Becoming a CAD technician or designer is a great choice for college students looking to go into fields related to Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC). Check out the infographic above for the list of possibilities.
CAD stands for Computer Aided Design. Being a CAD technician or designer is all about drawing different structural or mechanical-related elements such as buildings, plumbing, electrical layouts, HVAC, etc., either in plan or profile view. You’ll do this using different software such as AutoCAD, Revit, or Frame CAD, although this depends on your domain.
In this article, we'll go through what being a CAD technician or designer entails, including a distinction between the two. We'll also explore the role of CAD technicians in different settings and roles, and how you can level up your skills to become a professional. Let's dive right in!
What Does a CAD Technician Do?
CAD technicians play an important role in various fields, contributing to the planning, design, and execution of a wide range of projects. In most cases, the work of the CAD technician will involve translating conceptual designs into detailed 2D or 3D models or drawings. they are also usually tasked with technical documentation of blueprints and specifications, ensuring that drawings adhere to set standards.
CAD technicians also collaborate closely with other professionals in the same field, for example, architects, engineers, and urban planners. Let’s dive into each domain individually:
MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing): In the MEP field, CAD technicians are responsible for creating detailed technical drawings and diagrams that serve as the backbone of systems such as heating and ventilation (HVAC), electrical, and plumbing in buildings. These drawings are crucial for ensuring efficient and safe MEP installations.
Structural Engineering: CAD technicians in structural engineering focus on producing detailed drawings that illustrate the structural components of buildings, bridges, and other structures. Their work is fundamental in translating engineering concepts into visual documentation that construction teams can follow.
Civil Engineering: Civil engineering CAD technicians contribute to the design and planning of infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, and water management systems. Their precise drawings assist in the construction process and ensure projects adhere to safety and regulatory standards.
Architecture: CAD technicians in architecture assist architects in transforming their creative concepts into concrete plans. They create detailed architectural drawings, including floor plans, elevations, and 3D models, enabling architects to communicate their vision to clients and construction teams.
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CAD Technician vs. CAD Designer
While we may use the terms “CAD technician” and “CAD designer” somewhat interchangeably, the two are, in fact, different.
CAD technicians are primarily responsible for translating design concepts into precise technical drawings, ensuring that those drawings meet set standards. While they require a basic grasp of engineering or architectural fundamentals, their role is not to design but to document and detail the work.
CAD designers, on the other hand, are the creative minds behind the initial design concepts. They focus on the aesthetic and functional aspects of a project. CAD designers are found in a wide array of other fields not limited to engineering and construction but are frequently attached to the mechanical field.
CAD technicians play a crucial role in supporting engineers, architects, and other professionals. They act as a bridge between initial concepts and final drawings and documentation. By playing this very specific role, CAD technicians enable architects and engineers to focus on the creative and analytical aspects of their projects.
Job Prospects for CAD Technicians in the US
According to Salary.com, the median salary for AutoCAD technicians in the US was $58, 531 in 2023. The job prospects for CAD technicians in the United States are promising, and there is an ever-growing demand for skilled professionals in fields like MEP, civil engineering, and architecture. As technology continues to advance, the need for CAD technicians proficient in the latest software and applications remains steady.
From the image snippet above from Upwork, you can also see that CAD technicians and designers can work on a freelance basis, in some cases commanding salaries of up to $100 per hour. So yes, you can work as a freelancer
How to Become a CAD Technician
While it isn't a must that you go to college or have an affiliated degree to become a CAD tech, this move is advised. Usually, a good grasp of drawing software such as AutoCAD and a solid command of 2D/3D drafting principles will suffice to get you a job. For CAD designers, a diploma or a degree in a related field, mostly mechanical-related, is usually a requirement.
Becoming a CAD technician is an achievable goal, and involves a few steps that you should consider:
Learn CAD Software: Start by acquiring proficiency in popular CAD software such as AutoCAD, Revit, SolidWorks, or Inventor. These tools are essential for creating technical drawings in various fields.
