Civil Drafter Careers

What Does a Civil Drafter Do

Drafters use software to convert the designs of architects and engineers into technical drawings. Most workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.


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

Many 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 so they can 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.

Architectural drafters draw architectural and structural features of buildings for 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 flood-control projects.

Electrical drafters prepare wiring diagrams that other 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 wide variety of machinery and mechanical tools and devices, such as medical equipment. These layouts indicate dimensions, fastening methods, and other requirements needed for assembly. Mechanical drafters sometimes create production molds.

How To Become a Civil Drafter

Drafters typically need specialized training, which can be accomplished through a technical program that leads to a certificate or an associate’s degree in drafting.


Drafters generally need to complete postsecondary education in drafting. This is typically done through a 2-year associate’s degree from a technical institute or community college.

Technical institutes offer instruction in design fundamentals, sketching, and CAD (computer-aided design) software and award certificates or diplomas upon completion. Programs vary in length but are generally 2 years of full-time education. The types of courses offered will also vary by institution. Some institutions may specialize in only one type of drafting, such as mechanical or architectural drafting.

Community colleges offer programs similar to those in technical institutes that lead to an associate of applied science in drafting or related degree. After completing an associate’s degree program, graduates may get jobs as drafters or continue their education in a related field at a 4-year college. Most 4-year colleges do not offer training in drafting, but they do offer classes in engineering, architecture, and mathematics.

To prepare for postsecondary education, high school students who take courses in mathematics, science, computer technology, design, computer graphics, and where available, drafting, may find such classes useful.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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.

Important Qualities

Creativity. Drafters must be able to turn plans and ideas into technical drawings that will guide the creation of real buildings, tools, and systems.

Detail oriented. Drafters must pay close attention to details so 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 take advice and constructive criticism, as well as to offer it.

Math skills. Drafters work on technical drawings. They may be required to solve mathematical calculations involving factors such as angles, weights, and costs.

Technical skills. Drafters in all specialties must be able to use computer software, such as CAD, and work with database tools, such as BIM (building information modeling).

Time-management skills. Drafters often work under strict deadlines. As a result, they must work efficiently in order to produce the required output according to set schedules.

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Civil Drafter Career Paths

Top Careers Before Civil Drafter

20.5 %

Top Careers After Civil Drafter

10.7 %

Civil Drafter Jobs You Might Like

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Average Salary for a Civil Drafter

Civil Drafters in America make an average salary of $49,092 per year or $24 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $60,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $39,000 per year.
Average Salary
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Best Paying Cities For Civil Drafters

Average Salarydesc
San Francisco, CA
Salary Range48k - 73k$59k$59,376
Baltimore, MD
Salary Range45k - 67k$55k$55,420
Chicago, IL
Salary Range45k - 65k$55k$54,651
North Brunswick, NJ
Salary Range44k - 66k$55k$54,612
New York, NY
Salary Range43k - 65k$53k$53,467
Boston, MA
Salary Range44k - 63k$53k$53,259
Manassas, VA
Salary Range40k - 60k$50k$49,626
Seattle, WA
Salary Range41k - 58k$49k$49,213
Washington, DC
Salary Range40k - 59k$49k$48,745
Minot, ND
Salary Range42k - 53k$48k$48,113
Las Vegas, NV
Salary Range39k - 57k$48k$47,521
Pittsburgh, PA
Salary Range38k - 57k$47k$47,439
Alpharetta, GA
Salary Range37k - 54k$45k$44,841
Houston, TX
Salary Range35k - 52k$43k$42,945
Charlotte, NC
Salary Range35k - 51k$43k$42,817
Columbus, OH
Salary Range35k - 51k$43k$42,631
Weston, FL
Salary Range34k - 51k$42k$42,388
Hot Springs, AR
Salary Range34k - 50k$42k$41,868
Aiken, SC
Salary Range33k - 48k$40k$40,239

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Civil Drafter Demographics



69.9 %


25.7 %


4.4 %



77.5 %

Hispanic or Latino

9.4 %


7.5 %

Foreign Languages Spoken


50.0 %


12.5 %


6.3 %
Show More Civil Drafter Demographics

Civil Drafter Education



65.4 %


18.7 %

High School Diploma

6.9 %

Top Colleges for Civil Drafters

1. Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA • Private

In-State Tuition

2. Illinois Institute of Technology

Chicago, IL • Private

In-State Tuition

3. LeTourneau University

Longview, TX • Private

In-State Tuition

4. Dunwoody College of Technology

Minneapolis, MN • Private

In-State Tuition

5. SUNY College of Technology at Alfred

Alfred, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
Show More Civil Drafter Education Requirements

Online Courses For Civil Drafter That You May Like

AutoCAD Civil 3D Training: The Ultimate Course

Get the AutoCAD Civil 3D Premium Course and Free download Pdf Book (reference training manual)...

AutoCad Civil 3D for Beginners

Civil Engineering Course: How to design a road using AutoCAD Civil 3D Step by Step...

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Top Skills For a Civil Drafter

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 36.5% of civil drafters listed civil 3d on their resume, but soft skills such as creativity and detail oriented are important as well.

Best States For a Civil Drafter

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a civil drafter. The best states for people in this position are Maryland, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Civil drafters make the most in Maryland with an average salary of $54,919. Whereas in Rhode Island and New Jersey, they would average $54,812 and $54,785, respectively. While civil drafters would only make an average of $54,464 in Connecticut, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Oregon

Total Civil Drafter Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Iowa

Total Civil Drafter Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Illinois

Total Civil Drafter Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Civil Drafters

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Top Civil Drafter Employers

1. Aerotek
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2. Coe & Van Loo Consultants
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3. Gensler
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4. Stantec
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5. Kelly Services
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Updated August 18, 2021