Architects may design buildings, but it’s the architectural drafter who breathes life into the plans. Drafters take design specifications and convert them into technical drawings that are later used to build the structure. But each project rarely requires just one design. You’ll often need to prepare a myriad of versions with different structural details, dimensions and materials to provide clients options for their upcoming construction. For this reason, many architectural drafters are paid well for their time, though not as much as the architect.
In 2011, architectural and civil drafters averaged $50,160 a year. But certain industries pay higher salaries for drafters, skewing the average. For this reason, median wage is often used to predict an architectural drafter’s earnings. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), half of all drafters earn $47,250 a year or less.
Architectural services provide the most opportunities for architectural drafters, but not the highest wages. On average, this industry pays drafters $49,870 a year, reports the BLS. Nonresidential construction, on the other hand, doesn’t have as many opportunities, but the earning potential is greater, averaging $50,720 a year. Residential construction pays drafters just over $48,000 a year.
As with any job, location affects salaries, and architectural drafters are no exception. Drafters in Alaska earn $70,500 a year. In Massachusetts, a drafter earns an average of $56,180 a year. District of Columbia is a close third, with drafters earning almost $56,000. The same, however, can’t be said for drafters in Nebraska, where the average salary is $40,620. Drafters in South Dakota earn the least in the nation, averaging $36,980 a year, about $13,000 less than the national average.
The BLS projects a 6 percent employment growth for all drafters through 2020. The numbers are even worse for architectural and civil drafters, with a job growth rate of just 3 percent. Both numbers are much slower than the job growth for all U.S. occupations, which is estimated at 14 percent. The reason for the lower than average job prospects has everything to do with the housing market, notes the BLS. With fewer construction jobs on the table, fewer drafters are needed to fill the demand. Those able to use newer technologies to draft projects will see the best opportunities for employment.
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.