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AutoCAD Careers – Everything You Need To Know

AutoCAD Careers

AutoCAD is an integral part of the CAD industry—not just as a piece of software, but also as a necessary skill across many industries. Whether it’s drafting or engineering, you won’t be able to go very far without having the necessary AutoCAD skills. So what type of AutoCAD careers are out there? And what qualifications are needed? Scan2CAD has all of the answers for you! 

Check out our handy guide for an overview of AutoCAD careers and all the statistics you need to know—salaries, job growth and even pros and cons. Scan2CAD has it all! 


Table of Contents


AutoCAD Jobs

Autodesk's AutoCAD logo

As we’ve already mentioned, AutoCAD is used across various industries, which is why it’s a prerequisite skill for many potential jobs. In fact, some sectors will have it as part of the potential job title, e.g. ‘AutoCAD Electrical Drafter’. Although there are many AutoCAD career options out there, we’re going to concentrate on four main groups: 


Drafting

Image of drafting toolsDrafters use software like AutoCAD to convert the designs of engineers or architects into technical drawings and blueprints. These drawings will be used to create structures, tools or machines. The designs also include specifications like dimensions, materials and procedures.

Software like AutoCAD has become a necessity in this career sector, as it enables people to create designs that can be reworked and modified. Unlike a real-world prototype, an AutoCAD prototype can be improved until it functions perfectly. This same software can also be used to simulate how well a prototype will function under stress or high-pressure. And with AutoCAD’s extensive libraries and templates, the possibilities have, consequently, become endless. 

Mechanical Drafter

Average Salary: $53,520 (Calculated May 2015)

Mechanical drafters are responsible for creating technical drawings for machinery or mechanical devices, often including factors like dimension or fastening methods. These drawings will then be used for the assembly or construction of the machines or mechanical devices. These drafters are also responsible for analyzing factors like weight, volume and dimensions—advising engineers when any corrections need to be made. 

AutoCAD is useful for running simulations of designs—allowing drafters to review them for manufacturability and functionality, and make relevant modifications.

Electrical Drafter 

Average Salary: $59,520

Electrical drafters prepare technical plans for the manufacturing, installation or repair of wiring systems. They analyze information given to them by engineers, and apply their knowledge to create specifications that include factors like dimension and installation procedures. This type of drafting can be used in a variety of locations, including homes, power plants and communication hubs. 

AutoCAD’s library of electrical symbols enables these drafters to create detailed electrical plans, and even estimated material costs. 

Architectural Drafter

Average Salary: $50,710

Architectural drafters produce blueprints and drawings for foundations, buildings and structures. These designs are used in the construction or remodeling of homes, commercial buildings and power stations, for example. These drafters will work with both exterior and interior structures—taking into consideration factors like weight, volume and stress when creating their designs.

AutoCAD enables architectural drafters to draw elements with real-world behavior—with an extensive library of components to create floor plans and 3D renderings. 

Civil Drafter

Average Salary: $50,710

Civil drafters produce drawings for structures, installations and construction projects like water systems, roads, bridges and flood control projects. These drawings also include topographical maps and diagrams to represent elevation. Civil drafters are responsible for reviewing designs produced by civil engineers to ensure they conform to design concepts. They also determine the quality or cost of materials used, and calculate the weight, volume and stress of their designs. 

Screenshot of AutoCAD 2013 mechanical drafting

Image source: gbccadd.com


Engineering

Engineers use software like AutoCAD to produce designs and specifications for the manufacturing or modification of mechanical components or systems. AutoCAD enables them to design these parts, and run simulations—testing factors like stress endurance to see how well these designs will function in high-pressure situations. It’s also useful for running cost estimates and checking factors like dimension, volume or weight. 

Mechanical Engineer

Average Salary: $83,590

Mechanical engineers design, develop and test mechanical devices such as tools, engines and machines. They design machines and processes to solve practical problems—this could range from aircraft, to hydraulic systems, to computer circuits. These engineers will develop their designs, and test the prototypes—analyzing the results and making changes where required.

