Drafters use software to convert the designs of architects and engineers into technical drawings. Most workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.


Drafters typically do the following:

  • Design plans using computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • Work from rough sketches and specifications created by engineers and architects
  • Design products with engineering and manufacturing techniques
  • Add details to architectural plans from their knowledge of building techniques
  • Specify dimensions, materials, and procedures for new products
  • Work under the supervision of engineers or architects

Some drafters are referred to as CAD operators. Using CAD systems, drafters create and store technical drawings digitally. These drawings contain information on how to build a structure or machine, the dimensions of the project, and what materials are needed to complete the project.

Drafters work with CAD to create schematics that can be viewed, printed, or programmed directly into building information modeling (BIM) systems. These systems allow drafters, architects, construction managers, and engineers to create and collaborate on digital models of physical buildings and machines. Through three-dimensional rendering, BIM software allows designers and engineers to see how different elements in their projects work together.

The following are examples of types of drafters:

Architectural drafters draw structural features and details for buildings and other construction projects. These workers may specialize in a type of building, such as residential or commercial. They may also specialize by the materials used, such as steel, wood, or reinforced concrete.

Civil drafters prepare topographical maps used in construction and civil engineering projects, such as highways, bridges, and dams.

Electrical drafters prepare wiring diagrams that construction workers use to install and repair electrical equipment and wiring in power plants, electrical distribution systems, and residential and commercial buildings.

Electronics drafters produce wiring diagrams, assembly diagrams for circuit boards, and layout drawings used in manufacturing and in installing and repairing electronic devices and components.

Mechanical drafters prepare layouts that show the details for a variety of machinery and mechanical tools and devices, such as medical equipment. These layouts indicate dimensions, fastening methods, and other requirements for assembly. Mechanical drafters sometimes create production molds.

Drafters held about 199,900 jobs in 2018. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up drafters was distributed as follows:

Architectural and civil drafters 101,200
Mechanical drafters 58,000
Electrical and electronics drafters 25,600
Drafters, all other 15,000

The largest employers of drafters were as follows:

Architectural, engineering, and related services 49%
Manufacturing 25
Construction 10
Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services 4
Wholesale trade 2

Although drafters spend much of their time working on computers in an office, some may visit jobsites to collaborate with architects and engineers.

Work Schedules

Most drafters work full time. Some work more than 40 hours a week.

Drafters typically complete education after high school, often through a program at a community college or technical school. Some programs lead to an associate of applied science in drafting or a related degree. Others result in a certificate or diploma.


Drafters typically need an associate of applied science in drafting or a related degree from a community college or technical school. Some drafters prepare for the occupation by earning a certificate or diploma.

Programs in drafting may include instruction in design fundamentals, sketching, and computer-aided design (CAD) software. It generally takes about 2 years of full-time education to earn an associate’s degree. Certificate and diploma programs vary in length but usually may be completed in less time.

Students frequently specialize in a particular type of drafting, such as mechanical or architectural drafting.  

High school students may begin preparing by taking classes in mathematics, science, computer technology, design, computer graphics, and, where available, drafting.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The American Design Drafting AssociationOpens in a new tab. (ADDA) offers certification for drafters. Although not mandatory, certification demonstrates competence and knowledge of nationally recognized practices. Certifications are offered for several specialties, including architectural, civil, and mechanical drafting.

Important Qualities

Creativity. Drafters must be able to turn plans and ideas into technical drawings of buildings, tools, and systems.

Detail oriented. Drafters must take care that the plans they convert are technically accurate according to the outlined specifications.

Interpersonal skills. Drafters work closely with architects, engineers, and other designers to make sure that final plans are accurate. This requires the ability to communicate effectively and work well with others.

Math skills. Drafters work on technical drawings. They may be required to calculate angles, weights, costs, and other values.

Technical skills. Drafters in all specialties must be able to use computer software, such as CAD, and work with database tools, such as building information modeling (BIM).

