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Thread: What's a drafting certificate worth?

  1. #1
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    Default What's a drafting certificate worth?

    My son is a pretty smart kid in an introverted, understated way. He has a lot of in-depth knowledge of topics which interest him and an amazing vocabulary. But he was an uninspired student in High School and is now having some trouble finishing an Associates Degree in mechanical design at the local community college. He says he doesn't really care about all the math & physics and just wants to be a draftsman. (He would qualify for a CAD draftsman certificate by this Christmas, or graduate with an associates next summer or fall - dependent on his grades.)

    I did a quick job search for CAD drafting jobs and was only able to locate two in our area, both of which called for an associate's at minimum. Does anyone have real life information on this career field? I'm wondering if (a) drafting jobs exist which would only require a CAD certification, and (b) do they pay enough to support a kid in his early 20's who isn't partial to expensive toys or extravagant entertaiments?

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    He will be worth a helluva lot more as a junior mechanical designer than a junior mechanical draftsman - probably in the order of 1.5 to 2.0x more valuable. Fresh out of school I would expect a drafter to know nothing more than how to use AutoCAD (or whatever); I would assume that he doesn't know how stuff is welded, how gears and bearings work, how to calculate the CG of an assembly, nuttin'... With an education in the basics of mechanical design, I'd trust that he would be able to solve a design problem that I gave him, he'd have a smattering of knowledge about materials and some ability to do basic design calculations. Most design offices don't have time to teach a newbie, they want him to hit the ground running.

    Tell him that I said he should stay in school and get the most out of it he can - not only will he get a better job that pays more, but he will have the ability to go after more interesting jobs.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    We are employing three drafters full time, hired on an internal test and not by degree. I started as a drafter as they wouldn't hire me as an engineer until I proved I knew a thing or two about irrigation.

    So, yes, drafting jobs exist with a certification. And if he gets in full time it is enough to pay the bills for a twenty something. I barely supported a family of four for the first year but we managed. Once he gets in someplace he may find that he is more interested in the engineering or design as he starts to learn about it.

    Best of luck,

    edit to add, I agree with Mike, but I also have two sons 19 and 17 and I got tired of arguing with the 19 year old. Sometimes they have to learn for themselves no matter how much good advice they get.
    In fact, if you can saw a penciled line, apply glue, drive nails, and bring a modest measure of patience to the task, you can build and launch a smart and able craft in as few as 40 work hours. You need not be driven by lack of tools, materials, skills, or time to abandon in frustration a project you conceived in a spirit of pleasurable anticipation.

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    Thanks. I know he's had a lot of coursework in material strengths and some of the other things you mentioned. I suppose he could always go back and finish after he's caught his breath - I just hate to see him take the easy way out. (Besides, I'm not seeing ANY jobs which would accommodate just a basic "Hey, I know CAD" certificate. In this economy, I'm not sure he'd find one in the first place.)

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    Quote Originally Posted by Another One View Post
    My son is a pretty smart kid in an introverted, understated way. He has a lot of in-depth knowledge of topics which interest him and an amazing vocabulary. But he was an uninspired student in High School and is now having some trouble finishing an Associates Degree in mechanical design at the local community college. He says he doesn't really care about all the math & physics and just wants to be a draftsman. (He would qualify for a CAD draftsman certificate by this Christmas, or graduate with an associates next summer or fall - dependent on his grades.)

    I did a quick job search for CAD drafting jobs and was only able to locate two in our area, both of which called for an associate's at minimum. Does anyone have real life information on this career field? I'm wondering if (a) drafting jobs exist which would only require a CAD certification, and (b) do they pay enough to support a kid in his early 20's who isn't partial to expensive toys or extravagant entertaiments?
    In my experience, those jobs tend to exist at larger companies. smaller companies expect the engineer to do both the design and the drafting work.

    The drafting jobs at larger companies tend to produce decent pay and benefits, but can be very volatile. Oftentimes jobs like that are through temp agencies and can have a life-span of only a few months to a year with little or no benefits. It really will depend on the state of manufacturing where you are or where he will live.

