Architectural draftsmen are responsible for creating the plans used to construct buildings ranging from modest residences to exotic skyscrapers. They typically operate from architectural drawings or models, specification sheets, material lists and engineering calculations. Although some drafters still use conventional tools, it is more common for them to use computer-aided drafting software, commonly called CAD, to execute their work.
Duties vary, according to experience, project type and employer. However, common duties typically begin with an analysis of local building codes, site limitations, space requirements and specifications. Drafters may need to coordinate with electrical, mechanical and structural engineers to decide on the best method for presenting plans. The next step is to create a rough plan, drawn to scale, that shows foundations, structures and other elements of the design. This is normally followed by a more detailed plan that includes interior walls, doors and windows. At times, drafters must travel to the job site to take measurements for their drawings. They may also act as the architect's representative on the site, coordinating design changes and ensuring that builders comply with design specifications. Drafters may prepare lists of materials needed for a project or specify certain procedural aspects.
Although no universal rule exists, most employers prefer candidates with a college degree. An associate's degree may be sufficient for some, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that architectural drafters often need a bachelor's degree. According to O*Net Online, 68 percent of the nation's architectural drafters held bachelor's degrees and 20 percent had earned master's degrees. Few universities offer a four-year degree in drafting, so many drafters obtain relevant degrees, such as a bachelor's degree in architecture, engineering or math. Courses typically include computer graphics and technology, mathematics, design and science.
Desired Skills and Qualities
Drafters need to be computer-literate, capable of operating CAD programs, entering data, preparing reports and setting up functions. The job involves creating detailed layouts of equipment and fixtures attached to the building. Mistakes can cause costly delays, so drafters need to be detail-oriented. They need critical-thinking skills to compare building codes and regulations to procedures and plans to avoid compliance issues. Drafters are often required to meet set deadlines, so they need to be effective time managers. They need good communication skills, as they often interact with clients, architects, engineers and other professionals.
The BLS projects a 6 percent growth rate for drafters through 2020, significantly lower than the national average of 14 percent for all occupations. Architectural drafters should experience a 3 percent growth in employment, or about 3,000 new jobs. Most of the growth in drafting jobs is expected to be in mechanical drafting, for which the BLS predicts an 11 percent increase.
The BLS' May 2012 report showed an average annual salary of $50,550 for architectural drafters. The best-paid 10 percent earned at least $74,040 per year. The best-paying states were Alaska, Rhode Island and California, with respective average salaries of $65,590, $59,090 and $57,180 per year.
- O*Net Online: Summary Report for Architectural Drafters
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Drafters Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Drafter
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 -- Architectural and Civil Drafters
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Drafters -- Job Outlook
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