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A draftsman, also called a drafter, is a man or woman who specializes in creating technical drawings. Professionals make both hand drawings and computer-aided design (CAD) blueprints for various structures. They take the ideas, sketches, and concepts from designers and turn them into detailed, accurate final plans. Most drafters specialize in creating particular diagrams or blueprints, such as designs of homes, buildings, bridges, industrial equipment, or consumer electronics. The majority work for drafting firms, manufacturing plants, and construction companies, though some skilled workers operate their own businesses.
It is common for people in this field to work exclusively in a particular industry or discipline. Civil drafters, for example, work with engineers and surveyors to prepare land maps and sketch blueprints for buildings, bridges, tunnels, and highway structures. A mechanical draftsman might draw diagrams for machines and their parts, while an electronics drafter might outline the schematics for electrical wires and currents within houses or consumer products. It is essential for draftsmen to know a great deal about the industry in which they specialize, since drawings and blueprints need to contain even the smallest details.
Modern computer technology has drastically changed the roles and responsibilities of this job. CAD programs allow experts to create highly accurate scale drawings that can easily be modified. A draftsman can use virtual drawing tools to create perfect geometric shapes and two-dimensional curves. Some advanced CAD applications allow individuals to make three-dimensional representations and view a drawing from multiple angles. CAD programs can also be used to simulate real-world conditions so that engineers and drafters can predict the structural soundness of a proposed design.
A person who wants to enter this field can pursue a degree from a technical school, community college, or university. Many vocational schools and two-year colleges offer programs in technical drawing, blueprint reading, and CAD. Some motivated individuals choose to take online or correspondence courses, where they use CAD programs on their home computers to learn the fundamentals of drafting. Four- and five-year programs at universities usually provide students with the opportunity to specialize in industrial design, architecture, or engineering-based drawing courses. While in school, students have the opportunity to begin building a professional portfolio to present to potential employers.
New drafters often find work in architectural, drafting, and engineering firms. Other employers include design consulting companies, construction companies, and manufacturing plants. Professional certification is not usually necessary to find work in the field, but many new drafters choose to take written and drawing tests from national organizations to improve their credentials. People who work in the United States can pursue certification from the American Design Drafting Association, and similar organizations can be found in most other countries.