Is "drafter" a still-used position at engineering firms? What skills does a drafter need?
For example, if you were going to a college with vocational courses, would it make sense to try to pursue something that prepares you to become a drafter?
Are engineering firms still looking for people to handle just drafting, or do they only want engineers?
If they are, what are the necessary drafting programs to learn that make you more employable?
Traditional drafting (hand-drawn and hand-erased plans) disappeared at least 25 years ago. The Craft is now called CAD (computer-aided drafting). AutoCAD is a widely used utility, but there are several others. You import standard designs from the Web and then electronically change them to fit the specific engineering design. A closely-related skill is GIS (geographic information system) that generally uses electronic mapped information. The most widely used GIS utility is ESRI's ArcGIS. Both skills are can be learned in a 2-year vocational class at many junior colleges. Cad Operators are valued and there is a considerable demand for them at engineering consulting firms and govt. agencies.
You should also note that basic CAD and GIS skills are taught to engineering students, as this is a critical skill for them, as well.
Peter recommends the following next steps:
Congratulations on being interested in finding the right career to follow. Drafting is still done; however, it is done through various computerized processes. It still takes a special person to enter into a this career field and meet the demands which that career area presents. The first step is to get to know yourself to see if you share the personality traits which make that make one successful in that area. The next step is doing networking to meet and talk to and possibly shadow people doing what you might think that you want to do to see if this is something that you really want to do, as a career area could look much different on the inside than it looks from the outside. When I was doing college recruiting, I encountered too many students, who skipped these important steps, and ended up in a career/job for which they were ill suited.
Ken recommends the following next steps:
However, yes you are right, larger size companies still have the drafter positions available. In my opinion, if you start from drafter then it would be harder for you to be raised as an engineer.
The drafting software/ programs that I will suggest are shown as the following:
civil/ water resources/ site development/ highway: Microstation, AutoCAD, AutoCAD Civil 3D
roadway modeling: Inroads, OpenRoads
Peter answered the question well. I was an old school draftperson (pencil) and it provided me with an income to continue school. I designed medical instruments, fast food restaurant equipment, piping designs for chemical plants and even designed circuit boards as a draftsperson. One other skill that is important is sketching. Isomeric drawings and sketches help people understand a design or concept. CAD operators and designers are in great demand and usually work with or under an engineer. CAD technology courses can be secured from a technical school in approximate two years. If you want to have more independence, I’d look into continuing school and perusing an engineering career. Good luck.