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CAD Technician Programs

Article Sources

Sources:

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  • School pages, accessed January 24, 2019: Mechanical Engineering Technology Specialization, Northern Virginia Community College, https://www.nvcc.edu/catalog/cat2018/academics/programs/programdetail.aspx?prog_id=1800&subprog_id=3; computer-aided Drafting & Design, Mid Michigan College, https://www.midmich.edu/academics/programs-of-study/skilled-trades/cad; News and Events, Laredo College, http://www.laredo.edu/cms/LCC/News_and_Events/News/ImageRotation/content/2015/May/Computer_Tech-CAD/; Architectural Design and Drafting Info Packet, Portland Community College, https://www.pcc.edu/programs/architectural-design/documents/info-packet.pdf; Architectural Drafting Degree, Pittsburgh Technical College, https://www.ptcollege.edu/programs/school-of-design/computer-aided/architectural-cad; Online AutoCAD Software Drafting Training Program Curriculum, Penn Foster Career School, https://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/engineering-and-drafting/drafting-with-autocad-career-diploma/program-details; AutoCAD Online Course Curriculum, Ashworth College, https://www.ashworthcollege.edu/career-diplomas/autocad/curriculum/; Computer-Aided Drafting/Design Technician, Kent State University, http://catalog.kent.edu/colleges/re/computer-aided-drafting-design-technician-undergraduate-certificate/#programrequirementstext; Drafting Diploma, Savannah Technical College, https://www.savannahtech.edu/programs/drafting-diploma/; Computer-Aided Drafting and Design (CADD) Diploma, Remington College, https://www.remingtoncollege.edu/autocad-drafting-school/; Engineering Design Technology Bachelor of Science Degree (B.S.), Pennsylvania College of Technology, https://www.pct.edu/academics/icet/engineering-industrial-design-technology/engineering-design-technology; Computer-Aided Drafting Diploma Program, Rockford Career College, https://rockfordcareercollege.edu/programs/computer-aided-drafting-diploma-program; Internship & Externship Program, ITI College, https://www.iticollege.edu/career-services/employers-recruiters/internship-externship-program/;
  • American Design Drafting Association, accessed January 24, 2019: Professional Certification, http://www.adda.org/index.php/professional/professional-certification; Examination Application, http://www.adda.org/files/2012-ExamApp-AD.pdf;
  • Autodesk Certifications, Certiport, accessed January 24, 2019, https://certiport.pearsonvue.com/Certifications/Autodesk/Certifications/Certify
  • Professional association pages, accessed January 24, 2019: Join ACADIA, Association for Computer-Aided Design in Architecture, https://acadia.org/signups/new#regular; CAD Society Announces its 2017 Award Winners for Community, Leadership and Lifetime Achievement, CAD Society, http://cadsociety.org/pr-20170330.html; 2016 Annual Report, Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education, http://www.pacepartners.org/files_pub/PACE_AR2016Updated_spreads.pdf;
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2017-18, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed May 2019, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  • Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2014-15, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, accessed May 2019, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
  • School pages, accessed July 29, 2019: About ECC, Elgin Community College, https://elgin.edu/about-ecc/; Computer Aided Design, Elgin Community College, https://elgin.edu/academics/departments/computer-aided-design/; Computer Aided Design, Elgin Community College, https://catalog.elgin.edu/degree-programs-certificates/career-technical/career-technical-degrees-certificates/computer-aided-design/; About Waubonsee, Waubonsee Community College, https://www.waubonsee.edu/about-waubonsee; Associate in Applied Science, Computer Aided Design and Drafting, Waubonsee Community College, https://www.waubonsee.edu/programs-courses/programs-subject/science-technology-engineering-and-mathematics/computer-aided-design-and-drafting/cad-computer-aided-design-and-drafting; Certificate of Achievement, Computer Aided Design and Drafting, Waubonsee Community College, https://www.waubonsee.edu/programs-courses/programs-subject/science-technology-engineering-and-mathematics/computer-aided-design-and-drafting/computer-aided-design-and-drafting; Computer Aided Design And Drafting-Architectural, Waubonsee Community