Time-management skills. Drafters often work under deadline. As a result, they must work efficiently to produce the required output according to set schedules.

The median annual wage for drafters was $55,550 in May 2018.

The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $35,170, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $85,140.

Median annual wages for drafters in May 2018 were as follows:

Electrical and electronics drafters $60,070
Mechanical drafters 55,920
Architectural and civil drafters 54,920
Drafters, all other 51,850

In May 2018, the median annual wages for drafters in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services $56,930
Construction 56,310
Architectural, engineering, and related services 55,570
Manufacturing 54,320
Wholesale trade 53,820

Most drafters work full time. Some work more than 40 hours a week.


Median annual wages, May 2018

Drafters, engineering technicians, and mapping technicians




Total, all occupations



Overall employment of drafters is projected to show little or no change from 2018 to 2028. Employment growth will vary by specialty. (See table below.)

Growth in the engineering services and construction industries is expected to account for most new jobs for drafters. However, computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM) technologies allow engineers and architects to perform many tasks that used to be done by drafters, which is expected to temper demand for all drafters.

Job Prospects

Competition for drafting jobs is expected to be strong.

Demand for particular drafting specialties varies across the country because jobs depend on the needs of local industries. For example, job prospects for mechanical drafters should be best in large manufacturing hubs.

Because many drafting jobs are in construction and manufacturing, job opportunities for drafters will be sensitive to fluctuations in the overall economy.

Candidates proficient in CAD and BIM are likely to have better job opportunities.

Employment projections data for drafters, 2018-28
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program


17-3010 199,900 199,200 0 -700 Get data

Architectural and civil drafters

17-3011 101,200 103,000 2 1,800 Get data

Electrical and electronics drafters

17-3012 25,600 26,500 3 800 Get data

Mechanical drafters

17-3013 58,000 54,000 -7 -4,000 Get data

Drafters, all other

17-3019 15,000 15,700 4 700 Get data

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of drafters.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2018


Architects plan and design houses, factories, office buildings, and other structures.

Bachelor’s degree $79,380

Civil Engineering Technicians

Civil engineering technicians help civil engineers to plan, design, and build highways, bridges, and other infrastructure projects for commercial, industrial, residential, and land development projects.

Associate’s degree $52,580

Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians

Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and develop electrical and electronic equipment.

Associate’s degree $64,330

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment.

Bachelor’s degree $99,070

Industrial Designers

Industrial designers combine art, business, and engineering to develop the concepts for manufactured products.

Bachelor’s degree $66,590

Landscape Architects

Landscape architects design parks and other outdoor spaces.

Bachelor’s degree $68,230

Mechanical Engineering Technicians

Mechanical engineering technicians help mechanical engineers design, develop, test, and manufacture mechanical devices.

Associate’s degree $56,250

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices.

Bachelor’s degree $87,370

Surveying and Mapping Technicians

Surveying and mapping technicians collect data and make maps of the Earth’s surface.

High school diploma or equivalent $44,380


Surveyors make precise measurements to determine property boundaries.

Bachelor’s degree $62,580

For more information on schools offering programs in drafting and related fields, visit

Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and CollegesOpens in a new tab.  

For more information on certification, visit

American Design Drafting AssociationOpens in a new tab.

Related BLS Articles

Career Outlook: “You’re a what? CAD designer”


Architectural DraftersOpens in a new tab.

Architectural and Civil DraftersOpens in a new tab.

Civil DraftersOpens in a new tab.

Drafters, All OtherOpens in a new tab.

Electrical DraftersOpens in a new tab.

Electrical and Electronics DraftersOpens in a new tab.

Electronic DraftersOpens in a new tab.

Mechanical DraftersOpens in a new tab.

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Drafters,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/drafters.htm (visited ).


Tracey Lamphere

Tracey Lamphere, M.S. IMC is the editor of Job Affirmations, a publication that provides information and ideas to use mindfulness, positive affirmations, and visualizations to transform your career.

Recent Posts