How exactly to Launch Your CAD Career Without a Four-Year Degree


Many students aren’t aware that they can take up a great career out of high school.

When you have an eye for detail, you want to be employed in design software, and you never wish to pursue a four-year degree, a career in computer-aided design (CAD) might be a great move for you. Not only can you avoid spending money on a four-year college education, but you can also begin earning an excellent salary quickly.

What does a CAD drafter do?

Using computer-aided design software, CAD drafters convert the designs created by engineers and architects into technical drawings. These technical drawings are then used to construct structures and manufacture products. The drawings are detailed, specifying dimensions, codes, materials, and production methods.

In many cases, CAD drafters choose one of many following specialties:

  • Architectural drafters prepare structural designs for new buildings, specifying building types, materials used, and structural features.
  • Civil drafters create topographical maps for infrastructure projects like bridges, highways, flood-control projects, and piping systems.
  • Mechanical drafters prepare designs that indicate dimensions, fastening methods, and other requirements necessary for machinery and mechanical device assembly.

Electrical drafters produce 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.

How can I develop into a CAD drafter?

You will find two general CAD career paths you can follow to become a drafter. To get started, you need to finish senior school or get your GED, which can help when taking higher-level math, science, and engineering classes. Many CAD drafters then opt to have their two-year associate’s degree at a specialized or community college, with coursework including math, science, drawing, and design. During this time, it’s also advantageous to pursue a computer software certification or perhaps a professional credential, like those provided by the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA).

What’s the difference between a CAD drafter and a CAD designer?

The terms “CAD technician” and “CAD drafter” are two names for the same role, but CAD designers do vary from drafters/to technicians. When determining what CAD career you’d like to pursue, a good way to view it is to consider CAD drafters as generalists and CAD designers as specialists.

CAD drafters produce schemas and technical drawings that are visual guidelines to detail the proper dimensions, procedures, and materials for making an object. They leverage CAD software and are in charge of making corrections to drawings that were reviewed by the style professional. CAD drafters might also print and collate all drawings.


CAD designers are far more specifically skilled drafters. They could have extensive knowledge in finite subjects like mechanical systems, circuit layout, electrical lighting, or architecture. Sometimes known as a “CAD coordinator,” CAD designers can understand the codes and regulations their designs must comply with. They often coordinate drawing sets to ensure all the data is correct.

Just how much do CAD jobs pay?

If you’re enthusiastic about a CAD career, here’s a quick breakdown of the typical annual salary for every single high-level CAD career (Scan2CAD):

  • CAD drafter: $50,000
  • CAD designer: $60,000+
  • Architect: $70,000+
  • CAD engineer: $80,000-$90,000

These average salaries are heavily impacted by a few key factors (Scan2CAD):

  • Qualifications: Most CAD drafters and technicians require an associate’s degree. However, someone with a bachelor’s or master’s degree will undoubtedly be eligible to create more money.
  • Licenses and certifications: Relevant industry credentials can not only help you launch your CAD career but may also raise your knowledge and earning potential.

Is CAD an excellent career choice?

CAD careers are really rewarding and challenging. You can utilize a team of dedicated professionals and engage in creating something great. Plus, CAD careers are here to remain — every engineering and architecture team should have skilled CAD professionals and drafters. We’ve provided a high-level view of the task outlook for some different CAD careers (Scan2CAD) that don’t require a four-year degree.

  • Electrical/electronics drafter
  • $59,520/year average salary
  • 5% projected job growth from 2014-2024

Audio & Video Equipment Manufacturing is the most effective paying industry at $80,760 average/year

  • Mechanical drafter
  • $53,520/year average salary
  • -7% projected job growth from 2014-2024

Pipeline Transportation of Natural Gas is the most effective paying industry at $76,990 average/year

  • Civil/architectural drafter
  • $50,710/year average salary
  • -3% projected job growth from 2014-2024
  • Scientific Research & Development Services is the most effective paying industry at 75,390 average/year.

While some CAD industries are expected to eradicate a few drafting positions over another long period due to the increased efficiency of applications, it isn’t going anywhere! You will still find 1000s of jobs available annually and a lot of room to keep building your skills and advancing your career.

How can I take up a CAD career?

A CAD career may be incredibly rewarding — and you can begin earning a good salary without finding a four-year degree. If you’re enthusiastic about a CAD career, your preparation work starts in high school. From taking challenging math, science, and engineering classes to getting involved in design-related extracurriculars, there are many ways to enhance your CAD resume early. Look at our infographic that shows you can launch a successful CAD career without needing a four-year degree.


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