College, https://www.waubonsee.edu/programs-courses/programs-subject/science-technology-engineering-and-mathematics/computer-aided-design-and-drafting/computer-aided-design-and-drafting-architectural; CAD Drafting Technology Program Options, College of Lake County, https://www.clcillinois.edu/programs/cad/options; CAD Drafting Technology Information Sheet, College of Lake County, http://dept.clcillinois.edu/pub/infosheets/egrdv/CAD_DraftingTechnologyDegree.pdf; CAD Drafting Technology Certificates Information Sheet, College of Lake County, http://dept.clcillinois.edu/pub/infosheets/egrdv/CAD_DraftingTechnologyCertificates.pdf; About Us, Chattahoochee Technical College, https://www.chattahoocheetech.edu/about-us/; Drafting Technology, Chattahoochee Technical College, https://www.chattahoocheetech.edu/drafting/; About TTC, Trident Technical College, https://www.tridenttech.edu/about/index.htm; Campus and Site Locations, Trident Technical College, https://www.tridenttech.edu/about/locations/index.htm; Civil Drafting, Trident Technical College, https://www.tridenttech.edu/catalog2019/Division-Engineering%20and%20Construction/Civil%20Drafting.html;Engienering Graphic Design, Trident Technical College, https://www.tridenttech.edu/ce/programs/catalog/engineering-graphic-design.htm; About, Lanier Technical College, https://laniertech.edu/About/AboutUs-main.aspx; College Snapshot by Year, Lanier Technical College, https://laniertech.edu/downloads/College%20Snapshot%20by%20Year%20-%20TEC0185.pdf; Drafting Technology Programs, Lanier Technical College, https://laniertech.edu/AcademicPrograms/LTCPrograms.aspx?id=14; About CNM, Central New Mexico Community College, https://www.cnm.edu/about; Architectural/Engineering Drafting Technology, Associate of Applied Science, Central New Mexico Community College, https://catalog.cnm.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=44&poid=10111; Architectural/Engineering Drafting Technology, Certificate of Completion, Central New Mexico Community College, https://catalog.cnm.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=44&poid=10084; Our College, Lansing Community College, https://www.lcc.edu/about/; Computer Automated Design, Lansing Community College, https://www.lcc.edu/academics/areas-of-study/computers-engineering-technology/cad.html; About LC, Laredo College, http://www.laredo.edu/cms/lcctemplate.aspx?menu_id=99&id=1092; Student Life, Laredo College, http://www.laredo.edu/cms/lcctemplate.aspx?menu_id=204&id=2853; Computer Aided Drafting and Design Technology, Laredo College, http://www.laredo.edu/online_catalog/computer-aided-drafting-and-design-technology-dftg-srvy-arce-gisc.htm; Engineering CAD Technology, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, https://explore.stevenscollege.edu/study/engineering-cad-technology/; Architectural Technology, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, https://stevenscollege.edu/academics/associate-degrees/architectural-technology/; Mechanical Engineering Technology, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, https://stevenscollege.edu/academics/associate-degrees/mechanical-engineering-technology/mechanical-engineering-technology-schedule-curriculum/;
  • College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, accessed July 29, 2019: Elgin Community College, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?id=144944; College Navigator, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?id=146472; Chattahoochee Technical College, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?id=140331; Lansing Community College, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?id=170657; Laredo College, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?id=226134; Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?id=216296;
  • 21 Liberal Arts Colleges With the Lowest Student-Faculty Ratios, U.S. News and World Report, April 19, 2016, Jordan Friedman, accessed July 29, 2019, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2016-04-19/21-liberal-arts-colleges-with-the-lowest-student-faculty-ratios
  • Lancaster city, Pennsylvania, QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed July 29, 2019, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/lancastercitypennsylvania/PST045218
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From the tallest skyscrapers to the smallest microchips, most marvels of modern engineering got their start on paper. Although architects and engineers are typically responsible for the overall design of a particular product or project, they often turn to computer-aided design (CAD) technicians — also called CAD operators or drafters — to create the detailed schematics necessary to bring the idea into reality.