Civil Engineer

Average Salary: $82,220

Civil engineers design and plan for the construction of building structures and systems in the public and private sector. They also design or plan for infrastructure like roads, railways, airports and irrigation projects. They develop detailed plans for these projects, taking into consideration risk assessment, cost estimates and environmental hazards.

Industrial Engineer

Average Salary: $83,470

Industrial engineers focus primarily on efficiency—looking at the ways they can eliminate wastefulness in production processes. They review the basic factors of production like people and machines, to make a product in the most cost-effective way possible. These engineers also look at ways to make financial planning and cost analysis more efficient.

AutoCAD can help engineers determine sources of malfunctions through simulations so they can make any necessary changes.

screenshot of AutoCAD 2013 engineering drawing

Image source: sabeercad


Architecture

Software like AutoCAD is very popular in the field of architecture. It can be used to create detailed floor plans and 3D renderings of structures. Furthermore, architects can use the software to analyze a building’s components, or to calculate the load levels of support structures. 

Architect

Average Salary: $76,100

Architects plan and design structures ranging from residential homes, to commercial developments, to office buildings. When they create their designs, they need to take into consideration the materials required, the equipment, the cost, and the construction time. They design structure specifications while taking note of changes or advice from drafters—even visiting the site to ensure that their planned structure will adhere to building regulations. 

AutoCAD can help architects test their structure’s capacity and strength before they produce the real-world structure. It enables them to make constant modifications until the structure is ‘perfect’. 

Screenshot of AutoCAD 2013 architectural drawing

Image source: sabeercad


Design

Designers, like architects, can create 2D models and 3D renderings of their design by making use of the extensive libraries and templates that AutoCAD has to offer. These designs can even include aspects like surface features (windows, doors) and interior features (furniture, color scheme). 

Interior Designer

Average Salary: $48,840

Interior designers create safe and functional spaces that are also aesthetically pleasing—according to their clients’ needs. They might work on anything from offices, to hotel lobbies, to homes. Their designs will include aspects like color schemes, furnishing styles and even the placement of items. They may even include electrical plans with their designs for construction and installation.

AutoCAD enables interior designers to create detailed images of interior spaces that can then be presented as design concepts to potential clients.

Industrial Designer

Average Salary: $67,130

Industrial designers create concepts and designs for manufactured products, e.g. cars, toys and home appliances. These designers want their finished products to be both attractive and functional. Their design specifications will usually include both a parts list and an estimated cost.

Industrial designers can use AutoCAD to create their first prototype, where it will then be tested on functionality—allowing designers to make the most cost-effective product they can. Once the prototype is fully functional, the project will finally move to the engineering department for manufacturing. 

Screenshot of AutoCAD 2013 interior design drawing

Image source: milestone.ac.in


Qualifications

What Qualifications Are There?

How to Become a Drafter

Education

To become a drafter, you need to complete a 2-year associate’s degree in drafting. This can be undertaken at a technical institute, where you will learn sketching, CAD and overall design fundamentals. The courses available vary depending on which institution you choose—some may only specialize in a particular field of drafting such as electrical drafting.

To prepare for this education, potential drafters in high school might want to consider classes involving mathematics, science, computer technology and drafting.

Once the associate’s degree is complete, graduates may either go straight into a job, or continue their education in a 4-year course at college or university for a bachelor’s degree. Most colleges don’t offer specific courses for drafting, but it is possible to take classes in engineering, mathematics or architecture—all of which will further your skills in drafting. Typical courses in this program include mathematics, algebra, physics and engineering. Drafters will also need to have a strong knowledge and experience with CAD/CADD technology.

It’s possible to go on to attain a master’s degree, which could be beneficial—it might make you stand out to potential employers.

Licenses

Licenses aren’t mandatory for drafters, however the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) does offer certification. ADDA certification is valuable in that it highlights your competence and knowledge of drafting. These certifications can be offered in a variety of drafting specialties like mechanical, civil, architectural or electrical drafting.

