California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Architectural and Civil Drafters in California

May also be called: Architectural Drafters; Civil Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Technicians; Civil Drafters; Computer-Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) Technicians; CAD Technicians; CAD Operators; Drafting Technicians; Drafting Technologists; Draftsmen; Draftspersons

What Would I Do?

Architectural and Civil Drafters make detailed drawings of architectural and structural features of buildings, foundations, landscapes, and other construction projects. They also produce drawings and topographical relief maps used in civil engineering projects, such as highways, bridges, and public works. Drafters use knowledge of building materials, engineering practices, and mathematics to complete drawings. They may work from existing drawings or may use rudimentary sketches, notes, or specification sheets.

They draw maps, diagrams, and profiles using cross-sections and surveys to represent elevations, topographical contours, subsurface formations, and structures. Drafters also draw interior room arrangements for residential and commercial projects.

Plans always need approval from clients, upper management, or building inspectors. Blueprints are almost always prepared, listing dimensions and detailing the arrangements of walls, fixtures, and other features of a project. In order to 'sell' the project design, drawings of buildings, landscapes, or interior designs may be made for presentation to clients. Sometimes wooden models or three-dimensional computer representations are made as well.

Drafters may also determine procedures and instructions to be followed according to design specifications and quantity of required materials. They may analyze technical implications of the architect's design concept, calculating weights, volumes, and stress factors. They may also supervise, coordinate, and inspect the work of draftspersons, technicians, and technologists.

Drafters increasingly use computer-aided drafting (CAD) or computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software to draw plans for various projects. They may also use conventional drafting equipment such as compasses, dividers, and protractors.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Produce drawings using computer-assisted drafting systems (CAD) or drafting machines, or by hand using compasses, dividers, protractors, triangles and other drafting devices.Design
Supervise, coordinate, and inspect the work of draftspersons, technicians, and technologists on construction projects.Active Listening
Obtain and assemble data to complete architectural designs, visiting job sites to compile measurements as necessary.Visualization
Operate computer-aided drafting (CAD) equipment or conventional drafting station to produce designs, working drawings, charts, forms and records.Computers and Electronics
Correlate, interpret, and modify data obtained from topographical surveys, well logs, and geophysical prospecting reports.Complex Problem Solving
Draw maps, diagrams, and profiles, using cross-sections and surveys, to represent elevations, topographical contours, subsurface formations and structures.Near Vision
Analyze building codes, by-laws, space and site requirements, and other technical documents and reports to determine their effect on architectural designs.Building and Construction
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Most Drafters work a standard 40-hour week; a smaller number work part-time. Sometimes, though, they will work longer hours or on weekends to complete rush jobs. Drafters usually work in comfortable offices furnished with fast computers, appropriate software, and other equipment needed to do the job. Sometimes, though, they may visit a job site to take measurements and to better understand the unique conditions that may cause alterations in a design.

They may sit at adjustable drawing boards or drafting tables when doing manual drawing. Today, though, most drafting work is done at computers using specialized software. Because they spend long periods in front of computers doing detailed work, Drafters may be susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems. Careful attention to the office environment can avoid most of these potential hazards.

Few Architectural and Civil Drafters are members of labor organizations.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The occupation of Architectural and Civil Drafters will appeal to those who like activities involving practical, hands-on problems and solutions. It will appeal to those who like working independently.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages

The median wage in 2016 for Architectural and Civil Drafters in California is $57,451 annually, or $27.61 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$45,429$57,451$70,842
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Benefits offered by employers vary, with large employers generally offering a more comprehensive benefit package. These often include sick leave, vacation, health insurance, and retirement plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

Employment should decline slightly in this occupation over the forecast period. However, the need to replace those retiring or otherwise leaving the occupation will mean that job opportunities for Drafters are good.

Drafters are beginning to do work traditionally performed by engineers and architects, thus slowing job losses for these workers. The increasing use of design software means each Drafter can be more productive, reducing the need for additional workers. In addition, since some drafting work can be done in other locations using the Internet to send CAD/CADD files internationally, the off-shoring of some drafting jobs will also help blunt growth in the occupation.

