientists.

For example, they use their knowledge of standardized building techniques and codes to draw in the details of a house.  Some drafters use their knowledge of engineering and manufacturing theory and standards to draw the parts of a machine in order to determine design elements, such as the number and kind of fasteners needed to assemble it.

They use technical handbooks, tables, calculators, codes and specifications to do this.

Nature of the Work

Most drafters now use computer-aided drafting (CAD) systems to prepare drawings. Consequently, some drafters are referred to as CAD operators. CAD systems will use computer workstations to create a drawing on a video screen. The drawings are stored electronically so that revisions or duplications can be made easily. These systems also permit drafters to easily and quickly prepare variations of a design. Although drafters use CAD extensively, it is only a tool. Individuals who produce technical drawings using CAD still function as drafters, and need the knowledge of traditional drafters-relating to drafting skills and standards in addition to CAD skills. Despite the near universal use of CAD systems, manual drafting still is used in certain applications. Drafting work has many specialties, and titles may denote a particular discipline of design or drafting.

Working Conditions

Drafters usually work in comfortable offices furnished to accommodate their tasks.  They may sit at adjustable drawing boards or drafting tables when doing manual drawings, although most drafters work at computer terminals much of the time. Drafters may be susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems because they spend long periods in front of computer terminals doing detailed work.

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Drafting – Areas of Specialization

The Drafting field offers a number of areas of specialization:

Architectural drafters draw architectural and structural features of buildings and other structures.  They may specialize by the type of structure, such as residential or commercial, or by the kind of material used, such as reinforced concrete, masonry, steel, or timber.

Civil drafters prepare drawings, topographical and relief maps used in major construction or civil engineering projects, such as highways, bridges, pipelines, flood control projects, and water and sewage systems. 

Electrical drafters prepare wiring and layout diagrams used by workers who erect, install, and repair electrical equipment and wiring in communication centers, powerplants, electrical distribution systems, and buildings. Electronic drafters draw wiring diagrams, circuit board assembly diagrams, schematics, and layout drawings used in the manufacture, installation, and repair of electronic devices and components.

Mechanical drafters prepare detail and assembly drawings of a wide variety of machinery and mechanical devices, indicating dimensions, fastening methods, and other requirements. Some mechanical drafters use CNC (computer numeric control) software and machines to automatically produce items directly from the drawing.

Process piping or pipeline drafters prepare drawings used for layout, construction, and operation of oil and gas fields, refineries, chemical plants, and process piping systems such as pulp and paper or ore refinement.

Structural drafters prepare layout and detail drawings of industrial and civil structures such as a power plant building or a bridge. They are involved mostly with building materials such as steel, concrete and wood.

Detailers are drafters who take engineering drawings and detail the components in such a way that the fabricator or builder can read them. For example, a steel-detailer would take a structural drawing of steel and detail each piece of steel on a separate drawing so it can be fabricated and installed. Other detailers include piping, vessels and conveyors.


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Employment

More than 40 percent of drafters work in engineering and architectural services firms that design construction projects or do other engineering work on a contract basis for organizations in other industries. Another 29 percent work in durable goods manufacturing industries, such as machinery, electrical equipment, and fabricated metals. A large percentage of drafters are employed in the construction; government; transportation; communications; utilities; and personnel-supply services industries. Many drafters become self-employed after several years in the industry.

Student Employment

KPU students are eligible for employment both on and off campus. Please see the Student Employment Centre for job posting and instructions for using Workopolis.

Working at KPU

If you are looking for employment as an instructor or staff member at KPU, please see the Human Resources website at kpu.ca/hr.

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Job Outlook

Employment in the drafting field is expected to grow at a rapid pace in the next four to five years. Many opportunities for employment will certainly be available in the lower mainland, particularly in the construction sector as BC prepares for the 2010 winter Olympics.

Industrial growth and increasingly complex design problems associated with new products and manufacturing processes will increase the demand for drafting services.  Further, drafters are beginning to break out of the traditional drafting role and increasingly do work traditionally performed by engineers and architects, thus increasing the need for drafters. However, the greater use of CAD equipment by drafters as well as, by architects and engineers, should limit demand for lesser-skilled drafters.  

In addition to those created by employment growth, many job openings are expected to arise as drafters move to other occupations or leave the labour force. Opportunities should be best for individuals who have at least 2 years of post-secondary training in a drafting program that provides strong technical skills, and who have considerable skill and experience using CAD systems.  CAD has increased the complexity of drafting applications while enhancing the productivity of drafters. It also has enhanced the nature of drafting by creating more possibilities for design and drafting.

As technology continues to advance, employers will look for drafters with a strong background in fundamental drafting principles, a higher level of technical sophistication, and an ability to apply this knowledge to a broader range of responsibilities. Demand for particular drafting specialties varies throughout the country because employment usually is contingent upon the needs of local industry.

Employment of drafters remains highly concentrated in industries that are sensitive to cyclical changes in the economy, such as engineering, architectural services and durable-goods manufacturing. During recessions, drafters may be laid off. However, a growing number of drafters should continue to be employed on a temporary or contract basis, as more companies turn to the personnel-supply services industry to meet their changing needs.

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