Mechanical Drafters
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Prepare detailed working diagrams of machinery and mechanical devices, including dimensions, fastening methods, and other engineering information.
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Titles for this career often contain these words
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Responsibilities and activities

Drafters typically do the following:

  • Design plans using computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • Work from rough sketches and specifications created by engineers and architects
  • Design products with engineering and manufacturing techniques
  • Add details to architectural plans from their knowledge of building techniques
  • Specify dimensions, materials, and procedures for new products
  • Work under the supervision of engineers or architects

Some drafters are referred to as CAD operators. Using CAD systems, drafters create and store technical drawings digitally. These drawings contain information on how to build a structure or machine, the dimensions of the project, and what materials are needed to complete the project.

Drafters work with CAD to create schematics that can be viewed, printed, or programmed directly into building information modeling (BIM) systems. These systems allow drafters, architects, construction managers, and engineers to create and collaborate on digital models of physical buildings and machines. Through three-dimensional rendering, BIM software allows designers and engineers to see how different elements in their projects work together.

The following are examples of types of drafters:

Architectural drafters draw structural features and details for buildings and other construction projects. These workers may specialize in a type of building, such as residential or commercial. They may also specialize by the materials used, such as steel, wood, or reinforced concrete.

Civil drafters prepare topographical maps used in construction and civil engineering projects, such as highways, bridges, and dams.

Electrical drafters prepare 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.

Electronics drafters produce wiring diagrams, assembly diagrams for circuit boards, and layout drawings used in manufacturing and in installing and repairing electronic devices and components.

Mechanical drafters prepare layouts that show the details for a variety of machinery and mechanical tools and devices, such as medical equipment. These layouts indicate dimensions, fastening methods, and other requirements for assembly. Mechanical drafters sometimes create production molds.

Median salary: $58,270 annually
Half of those employed in this career earn between $46,150 and $73,700.
Context: Median Salary
How do salaries for this career compare to other jobs' salaries?
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Salary growth for specialized drafters
Is this job likely to reward you for sticking with it through pay raises and promotions? The higher a job’s “experience quotient,” the more you are likely to get as you stay there.
Experience quotient percentile
Take a minute to look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?
Salary distribution
Number employed
About Mechanical Drafters
How do benefits for this career compare to other jobs? The availability of health care, especially employer provided health care, and pension plans can add significantly to the value of compensation you receive in a career. These charts compare how this career compares to other careers with regard to health care and pension plans.
Employee has health insurance
Employer is providing health insurance
Employer-provided pension plan is available
Worker concerns
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of mechanical drafters who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (63%)
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Personality and skills
Can you see yourself in the ranks of Mechanical Drafters? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.
Drafters must be able to turn plans and ideas into technical drawings of buildings, tools, and systems.
Detail oriented
Drafters must take care that the plans they convert are technically accurate according to the outlined specifications.
Interpersonal skills
Drafters work closely with architects, engineers, and other designers to make sure that final plans are accurate. This requires the ability to communicate effectively and work well with others.
Math skills
Drafters work on technical drawings. They may be required to calculate angles, weights, costs, and other values.
Technical skills
Drafters in all specialties must be able to use computer software, such as CAD, and work with database tools, such as building information modeling (BIM).
Time-management skills
Drafters often work under deadline. As a result, they must work efficiently to produce the required output according to set schedules.
Education pathways to this career
Education attained by mechanical drafters
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mechanical drafters typically hold a associate's degree.
Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as specialized drafters as reported in responses to the American Community Survey.
Details: Education and training recommended for mechanical drafters

Drafters typically need an associate of applied science in drafting or a related degree from a community college or technical school. Some drafters prepare for the occupation by earning a certificate or diploma.

Programs in drafting may include instruction in design fundamentals, sketching, and computer-aided design (CAD) software. It generally takes about 2 years of full-time education to earn an associate’s degree. Certificate and diploma programs vary in length but usually may be completed in less time.

Students frequently specialize in a particular type of drafting, such as mechanical or architectural drafting.  

High school students may begin preparing by taking classes in mathematics, science, computer technology, design, computer graphics, and, where available, drafting.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for mechanical drafters

The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) offers certification for drafters. Although not mandatory, certification demonstrates competence and knowledge of nationally recognized practices. Certifications are offered for several specialties, including architectural, civil, and mechanical drafting.

Education level of Specialized Drafters
Only 26% of specialized drafters have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by specialized drafters
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
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Programs recommended by the Department of Education
The Department of Education recommends the following college degree programs as preparation for this career. You can click a program row to learn more about the program and explore a list of schools that offer the program.
Number of degrees awarded in 2018
Education level of awarded degrees
Gender of graduates
Race/origin of graduates
Where are the jobs
State-by-state employment numbers
Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.
Select a state to see local area details
Number of Specialized Drafters per 1,000 workers (ACS)
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Job density versus job count
Which states hire the most mechanical drafters? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as mechanical drafters. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where mechanical drafters earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio
We use two methods to compare salaries across states:
  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for specialized drafters compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for specialized drafters.
We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which specialized drafters earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this figure might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
Location-adjusted median salary for Specialized Drafters (ACS for all specialties)
10% of Specialized drafters are working part time.
We’ve found that some jobs have a huge number of part-time workers, and typically that is because they are unable to find full-time work or the job itself can’t provide full-time hours. With 10% part-time workers, this occupation has a lower percentage of part-time workers than 55% of careers.
Employer types
This donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, giving us a picture of what employers most typically hire for this career.
Employers of undefined (ACS)
Private for-profit
Private not-for-profit
Local government
State government
Federal government
Self-employed incorporated
Self-employed not incorporated
Working without pay
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Distribution: Salaries of specialized drafters by type of employer
Here are the salary distributions based on employer type.
$53K$53K$48K$55K$57K$59K$51K$63K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000$120,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Specialized drafters and gender
With 18% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 69% of careers.
Gender of Specialized drafters
Men (82%)
Women (18%)
Distribution: salaries by gender
Does gender greatly influence your salary in this career? The closer the bars are, the less discrepancy there is.
We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.
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Context: Women in the workforce
How does this career compare to other careers with regard to the percentage of women in the career.
Context: Salary inequity
The median (middle) salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 19%, and the difference for specialized drafters tops that, with the median salary for men 19% higher than the median salary for women.
Race and origin of Specialized drafters
This donut shows the distribution of race and origin among those employed as Specialized drafters.
Race/origin of specialized drafters
White (84% )
Asian (6% )
Black (4% )
Other (3% )
Multiracial (2% )
Hispanic (1% )
American Indian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Distribution: salaries by race/origin
Some careers might have a pay disparity based on race or origin, the closer the below bars are the less of a discrepancy is present.
$43K$46K$49K$51K$54K$59K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KOtherBlackMultiracialAmerican IndianWhiteAsian
We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.