How to Become an Engineer

Mechanical Engineer

To become a mechanical engineer, you need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. Mechanical engineering programs include courses in mathematics, life and physical sciences, and engineering and design. Mechanical engineering technology focuses less on theory and more on practical application. Some colleges or universities allow students to obtain a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in a 5 year program. 

Civil Engineer

To become a civil engineer, you need a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or in civil engineering technology. The program includes courses in mathematics, statistics, engineering mechanics and fluid dynamics. Around 1 in 4 civil engineers have a master’s degree—so further education is a desirable qualification in this field. 

Industrial Engineer

To become an industrial engineer, you need a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering or in a different field of engineering like mechanical or electrical. The program typically involves courses in statistics, production systems planning, and manufacturing systems design. As with mechanical engineering, it is possible to get a bachelor’s and master’s degree in a 5 year program.

Licenses

In the field of engineering, it isn’t compulsory to obtain a license—at least, for entry-level job positions. If you’re interested in going for management roles or higher, you will often be required to obtain a Professional Engineering (PE) license which allows for higher levels of leadership. 

To obtain a PE license, candidates have to complete the following steps: 

  • Earn a degree from an accredited ABET engineering program
  • Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Complete 4 years of work experience under a PE
  • Pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam

How to Become an Architect

To become an architect, you first need a bachelor’s degree in architecture. These programs can be 5 years for those with no training, and a master’s degree can take 1 to 5 years more in addition. This program usually involves courses in architectural history and theory, building design with an emphasis on CAD and CADD, and construction methods. The second step to becoming an architect is to gain at least 3 years of experience in a paid internship. 

Licenses

The last step to becoming an architect is sitting for the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). All architects need to be licensed, so this is compulsory. A growing number of architects also seek further certification from NCARB, as it can make it easier to become licensed across certain states. 

How to Become a Designer

Interior Designer

To become an interior designer, you need a bachelor’s degree in interior design, or in another field with classes in interior design, drawing and CAD. The candidate needs to choose their college/school carefully to ensure they can take relevant courses to becoming an interior designer. Applicants may also be required to submit sketches or other examples showing artistic ability in order to gain admission into interior design programs. 

Licenses

Licensing can vary with interior design. In some states you can only use the title ‘Interior Designer’ if you’ve passed a state-approved exam like the NCIDQ. To be eligible for this particular exam, applicants need to have a bachelor’s degree in interior design and 2 years worth of experience. There’s also the opportunity for voluntary certification, which allows designers to demonstrate their own level of expertise in a certain are of interior design.

Industrial Designer

To become an industrial designer, you need a bachelor’s degree in industrial design, architecture or engineering. The program often includes courses like drawing, CAD and CADD, 3D modeling and industrial materials. It’s also important for applicants to build up an electronic portfolio over the years with their best design projects. 

Licenses

Industrial designers don’t need to have a license or certification. However, some designers do opt to continue their education by completing a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) degree which can help them further their skills, e.g. by understanding how to fit their designs to meet cost limitations. 


Essential Statistics and Job Information

To make things easier for you, we’ve put together a table summarizing all of the essential statistics and information that you might want to know about AutoCAD careers. We’ve included the median annual salary, the required qualifications and any necessary licenses. We’ve even added the projected job growth percentage for the next 10 years so you can see what your opportunities might be like in the future. 


Career

Median Annual Wage

Required Education for Entry-Level Position


License/Certification

Projected Job Growth 2014-2024 

Mechanical Drafter $53,520 Associate’s Degree/Bachelor’s Degree ADDA optional -7%
Architectural/Civil Drafter $50,710 Associate’s Degree/Bachelor’s Degree ADDA optional -3%
Electrical Drafter $59,520 Associate’s Degree/Bachelor’s Degree ADDA optional 5%
Mechanical Engineer $83,590 Bachelor’s Degree PE License for career advancement 5%
Civil Engineer $82,220 Bachelor’s Degree PE License for career advancement 8%
Industrial Engineer $83,470 Bachelor’s Degree PE License for career advancement 1%
Architect $76,100 Bachelor’s Degree 3 years experience & ARE qualified 7%
Interior Designer $48,840 Bachelor’s Degree NCIDQ optional & 2 years experience 4%
Industrial Designer $67,130 Bachelor’s Degree Not needed 2%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Pros & Cons of AutoCAD Careers

