A CAD technician could...
|Create documents that detail all the components for a new space telescope.||Draw up plans for a new push-pull toy for toddlers.|
|Draw circuit board assembly diagrams so that workers will know how to put them together.||Create the construction blueprints for a new skyscraper.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||CAD (computer-aided design) technicians combine art and engineering to prepare the technical drawings and plans from which everything in the world is made—from toys to toasters, houses to hoses, satellites to sewer systems. CAD technicians are essential to the design and construction of everything you see around you.|
|Key Requirements||Meticulous, detail-oriented, with excellent vision, communication and mechanical skills, and artistic abilities|
|Minimum Degree||Vocational or Associate's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Physics, computer science, algebra, geometry, algebra II, English; if available, drafting, art|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||Decline Slowly or Moderately (-3% to -9%)|
Training, Other Qualifications
Employers prefer applicants who have completed postsecondary school training in drafting, which is offered by technical institutes, community colleges, and some 4-year colleges and universities. Employers are most interested in applicants with well-developed drafting and mechanical drawing skills; knowledge of drafting standards, mathematics, science, and engineering technology; and a solid background in CADD techniques.
Education and Training
High school courses in mathematics, science, computer technology, design, computer graphics, and, where available, drafting, are useful for people considering a career as a CAD technician. Employers prefer applicants who have also completed training after high school at a technical institute, community college, or 4-year college or university.
The kind and quality of drafting training programs vary considerably so prospective students should be careful in selecting a program. They should contact prospective employers to ask which schools they prefer and contact schools to ask for information about the kinds of jobs their graduates have, the type and condition of instructional facilities and equipment, and teacher qualifications.
Technical institutes offer intensive technical training, but they provide a less-general education than do community colleges. Either certificates or diplomas may be awarded. Many technical institutes offer 2-year associate degree programs, which are similar to, or part of, the programs offered by community colleges or state university systems. Their programs vary considerably in length and in the type of courses offered. Some public vocational-technical schools serve local students and emphasize the type of training preferred by local employers. Most require a high school diploma or its equivalent for admission. Other technical institutes are run by private, often for-profit, organizations sometimes called proprietary schools.
Community colleges offer courses similar to those in technical institutes, but include more classes in theory and liberal arts. Often, there is little or no difference between technical institute and community college programs. However, courses taken at community colleges are more likely to be accepted for credit at 4-year colleges. After completing a 2-year associate degree program, graduates may obtain jobs as drafters or continue their education in a related field at a 4-year college. Most 4-year colleges do not offer training in drafting, but they do offer classes in engineering, architecture, and mathematics that are useful for obtaining a job as a drafter.
Technical training obtained in the Armed Forces also can be applied in civilian drafting jobs. Some additional training may be necessary, depending on the technical area or military specialty.
Training differs somewhat within the CAD technician specialties, although the basics, such as mathematics, are similar. In an electronics drafting program, for example, students learn how to depict electronic components and circuits in drawings. In architectural drafting, they learn the technical specifications of buildings.
Mechanical ability and visual aptitude are important for CAD technicians. Prospective CAD technicians should be able to draw well and perform detailed work accurately and neatly. Artistic ability is helpful in some specialized fields, as is knowledge of manufacturing and construction methods. In addition, prospective CAD technicians should have good interpersonal skills because they work closely with engineers, surveyors, architects, and other professionals and, sometimes, with customers.
Nature of the Work
CAD technicians prepare technical drawings and plans, which are used to build everything from manufactured products such as toys, toasters, industrial machinery, and spacecraft to structures such as houses, office buildings, and oil and gas pipelines.
In the past, CAD technicians sat at drawing boards and used pencils, pens, compasses, protractors, triangles, and other drafting devices to prepare a drawing by hand. Now, most CAD technicians use Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) systems to prepare drawings. CAD technicians may also be referred to as CADD operators.
With CADD systems, CAD technicians can create and store drawings electronically so that they can be viewed, printed, or programmed directly into automated manufacturing systems. CADD systems also permit drafters to quickly prepare variations of a design. Although CAD technicians use CADD extensively, it is only a tool. CAD technicians still need knowledge of traditional drafting techniques, in addition to CADD skills. Despite the nearly universal use of CADD systems, manual drafting and sketching are used in certain applications.
CAD technicians' drawings provide visual guidelines and show how to construct a product or structure. Drawings include technical details and specify dimensions, materials, and procedures. CAD technicians fill in technical details using drawings, rough sketches, specifications, and calculations made by engineers, surveyors, architects, or scientists. For example, CAD technicians use their knowledge of standardized building techniques to draw in the details of a structure. Some use their understanding of engineering and manufacturing theory and standards to draw the parts of a machine; they determine design elements, such as the numbers and kinds of fasteners needed to assemble the machine. CAD technicians use technical handbooks, tables, calculators, and computers to complete their work.
CAD technicians can specialize in aeronautics, architecture, construction, piping, or electrical, electronic, or mechanical systems.
CAD technicians usually work in comfortable offices. 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. Because they spend long periods of time in front of computers doing detailed work, drafters may be susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems. Most CAD technicians work a standard 40-hour week; only a small number work part-time.
On the Job
- Analyze building codes, by-laws, space and site requirements, and other technical documents and reports to determine their effect on architectural designs.
- Operate computer-aided drafting (CAD) equipment or conventional drafting stations to produce designs, working drawings, charts, forms and records.
- Coordinate structural, electrical and mechanical designs and determine a method of presentation to graphically represent building plans.
- Obtain and assemble data to complete architectural designs, visiting job sites to compile measurements as necessary.
- Draw rough and detailed scale plans for foundations, buildings and structures, based on preliminary concepts, sketches, engineering calculations, specification sheets and other data.
- Lay out and plan interior room arrangements for commercial buildings using computer-assisted drafting (CAD) equipment and software.
- Supervise, coordinate, and inspect the work of drafts persons, technicians, and technologists on construction projects.
- Represent architect on construction site, ensuring builder compliance with design specifications and advising on design corrections, under architect's supervision.
- Check dimensions of materials to be used and assign numbers to lists of materials.
- Determine procedures and instructions to be followed, according to design specifications and quantity of required materials.
- Analyze technical implications of architect's design concept, calculating weights, volumes, and stress factors.
- Create freehand drawings and lettering to accompany drawings.
- Prepare colored drawings of landscape and interior designs for presentation to client.
- Reproduce drawings on copy machines or trace copies of plans and drawings using transparent paper or cloth, ink, pencil, and standard drafting instruments.
- Prepare cost estimates, contracts, bidding documents and technical reports for specific projects under an architect's supervision.
- Calculate heat loss and gain of buildings and structures to determine required equipment specifications, following standard procedures.
- Build landscape, architectural and display models.
Companies That Hire CAD Technicians
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
Do you have a specific question about a career as a CAD Technician that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges: www.accsc.org
- American Design Drafting Association: www.adda.org
- O*Net Online. (2016). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
- Gemvisioncorp. (2008, June 9). Computer Aided Creativity. Retrieved August 28, 2009, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E056GEBtI28
- WisTechColleges.org. (2008, January 23). Architectural Technician - Wisconsin Technical Colleges. Retrieved November 18, 2009, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZGv_ilny4Y
- McElyea, B. (2009). About CADFanatic.com Retrieved August 28, 2009, from http://www.cadfanatic.com/about/
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