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CAD Designer vs. Drafter: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

If you’re interested in a career in design, you may be wondering what the difference is between a CAD designer and a drafter. Both roles are important in the design process, but they have different responsibilities. In this article, we explain the duties of a CAD designer and a drafter, and we discuss the similarities and differences between the two positions.

What is a CAD Designer?

CAD Designers use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create 2D and 3D models of products, structures and systems. They work in a variety of industries, such as architecture, engineering and manufacturing. CAD Designers use their technical skills to turn the concepts of architects and engineers into detailed plans. They create drawings and specifications that are used by construction workers, manufacturers and other professionals to build products and structures. CAD Designers use their creativity to find innovative solutions to design challenges. They also use their problem-solving skills to troubleshoot issues that arise during the design process.

What is a Drafter?

Drafters use software to convert the designs of architects and engineers into technical drawings. They create 2D and 3D models of buildings or products that include all the necessary measurements and details. Drafters use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create their drawings, and they must have a strong understanding of this technology to be successful in the role. In addition to using CAD software, drafters may also use traditional drafting tools, such as T-squares, compasses and protractors, to complete their work. After creating a drawing, drafters must review it for accuracy and make any necessary revisions.

CAD Designer vs. Drafter

Here are the main differences between a CAD designer and a drafter.

Job Duties

Both CAD designers and drafters have similar job duties, although the tasks can vary based on the company or project. Typically, CAD designers and drafters work independently to create drawings of designs that engineers or architects can use to build structures. For example, a drafter may create floor plans and building schematics, while a CAD designer may create architectural renderings and 3D images of buildings.

CAD designers and drafters also share similar job duties related to their work with computers. Both professionals use computer software programs to complete their work, but they often perform different functions. Drafters typically use simpler software for basic drawing needs, while CAD designers use more advanced software to create complex images and architectural renderings.

Job Requirements

CAD designers and drafters typically need at least an associate degree in computer-aided drafting (CAD) or a related field. Some employers prefer candidates to have a bachelor’s degree, but it is not always required. Additionally, many CAD designers and drafters pursue certifications through organizations like the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA). These certifications can help professionals stay up-to-date on the latest software programs and design techniques.

Work Environment

A drafter may work in an office or a construction site. They often travel to different locations, depending on the project they’re working on. Some drafters work for engineering firms, while others work for construction companies.

CAD designers usually work in offices and collaborate with other professionals to create designs. CAD designers also travel to meet with clients and attend conferences.


CAD designers and drafters both use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D) models of objects. CAD designers typically have more experience and training than drafters and are responsible for creating the initial designs of products or components. Drafters take those designs and turn them into detailed drawings that can be used to manufacture the product or component.

Both CAD designers and drafters need to have strong spatial visualization skills to be able to create accurate 2D and 3D representations of objects. They also both need to be detail oriented to ensure their drawings are precise. However, CAD designers may need to have stronger artistic skills than drafters to be able to create attractive and functional designs, while drafters may need to have stronger technical skills to be able to understand and follow complex engineering drawings.


Drafters and CAD designers both work in the design and engineering fields. Drafters earn an average salary of $47,009 per year, while CAD designers earn an average salary of $63,573 per year. Both of these salaries may vary depending on the type of work you do, your level of experience and the location of your job.


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