If you enjoy drawing, design, or technical creativity, an associate degree in drafting can turn your passion into a career. Drafting refers to the technical designs of a construction project, including 3D models, architectural blueprints, technical illustrations, and geographical maps. Drafters utilize advanced computer programs in industries such as engineering, architecture, manufacturing, and graphic design.

Below is an outline of an on-campus associate in drafting, potential careers, and further academic resources for students.

Should I Get an Associate Degree in Drafting?

An associate degree in drafting equips students with the skills necessary to work alongside engineers, graphic designers, or architects. Students learn how to outline structures on computer-aided design (CAD) programs.

Early in a program, courses provide students with valuable hands-on experience in drafting classes and interactive lectures. Classes can focus on manufacturing design, 3D model construction, or historical architectural trends. Many programs require a capstone project, like a design portfolio or an internship, which can include assisting engineers or architects. Graduates of associate in drafting programs are competitive candidates for entry-level positions in architecture and engineering, and are eligible for bachelor's programs in design or technology.

While on-campus and online associate in drafting programs have similar courses, prospective students should consider which learning environment is best for them. Online classes can benefit working professionals or nontraditional students. On-campus programs might be best for students who want more hands-on experience with professors, peers, and industry experts. The extra support is especially beneficial in drafting classes.

What Can I Do With an Associate in Drafting?

A drafting degree prepares you for careers in many fields, including industrial design. While some positions only need an associate degree, many require a bachelor's degree. Positions can necessitate fieldwork at local construction sites or require international travel.


Drafters work alongside engineers and architects, translating designs into technical drawings. They most often specialize in a specific area, such as mechanical, electrical, or architectural drafting. An associate's degree is necessary for most entry-level drafting positions.

Median Annual Salary: $54,170

How to Choose an Associate in Drafting Program

The average drafting degree program comprises of 60-65 credits. While students who study full-time can complete the program in two years, part-time students take longer to graduate. Students can apply transfer credit from prior courses and employment experiences, or consider online drafting programs. Regardless of on-campus or online enrollment, it is important students choose programs that maintain national or regional accreditation.

Common courses include drawing, introduction to CAD, and diagram drafting. While an associate is a foundational degree, students who transfer to bachelor's programs can choose concentrations such as industrial design, visual communication and design, or product development.

Associate degree tuition can cost between $10,000-$20,000. Programs usually charge additional fees for using advanced software or labs, which can be up to $2,000 extra. Students should also consider location: in-state students typically pay less tuition, and rural campuses have lower living costs than urban colleges. Urban settings; however, might offer better internship or job opportunities. Prospective students should ensure a program will fit personal and professional interests before enrolling.

Associate in Drafting Program Admissions

Admission to an associate of drafting degree program requires a high school diploma or GED. While not all drafting degree programs have specific prerequisites, all programs prefer candidates who demonstrate critical thinking, mathematical reasoning, and computer literacy. Additionally, many associate programs ask applicants to take placement tests, such as the ACCUPLACER.

Online admissions often have rolling deadlines, whereas on-campus colleges usually have firm deadlines. Since community colleges accept most applicants, students do not need to apply to more than one or two schools. Students should be sure to apply only to schools that support their specific academic interests, especially if they plan to transfer to a four-year college.

Admission Materials

  • Application: Students can fill out associate degree applications online.
  • Transcripts: Applicants need to provide their high school transcripts or GED. Students can obtain transcripts from the school registrar for free or a small fee.
  • Application Fee: Many community colleges offer free applications, although some charge up to $20. Students who demonstrate financial need can receive application waivers.

Educational Paths for Drafting Associate Programs

Graduates of associate in drafting programs can transfer to bachelor's programs that focus on industrial design and engineering. Transfering to a bachelor's program leads to job security and higher earnings. The BLS projects that professionals with a bachelor's earn almost $10,000 more annually than those with an associate degree. Below are some common transfer options for associate drafting students.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design

Fine arts industrial design degrees emphasize classes in photography, design, and art history. Some programs might also prioritize applying industrial design concepts to the goods manufacturing process. Students complete design portfolios as a final project.

