Drafters: Bringing Ideas into Reality

by Chris Greaves

October 14, 2020

Imagine the following scene:

An engineer bursts into the office of a manufacturer. “I’ve created a revolutionary design for a motherboard!” exclaims the engineer. “Can you build it?”

“Let me see the plans,” replies the manufacturer.

The engineer hands over a stack of mismatched papers, covered in doodles and illegible computations.

With a sigh, the manufacturer says, “To get this built, we’ll need a good drafter.”

What Drafters Do

Drafters prepare detailed drawings or diagrams from architectural or engineering information, usually with the aid of computers. Using these drawings as a guide, builders and fabricators physically create what the engineers conceived. This makes drafters an essential part of any construction or manufacturing endeavor.

Three major categories of drafting include: architectural and civil; mechanical; and electrical and electronics. Architectural and civil drafters make detailed drawings of the structural features of buildings or civil engineering projects, such as highways and bridges. Mechanical drafters prepare detailed working diagrams of machinery and mechanical devices, including dimensions, fastening methods, and other information. Drafting in the electrical or electronics field involves making wiring diagrams, circuit board assembly diagrams, and layout drawings used for the manufacture, installation, or repair of electrical equipment.

How to Become One

Post-secondary training is usually required to obtain drafting skills. This can be achieved through a post-secondary certificate program or associate degree. Many of Oregon’s community colleges offer this type of curriculum. Courses cover drafting software, design, mathematics, and writing. No statewide license is required for this occupation.

What interests and aptitudes suit one for a career in drafting? To find out, I asked Carmen Watkins, Program Chair of Drafting Technology at Chemeketa Community College. She listed:

  • Interest in technology and software
  • Interest in how things are built or manufactured
  • Detail-oriented
  • >Visual
  • Ability to work on a team
Occupational Outlook and Earnings

Because their skills are needed in many settings, reasonable employment opportunities exist across Oregon. The occupation is expected to grow at a slower rate than the statewide average through 2029. Oregon’s 2020 annual average wage for electrical and electronics drafters is $76,983. Architectural and civil drafters report an annual average of $61,718, and mechanical drafters an average of $62,727.

A drafting career has a lot going for it. Carmen Watkins said some of the best things include good compensation, work environment, and benefits. Also, there’s no bachelor's degree required, meaning shorter-term training than other fields. The occupation is utilized in many sectors of industry, and the work isn’t monotonous.

If you like being part of a team using computers, math, and design, then give drafting a look.

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