    MMD - AutoCad while still popular is being replaced by Autodesk's Inventor product as well as Pro-E, Solid Edge and Solidworks among others. (It could take a long page to list all of the offerings...) Skills with a pencil are still good to have, 'tho. It's amazing how many places still have what we refer to as "legacy" drawings on paper only.
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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    mmd is right: there isn't much value in simply being able to drive a CAD program... anyone can learn that. The problem is that good jobs are going to people who understand far more than merely knowing how to operate the program... they need to understand manufacturing processes, so what they design is actually manufacturable.

    I work closely with guys like this... the ones who design plastic know about injection molding processes, the ones who design sheet metal parts know about sheet metal fabrication, and so on.

    Encourage the kid to stay in school, at least to get an associates degree... and to continue his education even after he gets a starting job, to get a bachelors degree. It's a field where your value is truly proportional to your education.

    I suspect Keith Wilson would be an excellent resource, for advice.
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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    Well, I can speak to this from some experience; I'm a mechanical engineer working designing industrial machinery, I worked as a draftsman (with pencil and paper, even) and I've hired a fair number of designers and drafters. I think the associate degree would be very helpful - not so much on the job; he sounds bright enough, but to get past the personnel department. The point of putting the degree in the job description is to ensure that the person is somewhat intelligent, reasonably OK with basic math (through algebra, anyway), and has at least a nodding familiarity with physics. Very few drafting jobs are just drafting; they almost all involve at least a bit of design, selection of components, simple calculations, that kind of thing. And pure drafting is boring. Remember that the HR folks mostly don't have a clue what engineering really needs, so they just check off the qualifications on the list we give them, pitching out all the resumes that don't have 'em.

    I realize that getting anyone that age to think long-term is difficult, but toughing it out on for another six months or a year for the degree would definitely help his job prospects in this economy - or any economy, for that matter. Personally, I like them to have some practical shop experience; fixing his own car at least. It's amazing the difference a little experience with greasy hands makes. Some companies don't care about that; I've mainly worked with smaller outfits where things are less compartmentalized. Drafting jobs usually pay decently; not riches by any means, but respectable.
    Last edited by Keith Wilson; 10-15-2009 at 02:27 PM.

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    Speasking as one who started out as a Draftsman fifty years ago and progressed to become a well-paid mechanical designer, I would agree entirely with mmd.

    Unfortunately, theis sort of job is being outsourced at a record pace, so openings are not as numerous as they were twenty years ago.

    Moby Nick

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    for all the old drafter out there, "but can you Leroy?"
    In fact, if you can saw a penciled line, apply glue, drive nails, and bring a modest measure of patience to the task, you can build and launch a smart and able craft in as few as 40 work hours. You need not be driven by lack of tools, materials, skills, or time to abandon in frustration a project you conceived in a spirit of pleasurable anticipation.

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    I had contact with CAD interns who would do work-study at my former job, and others with my current job, or who work for A/E firms.

    One used her computer knowledge to move into a hospital IT department where she is doing well.

    For most of the others, it seems to be sort of a dead-end job where they are treated as 2nd rate citizens by the engineers. From my limited exposure in the construction field in the NorthEast, it seems more career opportunities are available to those with the engineering degree, or those that want to go full bore into IT.

    My advice would be to try to grind his way through the math and physics and get his ticket punched.....the actual grades really don't matter much as long as he passes.

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    <--Can Leroy and has had the ink stains to prove it.
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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    The flip side to all this is that CAD experience is very useful for applying to A/E jobs. Never would have got the chance to get this job if I hadn't had a drafting background to get my foot in the door. If he thinks he is done with school for now but wants to go back later and punch his ticket, then a year or two of drafting will be a good job. Maye it is different elsewhere but the new Ag engineers we get out of CSU have been exposed to CAD, but they cant draft yet.
    In fact, if you can saw a penciled line, apply glue, drive nails, and bring a modest measure of patience to the task, you can build and launch a smart and able craft in as few as 40 work hours. You need not be driven by lack of tools, materials, skills, or time to abandon in frustration a project you conceived in a spirit of pleasurable anticipation.

