Architectural Drafter Job Description
Architectural drafters prepare drawings of architects’ and engineers’ designs for residential, commercial, and industrial construction projects. This is a highly technical role requiring extensive familiarity with design principles, computer-aided drafting technologies, and building codes to ensure that drawings are accurate and to present necessary information for construction crews, contractors, and zoning and approval bodies.
While architectural drafters do not need the same extensive education as architects and engineers, they still use many of the same skills, such as mathematics, to check their work, review and update drawings and blueprints, and perform necessary calculations related to the elements of a particular project.
Architectural Drafter Duties and Responsibilities
While an architectural drafter’s duties can vary somewhat depending on their focus area, most share several essential responsibilities:
Gather Requirements and Data
Early in the design and drafting process, architectural drafters gather project requirements and specifications from clients, architects, and engineers to use as a starting point. This can include information about the construction site, such as elevation, access roads, and utilities, along with project-specific information, such as the number of rooms, materials, and functional requirements for industrial or commercial projects.
Prepare Architectural Drawings
Architectural drafters work closely with architects and engineers to prepare detailed architectural drawings. Working from rough drawings and specifications, drafters use computer-aided drafting (CAD) software to prepare full-scale and detail drawings. These drawings specify the project’s dimensions, including room sizes and elevations, and provide contractors and construction crews with information on materials and building plans.
During the design and drafting process, architectural drafters update and modify designs based on new information or at the request of a client. Typically, the architectural drafter will submit multiple versions of a drawing to the architectural and engineering team or to the client for final approval. While updating drawings, the architectural drafter ensures that changes do not have unforeseen effects on other construction elements.
Perform Calculations and Check for Accuracy
Architectural drafters also use their familiarity with mathematical and construction principles to perform calculations and check drawings for accuracy. These calculations can include vital elements such as load-bearing beams within a structure. Architectural drafters also check other team members’ drawings for accuracy, making sure that their calculations and determinations are correct before sending the drawings back to the lead architect for final approval.
Accompany Architects and Engineers on Site Visits
Often, architectural drafters will accompany architects and engineers to jobsites prior to work starting and throughout the construction process. During initial site visits, the architectural drafter gathers data and takes measurements, verifying elements such as the elevation and surrounding area. On later site visits, the architectural drafter ensures that construction workers are adhering to the plans and specifications.
Provide Drawings and Specifications to Contractors
Architectural drafters also play a central role in providing information to contractors and construction crews throughout the planning and building processes. This can include providing detailed drawings of certain construction elements and answering questions that arise while contractors review the blueprints. Additionally, the architectural drafter may prepare additional drawings and answer questions under the supervision of the architect.
Architectural Drafter Skills and Qualifications
Architectural drafters prepare highly technical drawings for architects and engineers. Workers in this role typically have an associate’s degree and the following skills:
- Drafting skills – architectural drafters need strong technical drawing skills, along with familiarity with principles and best practices of architectural drafting and design using both hand-drawing and computers
- Computer skills – strong computer skills are also a necessity in this role, not only while using computer-aided drafting programs but also when storing and transmitting drawings to construction and engineering teams
- Collaboration – in this role, architectural drafters work closely with architects and engineers to translate designs and requirements into usable drawings, so they should be effective collaborators
- Attention to detail – this position also requires excellent attention to detail, since architectural drafters need to ensure that their drawings are both technically correct and presented in a readable and accessible format
- Communication skills – effective written and verbal communication skills are vital in this role, since architectural drafters frequently need to communicate with designers and architects to answer questions and prevent delays
Tools of the Trade
Architectural drafters tend to work in offices, making occasional site visits to inspect and take measurements. Most use standard office equipment and software in addition to the following:
- Computer-aided drafting (CAD) software (AutoCAD, Revit)
Architectural Drafter Education and Training
Typically, architectural drafters need at least an associate’s degree in drafting, which many technical schools and community colleges offer as a two-year program. Additionally, architectural drafters can obtain professional certification to help expand their employment opportunities. There are typically many opportunities for on-the-job training in this role as architectural drafters hone their skills and level of expertise.
Architectural Drafter Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that drafters earn a median annual salary of $54,170, while architectural and civil drafters in particular earn a median annual salary of $52,870. The highest-paid 10 percent of architectural and civil drafters earn more than $79,790 per year, while the lowest-paid earn less than $34,070.
The BLS expects employment for architectural and civil drafters to grow by 8 percent through 2026 and notes that these positions will be very competitive due to the number of job seekers graduating from academic programs.
If you’re interested in beginning a career as an architectural drafter, we found a number of resources on the web for further reading and information:
American Design Drafting Association – architectural drafters can join the ADDA to access continuing education and professional development resources and to read industry publications
Architectural Drafting and Design – read this comprehensive textbook to learn basic and advanced techniques for architectural drafting as well as relevant building codes
Residential Design Using AutoCAD 2016 – Daniel John Stine’s in-depth guide focuses on residential design and drafting and provides hands-on examples of how to use AutoCAD for architectural drafting
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