But what exactly is computer-aided design? How much does a CAD technician make? We'll provide answers to those questions and more on this page, as well as discussing how to become a CAD technician and the difference between online CAD courses and those offered in traditional classrooms. Continue reading below for more info on this profession at the intersection of art and science.

What do CAD technicians do?

The specific responsibilities of CAD technicians tend to depend heavily on the industry segment where they're employed, not to mention the individual project on which they're assigned to work, but there are some general duties that many drafting and CAD tech positions have in common:

  • Working from rough sketches to create design plans using the latest CAD software
  • Specifying dimensions, procedures, materials and other details in the finished plan
  • Conceptualizing projects and products under the supervision of engineers and architects
  • Managing the storage and accessibility of CAD files and source material

The architectural, engineering, manufacturing and construction industries employ more than 80 percent of working CAD technicians. Regardless of industry, most CAD technicians spend most of their time on the job at computer workstations in standard office environments.

What are CAD technician specializations?

The career fields where CAD is widely used tend to have a high degree of technical precision, so training to meet the demands of a certain type of drafting can help boost your chances of landing a good job. Here are a few of the specialized CAD tech positions that you may qualify for after graduation, depending on your education:

  • Architectural drafter
  • Civil drafter
  • Mechanical drafter
  • Electrical drafter
  • Electronics drafter

These specialties may be taught in the curriculum of a standard associate degree in computer-aided drafting and design, but some institutions provide specialized training under other degree titles. Also keep a lookout for architectural technology, electronics engineering technology and other similarly named programs — they often have CAD sections and can concentrate your efforts on a given specialization.

How to Become a CAD Technician

Prospective CAD technicians can take a variety of routes into the workforce, including non-degree certificate programs and full-fledged bachelor's degrees, although the most common path is probably a general associate degree in computer-aided drafting and design. These programs are offered at vocational schools, community colleges and technical institutes, and may be available at four-year universities in some cases.

Here's a quick list of common educational steps taken on the way to a CAD technician career:

  1. Obtain your high school diploma or equivalent
  2. Enroll in a vocational school or community college program
  3. Decide whether or not to specialize
  4. Graduate
  5. Consider American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) certification

If you're in high school, it can be helpful to take courses in math, science, computer graphics, technology and design to help you prepare for the challenges of a college CAD program. Depending on your specialization, essential courses at the collegiate level may include the following:

  • CAD Methods
  • Visualization techniques
  • Isometric drawing
  • 3D modeling
  • 2D modeling
  • Architectural drafting
  • Civil/topographical drafting
  • Structural drafting
  • Geographical information systems
  • Plane surveying

CAD technician degree and certificate programs

CAD technician schools offer an array of programs for different learners, some of which may be completed in a year or less of full-time study. Here's some detail about the various program levels available:

  • Undergraduate certificate. These non-degree programs typically require the shortest time commitment, sometimes taking fewer than 20 credit hours to complete. They tend to cover the general basics of the discipline but may contain some courses relevant to specialized drafting fields.
  • Diploma. Career diploma programs provide more extensive training than certificates but also tend to require a fewer courses overall than associate degree plans. Many diploma programs contain dedicated specialization tracks, but they are often light on general academic courses.
  • Associate degree. As the widely recognized educational standard for CAD technicians, two-year associate degree plans generally cover the field's essential subjects in considerable depth and contain the full complement of general education credits necessary for transfer into bachelor's programs if you decide to continue your education.

Four-year bachelor's degrees are also available from CAD technician schools, although they are typically offered under names like engineering design technology and tend to dive deeply into the particular skills of one industrial specialization.

Hands-on training at CAD technician schools

Some CAD technician programs, particularly at the diploma and associate degree levels, may offer internship or externship sections in which experienced students can gain real-world experience by applying their new skills at a participating design firm or other industry employer. The lengths and requirements of these sections vary by degree program, so check with an advisor at your chosen school for more details.

Online CAD courses and programs

Many computer-aided drafting schools offer online study plans, which can make it easier to schedule a college program around your existing responsibilities. Some of these programs may take a hybrid approach, delivering some courses in the virtual classroom and some on traditional campuses, while others may consist of entirely online CAD courses.

