How to Become a Drafter

Drafters make drawings and plans. Other workers use these drawings and plans to build things. The drawings that drafters make are very specific. They show measurements, materials, and instructions. Drafters use math and engineering skills to add numbers to their drawings. If you like turning ideas into images, spending your workday at a computer or drafting table, making exact measurements, working as a team and working with details it may be the job for you.


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    Enroll in the right courses to get the ball rolling in this field of work. High school courses in mathematics (especially geometry), science such as physics, computer classes and CAD drafting classes can all be useful background to have.
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    Be careful in selecting a college or technical school. Every institution that offers drafting/design courses vary widely as well as the quality of the classes.
    • Find out if the classes you will take will focus on a particular specialty, such as architecture or engineering. The standards for drafting and the programs used are slightly different for different fields. You will leave open the most options if you
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    Enhance your communication skills. You will need to articulate your plans to builders, engineers, architects and others. Public speaking classes can help you communicate these ideas more clearly.
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    Learn various CAD systems and other drawing software as technology is quickly advancing in the 21st century. Very few drafters produce drawings manually.
    • Distinguish between two-dimensional and three-dimensional drafting systems, and learn both, if possible. Three-dimensional drafting systems may seem more difficult to master at first, but they are more powerful for modeling three-dimensional objects, and they have largely become the industry standard, especially in mechanical design. Two-dimensional systems are still used for various purposes, often alongside 3D systems.
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    Learn about the symbols and language associated with your chosen field. You may need to call out a screw thread or understand a bit about weld symbols or geometric dimensioning and tolerance if you are doing mechanical drafting.
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    Learn at least some basics of design. If nothing else, this understanding will help you communicate with the engineers, architects, and designers who will be your colleagues. It will also give you an advantage in your career if you can help fill in some of the design details. Could an engineer generate requirements and a parts list but leave some layout decisions to you? Could you design and draft a simple part, such as cover plate or gasket, if you know where it will fit on a mating part?
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    Learn a bit about databases. While they are not involved in drafting, you may find it helpful to have some understanding of databases at a user level. Many firms use databases as repositories for drawings and for bills of materials.
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    Get an internship. It will give you a competitive edge and you'll start your career with more experience.


  • Don't be afraid to start small. A lot of big-time drafters worked for small companies under close supervision at entry level. You have to get the right experience to become a type of drafter that you want to be.
  • Drafters with the appropriate education can work in interior design, architecture, electrical or mechanical engineering, or for woodworking companies.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment growth in this career field is expected to grow more slowly than average. Most openings should arise to replace drafters who transfer to other careers, leave, or who retire.
  • Most drafting positions require a two-year associate degree.
  • Talk to as many people as you can about your career. Knowing fellow drafters can only enhance your career.
  • To help alleviate problems of fatigue, eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems, drafters should take regular, short breaks.


  • It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to become a drafter. It may also take working at some jobs you might not like in order to get to the place you want to be. Be patient and don't give up your goal.
  • Jobs in drafting tend to be hard to get. Be prepared for several rejections when landing that first job.
  • Although most full-time drafters usually work a standard 8-hour day, 5 days a week, they might have to work overtime to meet job deadlines.
  • Be prepared to take frequent refresher courses as technology advances. If your employer offers training, accept it.
  • Drafters may experience fatigue, eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems because of them working at computer terminals for long periods doing detailed work.
  • Not all drafting schools are created equal. Asking prospective employers on which schools they recommend will help you get into a school that offers training in this occupation with quality education and discipline in the field.
  • Very few drafters work part time.

Things You'll Need

  • Drafters who do manual drawings will need items such as a protractor, triangles, drafting pens and pencils, drafting paper, scales, templates, eraser shields, and so on.
  • Drafters who use computers to draw will need the appropriate drawing software such as AutoCAD, a thumb drive for saving work, and so forth.
  • Since drafters perform many math calculations, calculators are essential. Learn to use a scientific calculator, especially for advanced calculations like trigonometry.

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