    -Dynamite Payson

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    Printed circuit board design is a good analogy, because it's the sort of skill one can learn in a trade school... but trade school is not the place to learn how to be GOOD at it.

    I often hire subcontractors to do this kind of work, and the good ones bill out at $50-$60 per hour. The difference between a good one, and a bad one, however, is remarkable: the bad ones don't have a clue as to how PC boards and assembled electronic products are made, and it shows in their work. The good ones produce usable artworks the first time, every time.

    So, having a degree definately helps to get you in the door.... but what you learn on the job is what makes you good at it.
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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    I went to a community college for 6 years when I was young. Studied everything from business to basic law courses, to mechanical engineering trying to figure out what I wanted to do.
    Got burned out and quit with just 160+ worthless credit hours, a certificate in CAD and one (certificate) in computer aided manufacturing.

    After 15 years working as a process engineer (without degree), CAD designer, Manual drafting designer, CNC programmer, CNC machinist, manual machinist, shop supervisor, etc. I finally went back and got a 4yr BS in computer science. My career has jumped 10,000 times further in the last 2 years than it did in the previous 20.

    What is a CAD degree worth in a country with rapidly declining industry? Not much.
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do, than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    Yes, he will do better as a mechanical engineer. But it has to be his decision. The way forward could be, that you agree that he can work as a draftsman if he finds himself a draftsman job - and while he is looking and as long as he can't find one, he continues his education.

    Difficult age. He wants to try his wings - and you have to let him more and more, so that he can learn from own experience (and mistakes) as well. Be there for him when he needs you.

    To get a bachelor or even a master degree would take a lot of determination - and that needs to come out of himself, you can not give him this determination. Getting work experience may give him this determination - experiencing that people who aren't smarter than himself but are better educated may tell him what he has to do and even get payed better may be what he needs to get the determination. In the end, it has to be his decision, his determination.
    Last edited by Henning 4148; 10-15-2009 at 03:41 PM.

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    Quote Originally Posted by Henning 4148 View Post
    To get a bachelor or even a master degree would take a lot of determination - and that needs to come out of himself, you can not give him this determination. Getting work experience may give him this determination - experiencing that people who aren't smarter than himself but are better educated may tell him what he has to do and even get payed better may be what he needs to get the determination. In the end, it has to be his decision, his determination.

    Very well put!
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do, than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

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    Talking Re: Hey, do you guys like wooden boats?

    The predominant profession on this forum seems to be engineers, you might try asking somewhere with slightly less bias.


    How far into the course is he? AD seems to be two years. If he's hating it and he's first year, maybe jump ship and take what he's learnt elsewhere, if he's second year, he should tough it out then he can add something (that he likes) on top of the degree.
    We don't know how lucky we are....

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    'Nother One, there are many types of drafters. I did an architectural drafting course (at age 45) and made a decent living for a few years. If your son has difficulty with maths/physics (or little interest), I wouldn't push him into engineering. Engineers are a particular breed - when they list their hobbies, they include 'Engineering'.

    Your boy may have a lot more in him. Why not get tipsy with him sometime and throw in the question, "What would you really like to do in your life?" Somethiing he really wants to do will motivate him far beyond something he feels he should do to please Mum (Mom).

    ps: I still have no idea what I want to do when I grow up.
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    Default Re: Hey, do you guys like wooden boats?

    Quote Originally Posted by seanz View Post
    The predominant profession on this forum seems to be engineers, you might try asking somewhere with slightly less bias.