Bachelor of Design

Design degrees focus on subjects like product design. This degree combines manufacturing drafting strategies with human behavior, needs, and habits. Students develop a well-rounded approach to marketing and commercial design through a social interaction lens.

Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology

This degree prioritizes technical skills in mechanical and industrial systems. Engineering technologists learn to work in entry-level engineering positions, often on teams that design civic infrastructure, electrical systems, or manufactured goods.

What Else Can I Expect From an Associate in Drafting Program?

All drafting programs offer CAD software courses, and most feature architectural or graphic design classes. Courses cover prominent software programs in the industry and can be designed for a particular career field.

Courses in an Associate in Drafting Program

Programs typically offer classes in CAD technology, graphic design, and 3D visualization. Some programs offer classes that help students transition to the workforce after graduation. Below, are some common classes found in drafting programs.


CAD classes cover the foundation of computer aided design software, like inquiry commands, dimension techniques, and modeling fundamentals. These classes usually include both a lecture and lab component. CAD classes are vital for every career in industrial design.


This class teaches SolidWorks, a specific CAD software that transforms 2D drawings into 3D shapes. SolidWorks courses generally help students practice manipulating solid models and developing drawings for engineering products. This class is useful for drafters and engineering technologists.

Graphic Communications

This class introduces students to the basic principles of graphic design, focusing on elements of composition, layout, and color. Classes often explore the role of social media in graphic design. Graphic communications prepares students for jobs in industrial design, especially roles in product manufacturing.

Architectural Design

Architectural design focuses on architecture drafting techniques and outlines design principles for all buildings and structures. Some schools emphasize residential or commercial architecture and cover development history. This class is essential for drafters.

Special Project

Most drafting programs culminate in a final project. The project is often a complex design assignment that illustrates a student's mastery of professional design skills. Alternatively, the project might be a presentation of past design work. While this project prepares for any career involving drafting work, it is especially useful for industrial designers.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Drafting?

On average, students earn an associate degree in drafting after completing 60-65 credits. Programs with built-in internships might require more credits and take slightly longer. Working professionals have the option to study part time and extend the length of a degree.

Students can decrease school time by transferring credits. Community colleges often accept transfer credit from AP tests or prior college classes. Some colleges accept prior learning credits for past work experience or military service. A student's eligibility for transfer credits depends on each school's unique preferences, so it is important to work closely with an academic adviser when navigating the application and transfer process.

How Much Is an Associate in Drafting?

While the overall price tag of a college education varies, the average cost of tuition for an associate in drafting usually falls between $10,000-$20,000. Residence status also affects the cost of tuition. Out-of-state students can pay up to twice as much per credit as in-state students. Additionally, some schools offer extra discounts for in-state students who reside in the same county as the community college.

The cost of an associate degree in drafting includes more than just tuition. Prospective students should factor living costs into their education expenses, such as rent and campus housing. Colleges usually charge extra fees for amenities, like parking. The most common additional charge for drafting students is a technology fee. Since drafting and engineering technology classes rely on complex software, programs either charge fees for necessary work and equipment, or factor it into tuition. Altogether, extra fees can amount to as much as $2,000 over the course of two years.

Professional Organizations in Drafting

Professional organizations help recent graduates build professional networks, by hosting national and niche conferences, offering continuing education opportunities, and supporting online job boards. Professional drafting organizations help students translate classroom knowledge to a career like architecture, industrial design, or cartography. Listed below are just a few of the most prominent drafting organizations.

American Design Drafting Association

The ADDA preserves professional drafting history and promotes future innovation. The association offers members online opportunities for continuing education, professional certification, and a job board.

American Association of Geographers

For over a century, this nonprofit has promoted the practice of both academic and professional geography and cartography. The AAG provides digital career planning services and publishes resources, such as The Professional Geographer.

Industrial Designers Society of America

The IDSA connects and educates communities of U.S. industrial designers. They organize multiple annual conferences, including events for women in design and medical equipment designers.