Enroll in Courses: Consider formal CAD courses offered by technical schools, community colleges, or online platforms. These courses provide structured learning and a deeper understanding of CAD principles. You can find time to learn CAD software as a college student by depending on services such as royalwriter that help you tackle academic assignments on time.
Certifications: Earning CAD certifications from recognized organizations can enhance your credibility and job prospects. Certifications like Autodesk Certified Professional demonstrate your expertise.
Practice and Build a Portfolio: Create a portfolio showcasing your CAD skills. This can include personal projects, course assignments, or freelance work, demonstrating your capabilities to potential employers.
Networking: Join professional organizations, attend industry events, and connect with CAD professionals. Networking can lead to job opportunities and valuable mentorship.
Volunteer as an intern: Visit local construction companies or companies that align with your interests and explore internship opportunities. You may be allowed to observe other CAD technicians at work and this will help you grasp solid principles from pros in the field.
CAD Technician Specializations and Software
CAD technicians often specialize in various fields and use specific software tailored to their area of expertise:
MEP: Common software includes AutoCAD MEP, Revit MEP, and Navisworks for 3D coordination.
Structural Engineering: Autodesk Structural Detailing, STAAD.Pro, and Tekla Structures are frequently used software.
Civil Engineering: AutoCAD Civil 3D, Bentley MicroStation, and Infraworks are essential tools for civil engineering CAD technicians.
Architecture: In architectural CAD, software like AutoCAD Architecture, SketchUp, and Rhino are commonly used to create detailed drawings and models.
Kindly note that some of these software may be used by either designers, modelers, or engineers, depending on the delineation of roles within different organizations. There are also certifications by organizations such as Autodesk and Bentley that you can pursue without a degree requirement.
Freelancing as a CAD Technician Without a Degree
Maybe you are learning in a different field but are still passionate about drawing using CAD software. Or maybe, you are in the fields of construction, architecture, and MEP but don't have your degree yet.
Becoming a freelance CAD tech depends a lot on the opportunities that are available to you and whether you can make the most of them. For example, you might have identified a gap in your hometown or community of available CAD technicians. You can use your CAD skills to fill that gap. However, it is still crucial to have these drawings validated by other professionals such as architects and engineers.
For skills development, you can go through tutorials or other formal CAD courses. These are great and allow for self-paced learning. You should also focus on building a strong portfolio and sharing this on platforms such as Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer, and LinkedIn. Within your portfolio, ensure that you can showcase both and plan and profile views of your work, and also any rendering that you might have done.
Remember to network with other professionals in the field to get an understanding of how to best make a career progression and get some of those pertinent questions answered.
Practical FAQs and Insights
Let’s answer some of those frequently asked questions about being a CAD tech:
Average Salary: The salary for CAD technicians varies based on experience and location. On average, CAD technicians in the United States can earn between $40,000 to $70,000 annually.
Outsourcing CAD Designs: For simple CAD designs, businesses often outsource to freelancers or specialized CAD service providers. This can be a cost-effective way to handle specific tasks without the need for full-time employees.
No Degree Required: It's possible to work as a CAD technician without a formal degree. Building a strong portfolio, acquiring certifications, and gaining practical experience are key to securing CAD technician roles.
Architect, Structural Engineer, vs CAD tech: Architects primarily focus on the overall design, aesthetics, and functionality of buildings. In contrast, structural engineers concentrate on ensuring the structural integrity and safety of these structures. CAD technicians support both professionals by creating technical drawings that bring their visions to life.
Gaining practical experience in the construction industry is invaluable for CAD technicians. That way, you’ll know how to draw and detail to specifications which is crucial as a professional in the industry. Different companies and states may have their own drawing standards, and it is crucial to familiarize yourself with these in your area.
Being a CAD technician is a great career choice with a great salary in the United States. If you don’t want to pursue this as a full-time career, you can gain enough skills to work as a freelancer. These include learning CAD software and gaining practical skills by working with industry professionals.
Remember to enroll for courses in CAD drawing and modeling, build a strong portfolio, and earn certifications. With the right skills and determination, you can make the transition to a professional CAD technician.