    The worth of a CAD certificate these days in the US of A is not determined by bias. Its determined by what the market will pay.
    This is determined by how many CAD drafters there are compared to the demand. These days there isnt that much demand and pretty much any mechanical engineer graduating has experience with CAD. This means that employers have the choice to hire a degreed engineer rather than just a CAD certificate holder.
    The only employers that are looking to hire just a CAD certificate holder are the cheapskates looking to save a penny wherever they can. I worked for a few of those. It wasnt fun. At the same time the fact that it wasnt fun is what gave me the determination mentioned above to go back to school and get a real degree. On my own dime of course because cheapskate companies dont have tuition assistance. And not only that but they will try to set up obstacles to you getting a degree because it isnt easy to get smart people to work for what they are paying and they dont want you to succeed and leave.
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do, than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    Sigh..........all hail The Market.
    We don't know how lucky we are....

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    Just as a point of reference, we paid architectural draftsmen anywhere from $32 - 48k, depending upon experience.
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    Default Re: Hey, do you guys like wooden boats?

    Quote Originally Posted by seanz View Post
    The predominant profession on this forum seems to be engineers, you might try asking somewhere with slightly less bias.


    How far into the course is he? AD seems to be two years. If he's hating it and he's first year, maybe jump ship and take what he's learnt elsewhere, if he's second year, he should tough it out then he can add something (that he likes) on top of the degree.
    I don't think it's a biased assessment. Organizations are getting "flatter" all the time and people are asked to do more tasks - like engineers doing their own drafting, secretarial work, etc. I can't tell you the last time I had an honest to gawd draftsman or technical secretary in the office. Less middle managers and less support staff.
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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    We don't know how lucky we are....

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    This means that employers have the choice to hire a degreed engineer rather than just a CAD certificate holder.
    The only employers that are looking to hire just a CAD certificate holder are the cheapskates looking to save a penny wherever they can.
    I don't think this is entirely realistic. To get a degreed engineer, you have to pay considerably more than you would for a drafter or designer. In all but the smallest companies, it makes much more sense sense to use people's abilities and training more efficiently; let the engineers do what they do best, and give the lower-level design and drafting to people that don't cost so much and don't bitch about being made to do what they consider grunt work. Unless there are only a couple of people in the department, having a mix of skill levels is good.

    Besides, the question wasn't about whether he should sign on for a full four or five-year BS in engineering, it was about whether an associate degree as opposed to just CAD certification was worth the effort. I say it is.
    Last edited by Keith Wilson; 10-15-2009 at 09:48 PM.

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    I agree with all of the above. Having a degree, associates good, bachelors better, tells the company not only that you have technical skills, but that you are well rounded in other areas as well. That you can write an intelligent and cohesive report, for example. That you have studied, at least in a few classes, cultures other than your own, so that if you get sent overseas for an assignment, you don't assume that everything American is better. That you can research something objectively and with a scientific methodology.

    Getting a bachelors is hard, but the classes get more interesting in the 3rd and 4th years (and I mean this loosely, I took much longer than that), assuming you didn't just get by in the earlier prerequisites like calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra, because you will need that stuff for the professional electives. Right now, technical employment is way down. It's the best time to stay in school and go as far as he can. If, like me, his mental workload cannot tolerate taking 4 or 5 classes at a time, he may do better working part time and taking a couple of classes at a time.

    CAD used to be a very specialized skill, requiring very skilled people and powerful, very expensive computers. Newer computer programs have made CAD easier, and much cheaper. That is good. But it also means that more people can do it. Supply and demand. It's not like he will be in a union. To prosper, he needs to do something that fewer people can do. Having said this, if the tide of outsourcing is not stemmed, there won't be any jobs for him here. He may want to start learning Chinese language as well. I'm not kidding. Bilingual English/Chinese engineers will be in demand. Probably not as source engineers there, but "application engineers" here.

    Lastly, the lower the level of job, and the more the skill is a commodity, the greater the chance it will locally outsourced to a "contract" firm, i.e., a temp agency, with no benefits like health care, and on/off employment. This happens with degreed engineers as well, but if the job involves knowing sensitive proprietary knowledge, the companies usually hire them on as full time because they don't want them going to work for competitors.

