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CAD Technician Career and Salary

Most marvels of modern engineering -- from the tallest skyscrapers to the most ingenious little microchips -- got their start on paper. Detailed sketches and schematics do not just set a project's overall look or specifications, but, thanks to computer aided drafting (CAD software), allow engineers and architects to ensure designs are structurally sound. Though these professionals are usually responsible for overall design, they often turn to CAD technicians, also called CAD operators or drafters, to create these sketches. Knowing how to transform an idea into a functional technical sketch takes a great deal of skill and practice, and, in most cases, that means formal training.

CAD technician job description

CAD technicians use advanced software to convert an architect or engineer's designs into functional technical drawings and plans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), they often specialize in a certain area of the field, like architecture or civil, electrical, or mechanical engineering. Whatever their area of expertise, CAD technicians must be incredibly efficient with CAD software and capable of making multiple versions of a particular design. They must also be able to tweak them quickly as necessary. Another key part of their job is asking the right questions, such as what materials and dimensions are preferable, and what the ultimate goal of the project is. The BLS reports that these professionals must be detail oriented and exhibit strong math, technical, time-management and critical-thinking skills. Employers overwhelmingly prefer to hire techs with CAD certificates or associate degrees. One hired, most CAD technicians and drafters work in full-time office settings and spend much of their time in front of a computer.

Cad Cadd Computer Aided Drafting Design

CAD technician job prospects

The BLS projects that overall employment of drafters and CAD Technicians will show little to no change between 2012 and 2022, but clarifies that specialty matters. Demand for electrical and electronics technicians, for instance, is expected to grow by 10 percent during that time; demand for mechanical drafters, on the other hand, will likely decline by 5 percent. Where you live and work matters, too, since demand for particular drafting specialties vary with a regions economic strengths. Large manufacturing hubs need more mechanical drafters while areas with booming construction markets need architectural drafters. The BLS expects job prospects to be generally strong for candidates who are proficient with multiple CAD systems, namely Building Information Modeling (BIM) systems and Product Data Management (PDM) systems. Architectural specialists tend to use the use the former, mechanical drafters the latter.

Job statistics and earnings for CAD technicians

A number of factors can influence CAD technicians' earnings, such as location, education and specialty. According to the BLS, the annual median earnings for all drafters and CAD technicians nationwide in 2013 was $53,640. Architectural and civil techs earned slightly less with a national annual median $51,250. Electrical and electronics CAD technicians tended to earn the most with a national median annual salary of $60,350. Though the BLS does not provide education-specific salary data, it does note that, in general, workers' earnings and employment prospects tend to improve with education. For some CAD technicians, that may mean investing in certificates, associate degrees or other relevant credentials from accredited CAD technician programs may not just be a requirement of employment, but also an important investment in their futures. You can learn more about CAD degrees and certifications through a professional organization like the American Design Drafting Association.

Sources:

American Design Drafting Association, http://www.adda.org/

Drafters, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/drafters.htm

May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: United States, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#17-0000

American Design Drafting Association, http://www.adda.org/

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