Thinking of taking a career in AutoCAD? Check out the pros and cons below, to see if an AutoCAD career really is the right fit for you…

Pros

plus-sign Industries across all sectors require AutoCAD experts or technicians.

plus-sign Some AutoCAD jobs only require an associate’s degree, which can be completed in 2 years.

plus-sign Some AutoCAD jobs can be done remotely.

plus-sign A 40-hour week can be the norm for AutoCAD technicians.

plus-sign There’s always room for career advancement.

Cons

minus-sign Jobs involving CAD/CADD involve files that can be sent online. So these jobs can therefore be outsourced to other countries where employers can pay lower wages. 

minus-sign Jobs like drafting can be tied to the economy, so during recessions many can be laid off.

minus-sign Some AutoCAD jobs require further education for career advancement, which can be timely and costly.

minus-sign Job growth is dependent on which field you’re working in, as seen in the table above. 

minus-sign Some AutoCAD careers like drafting can cause eyestrain and wrist discomfort after a prolonged time period. 

Obviously, the pros and cons are all dependent upon which career path you take. Typically, engineers will be able to reap more benefits than drafters—although this is due to factors like higher qualifications and so forth. It’s up to you to research into your chosen area, to see if it really is the right fit for you.


Where to Find AutoCAD Jobs…

As with most job-searching, you can look for AutoCAD jobs on any online job database. To make things easier for you, we’ve put together a list of our top 5 job sites for you to use:

1. Indeed
2. Career Builder
3. Career Jet
4. Search American Jobs
5. Monster

Once you’ve picked a job site from the list above, you can start your job search. It’s quite simple really—type in your relevant keyword, e.g. ‘AutoCAD‘ or ‘Drafting‘, and you’ll be given a list of all the relevant jobs out there.

Of course, you can then refine your search by location, salary, job type and even experience level. It takes just minutes to find a job relevant for you—take a look at our GIF below if you don’t believe us! You could have a job to apply for in minutes!

GIF of searching for AutoCAD jobs on indeed.com

These job sites are just the tip of the iceberg—it’s possible to search with other resources, as the sites listed above were just our top picks. Don’t forget to take your time to research each job, and make sure that if you apply for a job, you’ve got the necessary qualifications or credentials. There are plenty of AutoCAD career opportunities out there—so don’t rush.


Conclusion

So, as you can see, there are many AutoCAD career options available across the drafting, engineering, architecture and design sectors. The success and growth of your AutoCAD career however, ultimately depends on how much you’re willing to do in regards to your education, and which sector you’re interested in specializing in.

While it’s plain to see that some careers will see better job growth than others, e.g. civil engineers at 8%, it’s still obvious that there’s plenty of opportunity. If you really are interested in pursuing an AutoCAD career, it’s vital that you do your research—check out our essential statistics and information, and don’t forget to look into possible schools or colleges for any necessary courses or qualifications. 

Despite the many difficulties with the unsteady job market and economy, one thing still remains clear—AutoCAD careers are expanding and increasing with each year that goes by. As the AutoCAD software evolves, so too does the AutoCAD job market. 

Alternatively if you’re more interested in freelance work, you should take a look at Freelance CAD — Everything You Need To Know

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2 Responses to AutoCAD Careers – Everything You Need To Know

  1. Mark Sadler Dec 20, 2016 at 3:21 AM #

    Bethany,
    Nice article, should be helpful for those entering the field.

    I suggest adding links to share your articles on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

    Great job!
    Mark Sadler

    • luke
      Luke Kennedy Dec 21, 2016 at 4:54 PM #

      Thanks for the kind words, Mark!

      Hope to see you around the Scan2CAD community again!

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