    When you are young, you have a high tolerance for sucky work conditions. And 20 grand a year seems like a fortune when living at home. He'll learn. I was lucky to end up in some really bad jobs right out of high school. That scared me enough to stick it out as long as it took, no matter what setbacks, to get my degree. However I was also lucky enough to have some trade skills to make enough money to pay for tuition and board, to work my way through, because the "college fund" had about $500 in it.
    Last edited by Bob (oh, THAT Bob); 10-16-2009 at 02:47 AM.
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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    Thanks, all. I gave him a synopsis of this conversation. He heaved a big sigh and said he'd better just finish the Associates of Mechanical Design, then.

    His end goal is a bit vague, but he also has an interest in library science. I can't quite see him going after the Master's in Library Science which seems to be the industry standard, but he still might be able to land a spot as librarian at an engineering firm with a technical degree and a bit more work. In any case, thanks for the consult.

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    Quote Originally Posted by Another One View Post
    Thanks, all. I gave him a synopsis of this conversation. He heaved a big sigh and said he'd better just finish the Associates of Mechanical Design, then.

    His end goal is a bit vague, but he also has an interest in library science. I can't quite see him going after the Master's in Library Science which seems to be the industry standard, but he still might be able to land a spot as librarian at an engineering firm with a technical degree and a bit more work. In any case, thanks for the consult.
    Good luck to him (and to mom). It's a tough process he's going through. It's good that you're there, lending him your experience on research and decision-making. It may provoke deep sighs now, but I suspect that he'll come around to appreciating it later.

    I've got one 21 who has (after an extended period such as you describe) really grabbed the bull by the horns and is moving forward with his life. I have one 16 that sometimes drives me to despair. I can only hope that he, too, will figure it out one day. Can't live their lives for them, all we can do is to be there - supporting and offering help and guidance... while recognizing their need to separate from our control.

    Again, the best of luck!
    David G
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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    Quote Originally Posted by Another One View Post
    His end goal is a bit vague, but he also has an interest in library science. I can't quite see him going after the Master's in Library Science which seems to be the industry standard, but he still might be able to land a spot as librarian at an engineering firm with a technical degree and a bit more work. In any case, thanks for the consult.
    You never know where they end up... I guess you have to have 'faith'.

    My youngest got a degree, cum laude, in Political Science from Tufts University... not an easy 'get', by any means... but she had absolutely NO interest in politics; she picked it because she just couldn't think of anything else to major in.

    After graduation, there was the obligitory backpacking trip across Europe... followed by a year and a half working as a barmaid in an Irish pub in Washington DC. I used to sigh deeply, thinking about that $150K first class education going to waste....

    ...and then the novelty of the barmaid thing wore off... and she got an internship at a PR firm in DC.... which, within 3 months, turned into a permanent job. Now, three years later, she's an Account Supervisor there, has been promoted far faster than anyone else (three times, in three years) and is only two steps away from being a vice president of the firm. She's on course for a fantastic career.

    Oh.... that political science degree? She lives in the shadow of the Capitol building... but I doubt she could tell you who the Speaker of the House is!
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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    Can Leroy and has had the ink stains to prove it.
    Be left-handed and do it - there's a challenge.
    Over 40 years as a contract drafter/designer/engineer - job shopper.
    When you say drafting do you mean creating the actual fabrication or erection drawings necesary to build something i.e. with all the dimensions, etc.?
    Or just doing 3D models - the major subject taught in schools now?
    Until they come up with something to replace detailed drawings, people who can draw will still be needed.
    As far as "engineers" doing their own drawings, it's something beneath them.
    Being able to 3D model and draw are equally important.
    Be over willing to learn how and why to develop design.
    If "RED" is not a color you can deal with try some other profession.
    People will always comment on your work.
    If you can get extended field or shop experience early in your career it will serve you until the end.

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    I went to school with a guy who had his 4yr in library science. He was working at Microsoft. They paid for his school and now he is a software developer.
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do, than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

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    Default Re: What's a drafting certificate worth?

    At least if he's just doing CAD work he's not likely to pe run over by his test subject.

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