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CAD Degrees

Computer Aided Design and Drafting systems are used by architectural, aeronautical, civil, electrical, electronic, mechanical, and pipeline drafters to create layouts and diagrams of various structures. Individuals can learn the skills needed to become a CAD drafter through an associate degree or certificate program. Students who are still in high school who know that they want to pursue this career path can take classes that will prepare them for one of these programs, such as computer graphics, math, computer technology, science, and various classes that have to do with either design or drafting. These professionals may also be interested in earning voluntary certification from the American Design Drafting Association, as it may give them a leg up in the job search.

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Associate Degree

Earning an associate degree in drafting adequately prepares an individual to embark on a career as a professional drafter, specifically one that utilizes Computer Aided Design and Drafting techniques and systems. These systems, as the name implies, are largely computer-based and allow for drafters to input their drawings into a database or software program so that it may be accessed by automated systems of manufacturing. Utilizing Computer Aided Design and Drafting systems and techniques also allows for individuals to prepare and implement their drawings in a highly efficient and expedient fashion that's often faster than traditional drafting techniques.

It should be noted that an associate degree is not absolutely required to work within this profession, and that it is possible for students to earn an educational certificate to get some of the skills necessary to work as a drafter. An associate degree, however, is guaranteed preparation for the many rigors of this career, some of which include the drafting of plans for the creation of a whole host of devices, from building construction to tiny components of computers.

This career is highly technical, as drafters are responsible for not only drawing the finished picture of whatever product is that they’re designing, but they are also charged with showing step-by-step depictions of how to get to the finished product. These professionals oftentimes work in close connection with formal engineers, scientists, surveyors, and the like, who help them to understand the principles of design that their drawing will illustrate. However, it is also required for drafters to understand many of these principles on their own, such as concepts of manufacturing theory and various other aspects of design that are essential for their line of work.

Most programs that result in an associate degree in Computer Aided Design and Drafting are typically offered at community colleges, junior colleges, and technical institutions. These programs usually require two years of full time study to finish, although it may take longer for students who do not attend these programs full-time. The majority of the coursework for these degrees revolves around concepts of math, technology, graphics and various aspects of computers. Students will also need to complete general education requirements in the humanities and social sciences. Tuition for these programs varies, but students attending a community college in-state can expect to spend less than $12,000 a year. 

Certificate Degree Programs 

There are also certificate programs available for students interested in working as a CAD drafter. In fact, earning one of these certificates enables students to learn the essentials of this trade without having to earn an associate degree. Students may earn a certificate at a technical or trade school. 

Once enrolled in a certificate program, students will only study courses that are directly related to this occupation, such as electronic drafting or architectural drafting, as well as other classes centered around different concepts related to math. The main difference between a drafting associate degree and certificate program, besides the fact that the certificate program does not require general education courses, is that certificate programs tend to have less of a focus on drafting theory.

In order to be admitted to one of these programs a student will have to have to have at least a high school diploma or GED. There may be some class placement prerequisites as well, meaning that students will need to test into a certain level of math or English in order to be allowed to take the required classes. Tuition for these programs will vary depending on the school, though a year of full-time classes at a community college or technical school will likely cost a student less than $10,000.


Professional Certification

Professional certification is generally offered on a voluntary basis, and is an opportunity for drafters to show that they have committed themselves to learning as much as they can about their trade. 

Some employers may prefer to hire candidates who have been professionally certified, or on rare occasions employers may actually require certification. The principle certifying agency for drafters is known as the American Design Drafting Association, which requires that professionals pass the Drafter Certification Test in order to become certified. Certified candidates may be eligible for higher salaries and benefits than employees who are not certified


The process of accreditation is necessary to ensure that schools are delivering high-quality education to students. Official accrediting agencies administer in-depth evaluations that often involve peer reviews and a wide host of additional procedures that help representatives determine if the school is capable of rendering academic training services. Schools that successfully adhere to the accrediting agency's guidelines receive a public mark of approval, which makes them a more attractive choice for prospective students. Before selecting a degree program, it's important for students to make sure the school they are interested in is accredited. This information is readily available online. The Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the United States Department of Education (USDE) both have databases on their websites that identify all of the accredited institutions in the country. Individuals can usually look up this information in a number of ways, including by school name, accrediting agency, state, country, or program type. 


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This website also offers school data. Our Recommendation Rate is based on the largest database of independent reviews submitted by former students and is not impacted by our partnerships. All other data were collected in 2021-2023 from the National Center for Education Statistics or from an official representative of the school. The NCES is the primary governmental entity for gathering and presenting data related to education. The NCES data is updated annually as soon as it becomes available. The NCES does not release data into downloadable formats until it has been approved, so the most currently available data will not be for the most recent academic year. Salaries and job growth were collected in 2023-2024 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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