Opportunities should be best for individuals with at least two years of postsecondary training in a drafting program that provides strong technical skills as well as considerable experience with CAD/CADD systems. Design software has increased the complexity of drafting applications while enhancing the productivity of Drafters. It also has enhanced the nature of drafting by creating more possibilities for design and drafting. As technology advances, employers will look for Drafters with a strong background in fundamental drafting principles, a high level of technical competence, and the ability to apply their knowledge to a broad range of design challenges.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Architectural and Civil Drafters is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Architectural and Civil Drafters are expected to increase by 1.4 percent, or 200 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Architectural and Civil Drafters
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2014-2024)
13,90014,1002001.41,700
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 20 new job openings per year is expected for Architectural and Civil Drafters, plus an additional 170 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 180 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Architectural and Civil Drafters
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2014-2024)
20170180
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Employers prefer applicants who have completed training in drafting, offered by technical institutes, community colleges, and some four-year colleges. Employers are most interested in applicants with well-developed drafting and mechanical drawing skills; knowledge of drafting standards, mathematics, science, and engineering technology; and a solid background in CAD/CADD techniques. In addition, communication and problem-solving skills are important.

Courses in engineering, architecture, and mathematics are useful in obtaining a job as a Drafter. Technical training obtained in the Armed Forces also can be applied in civilian drafting jobs.

Experience

In general, employers are more likely to hire Drafters who have had experience. Employees in these occupations usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers.

Early Career Planning

Individuals planning careers in drafting should take courses in mathematics, science, computer technology, design, and computer graphics, as well as any high school drafting courses available. Regional Occupation Programs (ROP) training may be available in drafting. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Work Study Programs

Drafting schools may assist students in obtaining work study experience. Part-time or summer employment with a firm in the industry can be valuable in getting the student into a good position.

Continuing Education

While there are no requirements for the Drafter to complete continuing education courses, it is important for the Drafter to keep up with technological and other changes in the field.

Licensing and Certification

Architectural and Civil Drafters do not need to be licensed in California.

The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) has established a certification program for Drafters. Some employers prefer applicants who are certified.

Certification demonstrates an understanding of nationally recognized practices and standards of knowledge. Individuals who wish to become certified must pass the Drafter Certification Test, which is administered periodically at ADDA-authorized sites. Applicants are tested on their knowledge and understanding of basic drafting concepts, such as geometric construction, working drawings, and architectural terms and standards. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Drafter; Drafting; Computer-Assisted Design; Computer-Assisted Drafting and Design.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Architectural and Civil Drafters are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Architectural and Engineering Services 74.2%
Building Equipment Contractors 3.5%
Local Government 3.2%
Management & Technical Consulting Svc 2.1%
Nonresidential Building Construction 2.1%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct contact with employers is one of the best ways to locate a job in this field. Colleges or technical schools may offer career placement services. Those already working in the industry may recommend an interested candidate for jobs. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet provide additional sources for job listings.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Architectural and Civil Drafters.

  • Architects
  • Building Contractors, Commercial
  • Building Contractors, Residential
  • Building Designers
  • Civil Engineers
  • Drafting Services
  • Home Design and Planning
  • Restaurant Design and Planning
  • Store Designers and Planners

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Entry-level or junior Drafters usually do routine work under close supervision. After gaining experience, they may become intermediate Drafters and progress to more difficult work with less supervision. At the intermediate level, they may need to exercise more judgment and perform calculations when preparing and modifying drawings. Drafters may eventually advance to senior Drafter, designer, or supervisor. Many employers pay for additional education, and, with the appropriate college degree, Drafters may go on to become engineering technicians, engineers, or architects.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Architectural and Civil Drafters with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Civil Engineering TechniciansProfile
Commercial and Industrial DesignersProfile
Mechanical DraftersProfile
Set and Exhibit DesignersProfile
Surveying and Mapping TechniciansProfile

Other Sources

  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology
         www.accsct.org
  • American Design Drafting Association
         www.adda.org
  • Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture
         www.acadia.org

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification17-3011
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Architectural Drafters17-3011.01
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)ARI
   Civil Drafters17-3011.02
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RCI
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Architectural Technology/Technician 040901
   Drafting and Design Technology/Technician, General 151301
   Architectural Drafting and Architectural CAD/CADD 151303
   Civil Drafting and Civil Engineering CAD/CADD 151304
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Architecture and Architectural Technology020100
   Drafting Technology095300
   Architectural Drafting095310
   Civil Drafting095320