How to Become a Mechanical Drafter

How to Become a Mechanical Drafter: Career Path Guide

Although there are other paths you can take, a very effective route for becoming a mechanical drafter is to follow these general steps:


1. Excel in coursework in English, Math, Physics and Design Studies in high school

2. Determine if this occupation is suited to your interests and qualities

3. Pursue a certificate or diploma related to Engineering Drafting Technology

4. Find a suitable job (it may not be local)

5. Earn relevant industry certification once you’ve gained some experience 

6. Progress into roles of greater pay and responsibility


Below we've expanded on these points, to give you a more complete idea of what you'll need to begin a career as a mechanical drafter in the United States or Canada.



How Can I Prepare for This Career in High School?

Mechanical drafters need the ability to visualize 3 dimensional objects from 2 dimensional drawings, as well as an understanding of scientific and engineering principles. They also need good written and oral communication skills. 


You can prepare for work using these skills while you’re still a high school student by doing well in areas such as English/Language Arts, Math, Physics, Design Studies and Communication Arts.



What Formal Education Will I Need?

To be hired as a mechanical drafter, most employers will want to see that you have a certificate or diploma in Mechanical Engineering Technology or in Engineering Design and Drafting Technology from an accredited institution.




What is a Mechanical Drafter?

Mechanical drafters prepare detailed drawings and blueprints to show the design and assembly of many different mechanical devices and machinery such equipment, controls, tools, automobile parts, and dies. When preparing the drafts, they must specify dimension, fastening methods and other relevant engineering information.



What Does a Mechanical Drafter Do?

Although their duties can vary from one job to another, mechanical drafters are generally responsible for the following:


• Shading or colouring drawings to emphasize and clarify details

• Consulting with customer service representatives to review schematics and answer questions regarding system installation

• Laying out and drawing schematic, orthographic, or angle views to depict functional relationships of components, assemblies, systems, and machines

• Checking the dimensions of the materials to be used and assigning numbers to them

• Drawing freehand sketches of designs

• Developing detailed design drawings and specifications for mechanical equipment, dies/tools, and controls, using computer-assisted drafting (CAD) equipment

• Reviewing and analyzing specifications, sketches, drawings, ideas, and related data to assess factors affecting component designs and the procedures and the instructions to be followed



What Certification Will I Need?

United States: Although not considered mandatory, many mechanical drafters gain professional certification from the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) to remain competitive in the field.


Canada: Although not considered mandatory, many employers consider membership or eligibility for membership in your provincial Engineering Technology Professionals association an asset.



What is the Work Environment of a Drafting Technician Like?

Mechanical drafters usually work in office environments, although some may also be involved in field and site work. They generally work standard office hours (9-5 or so) although overtime occasionally may be required to meet deadlines, attend meetings and presentations, or for other reasons.


Should I Become a Mechanical Drafter?

Determining if a career field suits your personality as well as your professional ambitions is just as, if not much more important than meeting its formal requirements. If you have the following traits, qualities and interests, a career as a mechanical drafter might be an excellent fit for you:


• The ability to pay close attention to detail and be precise and accurate

• You enjoy working with equipment and instruments at tasks that require precision

• You enjoy having clear methods and guidelines for your work

• The ability to visualize three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional drawings 

• The ability to visualize the relationships between parts in machinery and systems

• An aptitude for mathematics and physics

• You enjoy taking a methodical approach to your work

• You enjoy analyzing data and finding innovative solutions to problems

• You can work well independently, and as part of a team

• You can take direction from supervisors 

• You’re interested in a career in an indoor, 9-5 environment 

• You think you might enjoy supporting the work of engineers, designers and architects



What is the Salary of a Mechanical Drafter?

Salary in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in the “Drafters” occupational group earn a median salary of $33,910 per year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $57,680, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $83,300.


Salary in Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the “Drafting technologists and technicians” occupational group earn an average starting wage of $25.28 per hour, and an overall average wage of $34.03 per hour. 


The salary level you could earn as a mechanical drafter can vary quite a bit, and typically depends on the following factors:


• Your level of education, experience and certification

• The level of responsibility involved in your job

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• The industry in which you work

• Many other factors



Who Creates Jobs for Mechanical Drafters?

Mechanical drafters are employed on a part-time, full-time or contractual basis by different types of organizations, including:


• Manufacturing companies

• Engineering consulting firms

• Electro-mechanical companies

• Municipal, provincial/state and federal government departments

• Private design firms



Mechanical Drafter Jobs

Our job board below has a listing of "Mechanical Drafter" postings in your area of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia.

What Career Advancement Opportunities Are There?

If you demonstrate self-motivation, initiative, aptitude and competence, you ought to have the opportunity to move into positions of greater responsibility and pay.


For example, if you demonstrate the above-mentioned qualities you could potentially become a team or section leader, project supervisor or manager, or work as a contract freelancer. With further education and training, you could also choose to become a mechanical or design engineer.



What are Careers Similar to “Mechanical Drafter”?

Listed below are careers that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as “Mechanical Drafter”:


• Architectural Illustrator 

Architectural Technologist 

• Civil Engineering Technologist

• Design Engineer

• Drafting Technician

• Graphic Designer

• Mechanical Engineer



What Scholarships Are There for Aspiring Mechanical Drafters? 

The “Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career” section below lists fields of study that are relevant to becoming a mechanical drafter. You can search for relevant scholarships by finding those majors on our "Mechanical Engineering Scholarships” page.


Success Tip: Apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




The following resources were used to gather information for this “How to Become a Mechanical Drafter” career path guide:


• Occupations in Alberta: “Drafting Technician.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 2, 2020.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Drafters.” (n.d.). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved May 4, 2017.

• IT Careers: “Career Information: Mechanical Drafters.” (n.d.). Campus Explorer. Retrieved May 4, 2017.

• Engineering, Manufacturing and Technology Programs: “Mechanical Drafting & Design.” (n.d.). Anoka Technical College. Retrieved May 4, 2017.



Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming a mechanical drafter. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!


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