The structure of online CAD courses can vary from school to school. Synchronous online courses require virtual attendance at specific days and times, similar to the way brick-and-mortar classes are scheduled, while lecture attendance and classwork in asynchronous courses can be done at any given time throughout the course term.

CAD technician certifications

The American Drafting Design Association (ADDA) is the primary U.S. source for CAD certification programs. The ADDA offers multiple certification options, each of which is recommended for professionals at different levels of expertise:

  • Apprentice drafter (AD) certification is recommended for entry-level workers and focuses on architectural and mechanical drafting
  • Certified Drafter (CD) certification also focuses on architectural and mechanical drafting and recommends that applicants have up to two years of experience on the job
  • Certified Design Drafter certification requires at least some post-secondary training, expects applicants to have three to five years of experience on the job and focuses on civil engineering concepts.
  • Certified Digital Designer certification also expects three to five years of relevant work experience and requires post-secondary training, but is intended for visual communication and digital photography professionals.

All ADDA certifications must be renewed every three years. Relevant employment of two to three years and 30 additional contact hours of training are required for successful renewal.

Graduates of CAD technician schools may also pursue vendor-specific certifications from major equipment suppliers. Software company Autodesk, for example, offers certification programs for many of its individual engineering and 3D design tools:

  • Autodesk AutoCAD
  • AutoCAD Civil 3D
  • Autodesk Inventor
  • Autodesk Revit
  • Autodesk Fusion 360

Career advancement options for CAD technicians

Putting in several years on the job and developing a reputation for high-quality work can open doors to positions that come with additional responsibilities and offer a higher a CAD technician salary. Workers who specialize in one area of the industry often have more advancement options than those who choose to remain generalists.

It's also possible to take the skills you've learned as a drafter and translate them to a full-fledged career as an architect or engineer, particularly if you completed an associate degree program before heading out into the workforce. A bachelor's degree or higher is often necessary for those professions, so transfer credits can be a big plus.

The Best CAD Drafting/Technology Programs in the U.S.

We looked at an array of data for over 170 community colleges and trade schools that have been accredited by at least one agency and focus their educational efforts on associate degree and certificate programs. Our analysis included statistics on average net price of enrollment, schedule flexibility, student services availability, three-year graduation rate and more. Read on to learn more about the best CAD technology programs in the country.

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Methodology
Average In-state Tuition
$10,440
No. of Online Programs
2
% of Students in Distance Education
23%
Net Price of Aid
$4,580
Retention Rate
75%
Graduation Rate
37%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Located roughly halfway between Rockford and Chicago, Elgin Community College has a student body of around 9,500 learners. The Elgin institution's rates of on-time graduation and first-year student retention each wound up ranked No. 2 out of all schools that made our list, and only two other schools in our top ten reported a higher percentage of alumni remaining employed for at least six years after graduation.

CAD technology programs at ECC: CAD technology students here can choose between an associate degree program and a basic certificate plan. The certificate requires 17 credit hours to complete and teaches the basics of CAD software and techniques. The associate degree plan provides more comprehensive training and can typically be completed in 4 semesters of full-time study.

Average In-state Tuition
$7,338
No. of Online Programs
4
% of Students in Distance Education
28%
Net Price of Aid
$4,785
Retention Rate
71%
Graduation Rate
31%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Waubonsee Community College was founded in 1966 and dedicates itself to creating degree programs that give students the tools they need to succeed in a high-tech job market. More than 88 percent of graduates reported gainful employment six years after completing their programs, and the average net price for enrolled students landed it in the top 25 nationwide for affordability.

CAD technology programs at WCC: One Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) CAD degree and two certificate plans are offered at this institution in Chicago's far western suburbs. The certificates have different goals and program lengths — the architectural drafting certificate requires 21 credit hours and includes some training in residential and commercial architecture, while the general certificate focuses only on CAD technology.

Average In-state Tuition
$8,316
No. of Online Programs
6
% of Students in Distance Education
21%
Net Price of Aid
$4,275
Retention Rate
70%
Graduation Rate
28%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

This institution near the Illinois state border with Wisconsin welcomes more than 14,000 students each term, but its campus shouldn't feel overcrowded. The student-faculty ratio here is a comfortable 17:1, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and around one-fifth of the student body takes at least some of their required courses in the online classroom.

