Usually hired by construction companies and manufacturing firms, Computer-Aided Design (CAD) operators prepare drawings and blueprints through CAD software and systems. Also known as drafters, they could specialize in specific areas like engineers, such as architectural, mechanical, civil, aeronautical or electronics. In general, CAD operators are experts in utilizing specific computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software or applications to create and develop design for a great range of merchandises and projects in several industries, from microchips, tools and machinery, packaging, actual products to skyscrapers.
Using CADD systems, CAD operators could create and store technical drawings, which contain data on how to build a machine or structure, the materials needed to complete the projects, and the dimensions of the products. Most electronic schematics features easy reproduction or direct programming into product data management (PDM) and building information modeling (BIM) systems that allow architects, engineers and construction managers to control or adjust the digital models of physical buildings and machines. While the BIM permits architects and engineers to view how different components form together through its three-dimensional rendering, PDM assists workers manage and track information such as technical specifications, related to projects.
Aside from working with rough sketches and specifications provided, they also assist in designing products with engineering and manufacturing methods as well as preparing multiple versions of designs for review and approval of the engineers and architects. In addition, CAD operators provide the guidelines and technical details of the product or structure for completion. These documents often use specialized notations and symbols to deliver instructions about materials, assembly procedures or tools.
Why Become a CAD Operator
Employers generally prefer starting CAD operators to have finished post-secondary education in drafting, normally a two-year associate’s degree from a technical institute or community college. Although certification from American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) is not mandatory, it presents knowledge about nationally recognized practices as well as competence in drafting. Depending on the needs of local industries, demand for CAD operators varies across the country and many job opportunities in construction and manufacturing would be sensitive to fluctuations in the overall economy. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual salary depends on the specialization of CAD operators. Architectural and civil drafters earn a mean annual wage of $52,480 while mechanical drafters receive $55,260 as of March 2014.
CAD Operator Work Environment
There are more than 190,000 employees working as CAD operators in 2012, according to BLS. Industries related to architectural and engineering employs about 47 percent of the total workforce, while manufacturing contributes 28 percent and construction hires around 7 percent. Although CAD operators spend most of their working hours in the front of a computer in an office, some receive occasional calls to visit job sites to coordinate about adjustments and product specifications with engineers and architects, and most drafters work full time. Employers usually assign CAD operators to work under strict deadlines so in order to produce the required output according to set schedules, supervising architects and engineers expect CAD operators to work efficiently through time management, and detail oriented skills.