AutoCAD — the Gold Standard
The field of computer-aided design is used in many types of applications throughout the business and scientific world. CAD programs are used to create engineering designs, architectural blueprints, aeronautic and automotive plans, and many other important applications. While many types of CAD programs are used in these jobs, the most important one is AutoCAD.
Developed in 1992 by Marin-based Autodesk as one of the first and most widely used CAD software programs, AutoCAD is considered to be the ''gold standard'' of computer-aided design. Primarily used in architecture and engineering applications (the largest areas of CAD technician employment) AutoCAD skills are a must for any serious applicant seeking a CAD career as a graphic artist, architectural/engineering drafter, 3D modeler, or visual production designer.
While there are several ways in which one can master AutoCAD skills, the most widely accepted is through an AutoCAD diploma program. Offered by a variety of colleges and technical schools, a diploma program is structured to train students seeking AutoCAD jobs in all the mechanical and CAD design skills required for an entry-level position. Besides giving students hands on instruction in AutoCAD skills, most programs also provide them with access to the latest versions of AutoCAD software and associated computers (a real benefit considering the cost for an AutoCAD ''seat license.'') Good programs also provide training by experienced AutoCAD teachers who know the field applications of AutoCAD in everyday situations.
What Is an AutoCAD Degree Program Like?
A good AutoCAD design training program combines classroom work and written tests with hands on lab experience. Assignments in the lab section should reflect actual real world problems in design and implementation. Labs provide ''student'' AutoCAD suites that are in effect scaled down versions of the professional program, although these cannot be used to professional applications.
AutoCAD degree programs are designed to prepare the student with the skills needed for any entry-level position as an AutoCAD drafter, tech, or general user. Through lab and class work, skills in two dimensional drafting, plotting and editing are established, creating a foundation on which advanced skills in 3D design, coordinate systems, modeling, revolving, extruding and 2D isometrics can be built.
Where to Learn?
While many colleges offer training in AutoCAD technologies, AutoCAD degree programs are usually offered by technical school groups such as Westwood Colleges, ITT Technical Institutes, the Art Institutes, and the Herzing Colleges. Online programs are also offered, although these programs tend to lack as much contact with experienced instructors and lab experience.
The Benefits of a Degree
A degree in an official AutoCAD program demonstrates to potential employers that the applicant has mastered all of the important elements required for an entry-level AutoCAD job. With an accredited AutoCAD degree, applicants have a recognized way of showing that they are equal to the demanding standards of an AutoCAD based position. This translates into better employment chances and higher entry salaries in this competitive field.
Is the extra work worth it? Definitely. As the industry standard, AutoCAD training gives the prospective applicant access to the widest possible range of job openings. AutoCAD jobs cover the gamut of the business world, from architectural and engineering positions, to 3D modeling, graphic design, and material science areas. AutoCAD workers can specialize in automotive and aerospace jobs; many work in product and industrial design. Experienced CAD worker salaries range at around $52,220 per year, while entry-level CAD job salaries start in the $27,010 range. Median salaries for AutoCAD jobs are in the range of approximately $41,960 per year. With an AutoCAD design degree, employers are assured of an applicant’s training and abilities, which makes that applicant more desirable than an applicant without degree training.
According to US Department of Labor, 253,000 people held CAD design jobs in 2006, with approximately 49% working for architectural, engineering, and similar firms. An additional 25% found employment in tool fabrication, computer, and electronics manufacturing, aerospace or other fields. Approximately 5% of the overall CAD industry was self-employed.
While demand is increasing, the computer aided design field is still expected to grow at a rate slower than the general job market, due to the lengthy process of gaining experience in the field. Outsourcing to other countries and an increasing pool of other technicians capable of using CAD programs will also dampen job expansion. So if you’re looking for the resume edge for in AutoCAD jobs, a degree is well worth the time and effort.
Computer-aided design technicians will continue to be in high demand as modern manufacturing processes depend more and more upon these technologies to bring new goods and services to the market. High salaries and the chance for advancement will make competition for these jobs highly competitive; but with an AutoCAD design degree and the right training under your belt, you can level that playing field and score the best AutoCAD jobs in this growing technical field.