CAD technology programs at CLC: Robust and specific CAD training is available at CLC, with two separate A.A.S. plans and no fewer than seven concentrations offered at the certificate level. Areas of study in certificate programs include AutoCAD, 3D parametric drafting, architectural/civil drafting and graphics, animation and presentation. Graphics and animation is also available as an A.A.S. concentration, along with mechanical drafting for engineering.

Average In-state Tuition
$2,136
No. of Online Programs
3
% of Students in Distance Education
42%
Net Price of Aid
$3,115
Retention Rate
53%
Graduation Rate
26%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Affordability is the name of the game at Chattahoochee Technical College. Average net price measures the out-of-pocket cost for tuition, fees, books, supplies, housing and other essentials after financial aid like grants and scholarships is factored in, and just five institutions nationwide reported a lower average net price than the $3,115 posted by this Atlanta-area institution of around 10,000 students.

CAD technology programs at CTC: Students here have three levels of CAD program to choose from: an associate degree in drafting technology, a 49-credit diploma program and several technical certificates of credit. The certificates range in length from the 34-credit advanced CAD technician plan to a drafter's assistant program that consists of just 11 credit hours in three courses.

Average In-state Tuition
$4,714
No. of Online Programs
3
% of Students in Distance Education
64%
Net Price of Aid
$5,437
Retention Rate
61%
Graduation Rate
16%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Charleston may be home to Trident Technical College's administrative campus, but students all across the greater region can take advantage of its approximately 150 academic and career programs. The more than 15,000 students enrolled here can choose among full-service campuses in Charleston, North Charleston, Moncks Corner and Mount Pleasant, and more than 63 percent take at least some of their courses online.

CAD technology programs at TTC: Many of the CAD technology programs here are offered as engineering graphic design career certificates. Students can concentrate in one of five software tools — AutoCAD, Revit, CATIA, Inventor and SolidWorks -- or opt to bundle multiple tool-based certificates into a single study plan. A 13-credit certificate in civil drafting is also available.

Average In-state Tuition
$2,670
No. of Online Programs
2
% of Students in Distance Education
38%
Net Price of Aid
$4,325
Retention Rate
57%
Graduation Rate
32%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Lanier Technical College posted an average net price that took a top-20 spot among all CAD technology schools we surveyed nationwide. The institution reports that fully half of enrolled students in 2018 were awarded financial aid through federal Pell Grants or Georgia's state-run HOPE grant and scholarship program, so give this north Georgia institution a second look if you're hoping for some help paying for school.

CAD technology programs at LTC: The drafting technology degree at LTC consists of 60 credit hours of coursework and allows students to specialize in either mechanical or architectural drafting. The diploma program, which covers similar CAD career topics as the degree but skips over most general education courses, offers mechanical and architectural drafting specializations as well.

Average In-state Tuition
$1,296
No. of Online Programs
3
% of Students in Distance Education
40%
Net Price of Aid
$4,585
Retention Rate
62%
Graduation Rate
24%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Central New Mexico Community College serves more than 22,000 students each term, making it the largest community college in the Land of Enchantment. Roughly 40 percent of that total, or 8,800 learners, take at least some of their courses via digital distance education. The catalog here is one of the largest of any school we looked at for this study, offering over 200 degrees, certificates and other training options.

CAD technology programs at CNM: CNM offers CAD training through either an A.A.S. degree or a certificate of completion in architectural/engineering drafting technology. The certificate program is a 31-credit plan that typically requires around two and a half semesters of full-time study to complete, and the 61-credit A.A.S. covers multiple drafting disciplines.

Average In-state Tuition
$6,180
No. of Online Programs
3
% of Students in Distance Education
41%
Net Price of Aid
$4,254
Retention Rate
64%
Graduation Rate
18%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Close to 12,000 students attend classes at Lansing Community College's two full-service campuses each semester, but the central Michigan school works hard to ensure that its students don't feel like anonymous faces in the crowd. The student-faculty ratio at LCC was 11:1 in 2018 — roughly 31 percent better than the national university average — which means that those who are looking for one-on-one help from professors are likely to find it here.

