Don’t assume that your artistic eye only qualifies you for art employment, while your technical bent only allows careers in science and technology. A job as a drafter combines both visual creativity and technical acumen as you develop plans and three-dimensional models on computers. An added bonus for the profession is its relatively short training period.
Start with a careful eye and attention to detail to succeed as a drafter. You have to remember all the specifications that go into what you’re drawing, so workers can follow your plan precisely. You have to contend with deadlines on completing projects, so you better be able to manage your time wisely. Use critical thinking to analyze projects and find potential problems and technical skills to handle computer software and hardware. You typically work in a team with engineers, architects, production personnel and other drafters. For these collaborations, your interpersonal skills and ability to communicate will come in handy.
Higher-level professionals like managers, engineers and architects determine your tasks by giving you thoughts, ideas and written specifications for their creations. It’s your job to translate these wishes into solid technical drawings that manufacturing and construction staff can understand. Change is part of your job description because when you send your plans for review, they’ll come back with the red marks of modification. Your job requires expertise in software for computer-aided design, building information modeling and product data management.
Nearly any item produced in a factory or built on a site requires a plan or technical drawing. To develop the depth required for your profession, you often specialize in a particular field, which becomes part of your job title. Aeronautical drafters focus on things that fly, such as combat jets, passenger helicopters and cruise missiles. If you’re interested in skyscrapers, homes and other private construction projects, then become an architectural specialist. If you’d rather concentrate on public constructions, such as highways and airports, then civil drafting can be your specialty. Electrical drafters work with electrical equipment, while mechanical drafters handle machinery and mechanical devices.
You need at least an associate degree in drafting from a community college or technical institute, although some specialties, such as architecture, may demand a bachelor’s degree. Santa Barbara Community College, in California, offers an example of an educational program with its associate degree, which takes two years to complete. It demands general education courses in English, social science, oral communications and math, before continuing with core courses in computer-assisted drafting and design. Students can then choose specialties in architecture, landscaping, visual effects, animation and electronics. An internship provides practical experience in the real world.
- John Rowley/Digital Vision/Getty Images