How Do I Become a Structural Drafter?

T. L. Childree

Structural drafters create technical drawings used in the construction of bridges, buildings, and other structures. You must have strong artistic and analytical-thinking skills, as well as mathematical and computer ability to become a structural drafter. The minimum education required for this occupation is an Associate of Applied Science degree with specific training in computer-aided drafting and design. After you become a structural drafter, employment can be found in many different industries, including engineering, manufacturing, and architecture. These professionals generally spend their time preparing construction drawings from technical specifications, sketches, and mathematical calculations.

Structural drafters often produce technical drawings for bridges.
Structural drafters often produce technical drawings for bridges.

In order to become a structural drafter, you must possess excellent analytical-thinking skills to produce detailed construction drawings from complex mathematical calculations. You should also have a certain amount of artistic ability to create well-drawn plans from rough sketches and notes. Excellent mathematical ability is needed to calculate and draw the exact dimensions of various structural components. These professionals rely heavily on many different computer software applications and a good working knowledge of computers is essential. You must also have good communications skills and be able to work independently or as part of a team.

Many structural drafters used computer-aided drafting software to draft the designs.
Many structural drafters used computer-aided drafting software to draft the designs.

An associate’s degree in applied science is typically required to become a structural drafter, although some employers may prefer a bachelor’s degree in engineering design and structural drafting. Any college training should include instruction in the use of computer-aided drafting and design equipment. Coursework in advanced mathematics and architectural terminology will also be helpful for this career. Although not required, professional certification in this field can often give you a significant hiring advantage over other job-seekers. The American Design Drafting Association offers an internationally-recognized, professional certification to show potential employers that your knowledge and skills are up-to-date with current technology and practices.

Structural drafters work in many different industries, including engineering and architecture. They produce construction drawings for bridges, buildings, and railroads, as well as manufacturing and processing facilities. Many of these professionals work in educational or research institutions, while others are employed by consulting firms. Employment can also be found with various governmental agencies, such as transportation and public works departments.

After you become a structural drafter, you will spend most of your time producing detailed drawings of existing and proposed structures. You will probably use computer-aided drafting equipment to produce many of these drawings. A certain amount of time will also be spent meeting with other professionals such as engineers or construction contractors. In addition to producing construction drawings, you will also create flow charts, calculate materials, and prepare cost estimates. You may also be called upon to analyze or simulate potential design flaws.

Structural drafters may work on projects from inception through completion in order to make any design modifications that become necessary.
Structural drafters may work on projects from inception through completion in order to make any design modifications that become necessary.

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