CAD technology programs at LCC: CAD students at LCC train at the institution's Center for Manufacturing Excellence, an 11,000 square foot dedicated facility for manufacturing education. The A.A.S. program provides the deepest knowledge of manufacturing CAD and its principles, and two certificate programs offer scaled-down versions of the associate degree curriculum.

Average In-state Tuition
$2,400
No. of Online Programs
3
% of Students in Distance Education
33%
Net Price of Aid
$6,002
Retention Rate
80%
Graduation Rate
32%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Founded in 1947, this 200-acre institution on the banks of the Rio Grande educates more than 10,000 students each year and featured the best first-year student retention rate of any of our top ten CAD schools. Laredo College's main Fort McIntosh Campus features exciting amenities like a fine arts center, an environmental science center, fitness facilities and more.

CAD technology programs at LC: The array of CAD programs at this South Texas institution includes an associate degree, two comprehensive certificate plans at different levels of depth and four marketable skills achievement awards designed to train you in a specific skillset. Skills programs require 9-12 credit hours of study and cover basic CAD, architectural drafting, 3D modeling and geographical information systems (GIS).

Average In-state Tuition
$7,800
No. of Online Programs
1
% of Students in Distance Education
1%
Net Price of Aid
$5,339
Retention Rate
69%
Graduation Rate
67%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

This small institution located about 70 miles west of Philadelphia might be a great choice for CAD students who like to study in peace and quiet. Just over 1,200 students were enrolled at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in 2018, and its home city of Lancaster has a population of fewer than 60,000 residents — pretty much the perfect size for a college town.

CAD technology programs at Stevens: Two separate programs at this southeastern Pennsylvania school can prepare you for CAD careers. The associate degree in architectural technology fuses CAD training with an education in architectural principles, while the mechanical engineering technology degree includes training in engineering fundamentals like fluid mechanics, thermodynamics and machine design.

Average In-state Tuition
$6,899
No. of Online Programs
3
% of Students in Distance Education
35%
Net Price of Aid
$4,913
Retention Rate
70%
Graduation Rate
42%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Average In-state Tuition
$7,050
No. of Online Programs
6
% of Students in Distance Education
36%
Net Price of Aid
$5,233
Retention Rate
64%
Graduation Rate
30%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
N/A

Average In-state Tuition
$3,169
No. of Online Programs
3
% of Students in Distance Education
36%
Net Price of Aid
$2,902
Retention Rate
53%
Graduation Rate
26%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Average In-state Tuition
$1,104
No. of Online Programs
6
% of Students in Distance Education
23%
Net Price of Aid
$5,526
Retention Rate
71%
Graduation Rate
19%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Average In-state Tuition
$8,126
No. of Online Programs
3
% of Students in Distance Education
10%
Net Price of Aid
$3,969
Retention Rate
68%
Graduation Rate
17%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Average In-state Tuition
$3,808
No. of Online Programs
1
% of Students in Distance Education
35%
Net Price of Aid
$4,740
Retention Rate
63%
Graduation Rate
21%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Average In-state Tuition
$3,936
No. of Online Programs
4
% of Students in Distance Education
40%
Net Price of Aid
$7,488
Retention Rate
63%
Graduation Rate
38%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Average In-state Tuition
$2,432
No. of Online Programs
3
% of Students in Distance Education
56%
Net Price of Aid
$3,911
Retention Rate
66%
Graduation Rate
21%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
N/A

