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Drafters - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
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 continuing education; with appropriate college degrees, drafters may go on to become engineering technicians, engineers, or architects.

Drafters held about 251,900 jobs in 2008. Architectural and civil drafters held 47 percent of these jobs, mechanical drafters held about 31 percent, and electrical and electronics drafters held about 13 percent.

About 52 percent of all jobs for drafters were in architectural, engineering, and related services firms that design construction projects or do other engineering work on a contract basis for other industries. Another 24 percent of jobs were in manufacturing industries such as machinery, fabricated metal products, computer and electronic products, and transportation-equipment manufacturing. Approximately 3 percent of drafters were self-employed in 2008.

Job Outlook
Drafters can expect slower than average employment growth, with the best opportunities expected for those with at least 2 years of postsecondary training.

Job Growth
Employment of drafters is expected to grow by 4 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is slower than the average for all occupations. However, growth will vary by specialty.

Architectural and civil drafting is expected to be the fastest growing specialty, increasing by 9 percent, which is about as fast as the average. Increases in overall construction activity stemming from U.S. population growth and the related need to improve the Nationís infrastructure should spur demand for drafters trained in architectural and civil design.

In contrast to employment of architectural and civil drafters, little or no change in employment is expected of mechanical drafters and of electronic and electrical drafters. Many of these workers are concentrated in slow-growing or declining manufacturing industries that offer few opportunities for growth related to expansion. However, increasingly complex design problems associated with new products and manufacturing processes will increase the demand for mechanical drafters and electronic and electrical drafters employed in engineering and drafting services firms that will be charged with finding solutions to these problems.

Across all specialties, CADD systems that are more powerful and easier to use will allow many tasks to be done by other technical professionals, thus curbing demand for drafters. Job growth also should be slowed as some drafting work, which can be done by sending CADD files over the Internet, is outsourced offshore to countries that pay lower wages.

Opportunities should be best for individuals with at least 2 years of postsecondary training in a drafting program that provides strong technical skills and considerable experience with CADD systems. CADD 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 continues to advance, employers will look for drafters with a strong background in fundamental drafting principles, a high level of technical sophistication, and the ability to apply their knowledge to a broader range of responsibilities. Most job openings are expected to arise from the need to replace drafters who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force completely.

Employment of drafters remains tied to industries that are sensitive to cyclical changes in the economy, primarily construction and manufacturing. During recessions, drafters may be laid off. However, a growing number of drafters should continue to find employment on a temporary or contract basis as more companies turn to the employment services industry to meet their changing needs.

Demand for particular drafting specialties varies throughout the country because employment usually is contingent on the needs of local industry.

Drafters' earnings vary by specialty, location, and level of responsibility. Median annual wages of architectural and civil drafters were $44,490 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $35,290 and $55,740. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,220, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $67,110. Median annual wages for architectural and civil drafters in architectural, engineering, and related services were $44,390.

Median annual wages of mechanical drafters were $46,640 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $36,490 and $59,010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,390, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $71,340. Median annual wages for mechanical drafters in architectural, engineering, and related services were $47,630.

Median annual wages of electrical and electronics drafters were $51,320 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $40,210 and $65,400. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,050, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,790. In architectural, engineering, and related services, median annual wages for electrical and electronics drafters were $47,910.

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