CAD Drafter Salary – How Much Do They Make?

Cad drafter salary, how much they make, pink yellow green graphics

If you have an eye for detail and love working with design software but you do not want to pursue a four-year degree course, you could earn a decent CAD Drafter Salary by pursuing a career in CAD drafting. Besides rescuing you from the rigorous four to five years college/university education program, you also get to start earning a decent CAD drafter salary in a short time.

In this article, we shall look at what a CAD drafter does, how to become a CAD drafter, the difference between a CAD drafter and a CAD designer, and the CAD drafter salary in various parts of the world.

What Does a CAD Drafter Do?

CAD drafters use design software to convert the design sketches created by architects and engineers into technical drawings. These technical drawings are very detailed since they are the ones that are used in manufacturing the final products or building the final structures. They specify the materials, dimensions, production methods, and codes required in the manufacturing or building process.

Sample of a mechanical technical drawing

Figure 1. Sample of a Mechanical Technical Drawing (Source)

There are Different Categories of CAD Drafters Depending on the Area of Specialization. These include:

  • Mechanical CAD Drafters – make technical drawings that specify the requirements required for machining and assembling mechanical components.
  • Architectural CAD Drafters – make technical drawings of structural designs for buildings.
  • Civil CAD Drafters – prepare topographical maps for infrastructure projects like highways, bridges, piping systems, and the like.
  • Electrical CAD Drafters – make technical drawings of wiring diagrams for construction work (including commercial and residential buildings), electrical equipment, and power plants.
  • Electronics CAD Drafter – make technical drawings of wiring diagrams for circuit boards including assembly diagrams for circuit boards.

A CAD drafter works full time in an office though sometimes he/she may be required to visit sights to clarify certain things included on the technical drawing. But most of a CAD drafter’s job includes producing technical drawings, adjusting the drawings, responding to feedback from construction workers and machinists, and collaborating with architects and engineers.

How to Become a CAD Drafter

There are two paths that one can take to become a CAD drafter or CAD technician. However, for one to get to the part of choosing to become a CAD drafter, they must have finished high school or gotten their GED. It would be an added advantage if someone has taken science, math, and engineering classes.

With the above qualifications, one can either opt to undergo a two-year associate’s degree at a community or technical college or choose to CAD career path without having to go through an associate degree. 

If one chooses to take an associate degree course, they should select a course that includes science, math, design, and drawing. They could also pursue a software certification credential like those offered by the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA).

If one chooses not to take an associate degree but still pursue a CAD drafter career, they will have to have gained CAD experience in high school and also participated in extracurricular activities like FIRST robotics, for them to qualify for a CAD apprenticeship with a company or organization. When one gets an apprenticeship chance at a certain company or organization, they are most likely to know only what is required in that company or organization. Therefore, it might take some time for someone who chose this path to fully understand all that is required in the CAD drafter career.

The Difference Between a CAD Drafter and a CAD Designer

Though often confused to mean the same, a CAD drafter or CAD technician is very different from a CAD designer. CAD designers are specialists while CAD drafters or CAD technicians are generalists.

In a nutshell, a CAD drafter produces technical drawings using sketches provided to him/her by engineers or architectures. These technical drawings serve as visual guidelines for machinists or constructors by leveraging the different features of CAD software. 

On the other hand, CAD designers are CAD specialists that have broad knowledge in particular subjects like circuit layout, architecture, mechanical systems, and the like.

If you did not take an associate degree when pursuing your CAD career, you will most likely have to become a CAD drafter before becoming a CAD designer. But if you hold a degree in a certain professional field besides your CAD drafting knowledge, then you can become a CAD designer straight away.

CAD Drafter Salary in the USA

Here is a quick breakdown of how the average CAD drafter salary compares to that of the other related careers:

  • Civil/Architectural CAD Drafter: $50,710/year
  • Mechanical CAD Drafter: $53,520/year
  • Electrical/Electronic CAD Drafter: $59,520/year
  • CAD Designer: $60,000/year
  • Architect: $70,000/year
  • Engineer: $80,000/year

The CAD drafter salary is however depend on several factors, which include:

  1. Qualifications – the higher the qualification the higher the pay. A CAD drafter with a master’s degree will earn more than a CAD drafter with a bachelor’s degree. Similarly, someone with a bachelor’s degree will earn more than someone that just went for an apprenticeship.
  2. Certifications and Licenses – someone with relevant industry credentials earns a higher salary since it shows he or she is qualified.
  3. Length of Your Career – A beginner will certainly earn less than someone who has practiced CAD drafting for over 5 years and so on.
  4. Location – Different states and cities pay differently depending on the cost of living in the states.
Average cad drafter salary per year in different states in the us

Figure 2. Average CAD Drafter Salary Per Year in the Different States in the US (Source)

   v. Industry – some industries, especially in the metal ore mining industry, tend to pay more.

Below is a list of some of the companies in the US where CAD drafters are paid highest:

  • Leidos – $27.93 per hour
  • Coffman Engineers – $25.04 per hour
  • SmartTalent – $25 per hour
  • Graham & Associates – $24.95per hour
  • Ettain Group – $24.88 per hour

Other Benefits That CAD Drafters Get on Top of Their Salaries

Besides the CAD drafter salary, CAD drafters also get the following benefits:

  • Health Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Dental Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • Vision Insurance
  • Paid Time Off
  • Employee Stock Ownership Plan
  • Flexible Schedule
  • Professional Development Assistance
  • Referral Program


Looking at the above breakdown of CAD drafter salary, a CAD drafter career can be quite rewarding. 

The beauty of it is that one does not have to have a bachelor’s or Master’s degree to qualify as a CAD drafter. As we have seen in the above section, someone can opt for an apprenticeship route to becoming a CAD drafter, which would not only save time and money and ensure that he/she starts earning quite quickly.

According to research by Indeed, 48% of CAD drafters in the US say that their salaries are enough to take care of the cost of living where they live.

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