Average In-state Tuition
$8,674
No. of Online Programs
5
% of Students in Distance Education
22%
Net Price of Aid
$6,349
Retention Rate
74%
Graduation Rate
23%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Average In-state Tuition
$9,246
No. of Online Programs
5
% of Students in Distance Education
19%
Net Price of Aid
$5,207
Retention Rate
63%
Graduation Rate
18%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Average In-state Tuition
$8,640
No. of Online Programs
5
% of Students in Distance Education
10%
Net Price of Aid
$5,474
Retention Rate
66%
Graduation Rate
39%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Average In-state Tuition
$2,796
No. of Online Programs
4
% of Students in Distance Education
43%
Net Price of Aid
$6,357
Retention Rate
53%
Graduation Rate
15%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Average In-state Tuition
$2,136
No. of Online Programs
1
% of Students in Distance Education
67%
Net Price of Aid
$626
Retention Rate
52%
Graduation Rate
37%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Average In-state Tuition
$768
No. of Online Programs
2
% of Students in Distance Education
24%
Net Price of Aid
$3,729
Retention Rate
70%
Graduation Rate
17%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
N/A

Average In-state Tuition
$2,496
No. of Online Programs
3
% of Students in Distance Education
22%
Net Price of Aid
$7,685
Retention Rate
70%
Graduation Rate
36%
Career Counseling
Yes
Placement Services
Yes

Skills and Abilities for CAD Technicians

Just like in any profession, certain traits can be better predictors of success than others. The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) lists these skills and abilities as being especially valuable for aspiring CAD technicians and drafters:

  • Critical thinking can help you make the right design choice for a given situation, particularly if you don't have a lot of experience with it
  • Reading comprehension is essential to a drafting career — many of the designs you'll be asked to formalize will come with copious notes and other written instructions
  • Visualization, or the ability to imagine how things would look from different angles or with their parts rearranged, can be a major blessing when 3D modeling
  • Mathematics skills come at a high priority as well, since a great deal of drafting work is only correct when it's mathematically precise
  • Information ordering can help you arrange the elements of a CAD design in the right order according to the specific rules of the project

CAD Technician Salary and Career Outlook

It should be clear by now that drafting is a vital part of the engineering and architecture industries, but how much does a CAD technician make? Several factors can influence a CAD technician salary, including the state where you live and the particular industry segment where you're employed, but national average figures compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics can give you a decent idea of what to expect. Here's a quick table of CAD technician salary and job outlook data you might expect, based on related careers:

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean WageProjected Job Growth Rate
Architectural and Civil Drafters97,610$56,7008.1%
Craft Artists3,980$40,4906.3%
Drafters, All Other14,580$54,2407.9%
Electrical and Electronics Drafters24,900$64,4006.7%
Mechanical Drafters56,170$59,0105.1%
2018 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Professional Resources for CAD Technicians

Several professional groups are working hard to ensure that industry practices and legislative circumstances are as favorable as possible for drafters and CAD technicians. Here's a brief rundown of some of those groups, including some where you can apply for membership:

Article Sources
Methodology

Using the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard, we generated a list of schools that met the following criteria:

  • Institution type is less than 2 years, greater than 2 & less than 4 years
  • Accredited by at least 1 agency (institutional accreditation)
  • The school falls under one of the following classifications: (Carnegie Classification 2015: Undergraduate Instructional Program)
    • Associate's Colleges: Mixed Transfer/Vocational & Technical
      • These institutions awarded associate's degrees but no bachelor's degrees with 30-49% of awards (degrees and certificates) in career & technical programs.
  • Associate's Colleges: High Vocational & Technical

    • These institutions awarded associate's degrees but no bachelor's degrees with more than 50% of awards (degrees and certificates) in career & technical programs.
  • Special Focus: Two-Year Institution

    • These institutions awarded associate's degrees but no bachelor's degrees with typically more than 75% of awards in a single career & technical program
    • The school must offer at least 1 program for the subject in question

We ranked the resulting colleges on the following variables:

  1. Cost of attendance, based on the average net price for students receiving scholarship and grant aid, and the total cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
  2. No. of Associate degree and undergraduate Certificate programs offered for the subject (relevant CIP codes), National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
  3. No. of Associate degree and undergraduate Certificates conferred for the subject (relevant CIP codes), National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
  4. Percent of undergraduate students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
  5. Full-time student retention rate & part-time retention rate (if full-time retention rate is not available, then use part-time retention rate), National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2017
  6. The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
  7. Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2014-15
  8. Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
    1. Academic and career counseling
    2. Job placement services for graduates

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