Drafters, traditionally called draftsmen, prepare technical drawings and plans for manufacturing and construction workers to build a myriad of items including medical equipment, computers, machinery and buildings. With the advent of computer-aided design, drafters could create and store drawings that that they could easily change and that could be programmed directly into automated manufacturing systems. The starting salary for CAD draftsmen is generally at least $36,000 per year as of 2011.
Broad Category Salaries
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not separate CAD drafters and other draftsmen in its salary figures for this occupation, noting that most drafters use CAD systems even if they also use more traditional drawing methods. The median salary for all architectural and civil drafters as of May 2010 was $22.32 per hour, or $46,430 per year; for mechanical drafters, $23.46 per hour, or $48,810 per year; and for electrical and electronics drafters, $25.49 per hour, or $53,020 per year.
The median salary for an entry-level CAD drafter and those with up to two years of experience was $41,303 annually as of May 2011, according to Salary.com. That translates to a starting wage of about $19.90 per hour. The middle 50 percent of entry-level CAD drafters were earning $36,133 to $47,429 per year. The bottom 10 percent had pay rates at or below $31,426 per year, and the top 10 percent were making $53,007 per year and more.
With at least four years of experience, a CAD drafter can advance to the position of senior CAD drafter for a higher salary. The median annual pay rate for this position as of May 2011 was $50,798. The bottom 10 percent of senior CAD drafters had salaries of $38,123 per year and less, and the top 10 percent were earning $64,987 per year and more.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts slow job growth for draftsmen through at least 2018. Most openings will probably occur due to turnover or retirements. Drafters with at least two years of training beyond high school should have the best prospects. The training program should provide extensive experience with CAD systems.