Drawing wiring diagrams, circuit board assembly diagrams, schematics and layout drawings used in the manufacture, installation and repair of electronic devices and components is the job of the electronics drafter. The electronics drafter prepares technical drawings and plans that are then built by production workers. The drafters’ drawing is a visual guideline, filling in the technical details and providing dimensions, materials and procedures. To complete their work, a drafter might use technical books, tables, calculators or computers, but almost all rely on Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) systems to prepare drawings – and many drafters are even indentified as CADD Operators. CADD systems allow drafters to create and store drawings electronically so that they can be viewed, printed or programmed directly into automated manufacturing systems; it also allows drafters to prepare design variations in no time. And although CADD is now being used extensively, knowledge and skill in traditional techniques is still essential to fully understand and explain concepts.
- The needs of local industry continues to determine demand for various types of drafters.
- Individuals with at least 2 years of postsecondary training in drafting will be afforded the best opportunities.
- Growth in the field will vary by specialty, but overall employment is projected to grow more slowly than average.
Electronics drafters work in a well-lit, comfortable office environment furnished to accommodate their tasks. While preparing manual drawings, they may work at adjustable drafting tables and drawing boards, but they also spend a lot of time at a computer for designing purposes. Most drafters put in a standard work week of approximately 40 hours, and a few work part-time. The long hours spent at the computer poring over details has the potential to cause eyestrain, back discomfort and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Education, Training and Licensing
High school offers many courses that can prepare someone for a career in drafting, such as mathematics, science, computer technology, design and computer graphics. However, successful completion of postsecondary school training is generally an employment requirement. Whether acquiring training at a technical institute, community college or at a 4-year college or university, this additional schooling is the best way to get hired – and the best way to get ahead. A strong drafting and mechanical drawing skill set, a solid background in CADD techniques and knowledge of drafting standards, mathematics, science and engineering technology are the abilities that employers look for.
Technical institutes offer intensive technical training, but also provide a less general education than community colleges. Graduates are awarded with either a certificate or diploma, and many technical institutes offer 2-year associate degree programs. Community college offerings are much like technical institutes, but drafting theory courses and general education classes are usually required. Upon completion of a 2-year associate degree program, graduates may either seek out a job as a drafter or further their education in a related field at a 4-year college (most colleges will accept community college courses as credits). While most 4-year colleges do not offer training in drafting, they do offer classes in engineering, architecture and mathematics that are useful for obtaining a job as a drafter. Armed Forces technical training can also be applied in civilian drafting jobs, though some additional training may be necessary depending on the technical area or military specialty.
Students of electronic drafting will learn how to depict electronic components and circuits in an electronics program; prepare drawings, schematics and wiring diagrams; write technical reports; measure factors affecting equipment installation; consider the costs of components used in project; analyze drawings for costs and accuracy; and draw master sketches to scale which display the relation of a proposed installation to an existing facility.
Although most employers do not require drafters to be certified in their field, The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) has created a certification program. Possession of this certificate does allow potential employers to see that an applicant has an understanding of nationally recognized practices. Those with a desire to become certified must pass the Drafter Certification Test, which is administered periodically at ADDA-authorized sites. Applicants are tested on basics such as geometric construction, working drawings and architectural terms and standards.
The ability to draw well and perform detailed work is a necessity for an electronics drafter. Artistic abilities are useful in some specialized fields, as is knowledge of manufacturing and construction methods. Good interpersonal skills are also necessary as drafters work closely with engineers, surveyors, architects and other professionals.
Entry-level or junior drafters can expect routine work under close supervision. In time, they may become intermediate drafters and advance to more complex work with less supervision. Progression from the intermediate level includes senior drafter, designer and supervisor positions. Continuing education is often paid for by employers, and with appropriate college degrees, drafters may move on to become engineering technicians, engineers or architects.
Employment Figures, Projections, Outlook and Earnings
Drafting as a whole accounted for approximately 251,900 jobs in 2008. Employment growth is expected to be slower than average (about 4% between 2008 and 2018), with the best opportunities expected for those with at least 2 years training. Electronic drafting will see little to no change in employment, as CADD systems allow many responsibilities to be handled by other technical professionals. However, as technology continues to advance, employers will be looking for drafters that possess a firm grasp of fundamental drafting principles, strong technical sophistication, and a talent for applying their skills to a broader range of tasks. The median income for electronic drafters was $54,800 in May 2009.