Is a Career as a Drafter the Green Job for You?

As sustainability becomes a priority for infrastructure in the US and globally, drafters will play an important role in the transition to clean energy and a circular economy. Unlike some jobs that require a four-year degree, drafters can start their careers with an associate degree or even self-taught skills. This makes drafter roles an accessible green career path. 

What Do Drafters Do?

Drafters are people who create technical plans for builders to execute. They use software to prepare 3D models of an entire project as well as individual components. The models they create might be used for creating renders (images of what the finished product will look like), construction documents, or to make sure everything fits together.

Without drafters, a vital part of the communication process that brings these complicated projects from vision to reality would be lost.

The role of a drafter can be compared to that of a LEGO set instruction maker. LEGO designers create a build, then tell the instruction maker what pieces go where. Then it’s up to the instruction maker to create the instructions for that set, and to do it in a way that’s easy for the customer to follow along with. 

As senior drafter at Nexus PMG, I produce plans for many types of projects that reduce carbon emissions and turn waste into energy. Engineers or project managers tell me what components go where, and I translate it into a plan that can be followed on job sites by project managers and tradespeople. 

What Industries Do Drafters Work In?

Drafters can work across a variety of industries, such as:

  • Architecture
  • Engineering
  • Construction
  • Mechanics
  • Manufacturing

Depending on the firm you work for, drafters might create plans for electronic devices, housing, skyscrapers, vehicles, or renewable energy projects—just to name a few. 

Even if you don’t know exactly which industry you want to work in to begin with, the demand for sustainable homes, buildings, goods, and infrastructure means you’re likely to find a job as a drafter that has a positive impact on the environment. 

What Skills Do Drafters Need?

Drafters use a combination of creative and technical skills. They use software to draw up plans according to specifications, using math to calculate specifics. 

Attention to detail is a must. The plans drafters develop must be accurate so others can follow them.

Communication is also an important skill for drafters. Plans are a form of communication, and drafters often work with engineers and architects.

Being a part of any projects means you should be comfortable working under deadlines, so time management skills are needed.

A drive to keep learning is necessary so that you can keep up with new softwares and industry changes.

What Education do Drafters Need?

The path to become a drafter can vary from person to person. Some drafters spend four or more years in college getting a degree. Others may spend two years pursuing an associate degree. Some drafters may never go to college and be completely self-taught. 

College is great for instilling certain practices in drafters such as working to meet deadlines and balancing time between different projects. The downsides of many four-year colleges is that their classes for drafting are usually outdated or only touch on the basics of only one or two softwares. Community colleges are often more capable of adapting with what the workforce needs, and usually have a few different degree programs that focus on drafting in certain engineering disciplines. 

In today’s modern age, people have access to many resources on the internet to learn from, and there are many drafters that learn only from what is on the internet and their personal experiences. 

Common Drafting Softwares

There are several drafting softwares drafters use. Here are some of the more common softwares and what they’re typically used for.

  • AutoCAD is the base program that almost everyone uses. 2D and 3D functionality, several different versions that focus on different engineering disciplines.
  • Revit is a great program for 3D work and BIM and is suitable for most disciplines with highly detailed modeling.
  • Soldiworks or Inventor are ideal for mechanical and part design.
  • SketchUp is a good program to learn for beginners who are interested in architecture or for people who just want to get a concept for a building done without needing much detail. 

Drafters: A Vital Part of the Green New Job Force

Although the job outlook for drafters in the US declined slightly in recent years, new climate policies and the Paris Agreement will mean more green projects that need drafters. It’s a rewarding career path for those who are detail-oriented and like to use a mix of technical and creative skills. Joining a firm or company with a mission to make the world a cleaner, greener place to be is a sure way to make a positive impact in your career as a drafter. 

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Zachary Phillips
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