It’s still a man’s world in many occupations – and the architectural field is one of them. According to a September 2012 article in “Architect,” only 16 percent of the membership of the American Institute of Architecture is female. It’s a little better in the drafting profession -- the U.S. Department of Labor notes that almost 25 percent of drafters are female. Don’t let the numbers discourage you, though, as both careers have potential.
The term “draftsman” has given way to the more gender-neutral “drafters” in most cases, but the work is the same. Drafters create the technical drawings, such as blueprints, that workers use to build things. It’s no longer a pencil and triangle world, as drafters use computerized software programs such as CADD -- computer-aided design and drafting. Although drafters may work as part of a design team, much of their hands-on work is done on their own.
Although you probably know that architects design and remodel buildings, you might not realize they’re also project managers who supervise construction as well. Many architects handle the full project, from conception of a building through the various stages of planning, design and revision, ordering supplies and materials and supervising the actual work to be sure everything is done correctly and according to building codes or other regulations. Architects must be licensed in all states, and once you have that license, you may need to complete continuing education to stay licensed, depending on the state.
Most drafters have an associate's degree, although if you want to specialize in architecture, a bachelor’s degree in engineering, architecture or math may take you further. An architect must have either a specialized five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree or a master’s degree and three years of hands-on training. Drafting isn’t a big field, nor is major job growth expected, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth rate of 6 percent through 2020. There are only about half as many architects in the U.S. as there are drafters, according to the BLS. The BLS says there’s more potential for job growth in architecture than in drafting; the projected growth rate is 24 percent through 2020.
Members of both of these occupations are found primarily in architectural and engineering services. A certificate from the American Design Drafting Association is a nice credential to have in your pocket. Although it’s not required, it shows you’ve got the necessary knowledge as a drafter. Certification is optional for an architect, but if you want to work in more than one state, it makes it easier to get a license in multiple states. In either occupation, there may be down times, so save your pennies to help you weather them.
Making Your Choice
In making a choice between the two careers, consider your personal preferences and skills. As a drafter, you’ll spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen, but if you like turning simple models into detailed renderings and enjoy using complicated computer software, drafting should be a good fit. If you choose drafting, sharpen your skills with the newer software, as that may give you a competitive advantage. Although it takes more time and education, if you like working with people, running the show and handling lots of details, architecture may be the career for you.
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