A career as a CAD Draughtsperson

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Adrian Morgan creates on-screen designs using computer-aided design (CAD) which eventually become real schools, hospitals and theatres. He is a CAD technician with Buro Happold, based in Cardiff – a company which turns architects' ideas into real buildings.

What does your job involve?

It is the CAD technician's job to draw plans that the builders will follow when they start to build. While the architect is someone who creates the look and the 'clothes' of a building, we design the skeleton – the structure that holds it up.

Who do you work with?

Mainly, architects and engineers. I take the sketches or drawings that the architect produces and create two and three dimensional models of the building on the computer screen. I then print out the detailed drawings that the engineers and contractors need to build the structure, to put in the heating and ventilation and to install the electrics and lighting.

How do you start on a new project?

We work as a team – CAD technicians, structural engineers, building services engineers, civil engineers and so on.We look at the architect's ideas and discuss how we can make them work cost effectively.

I might then do a few rough sketches by hand just to test ideas, but all the drawing is done on computer, using specialised CAD programmes.

You build up the model by selecting 'pieces' such as columns or beams and specifying sizes for them. In the end, you have a 3D drawing that you can turn round to see every element from every angle.

What is your workplace like?

We designed this building ourselves, and it is a great place to work. It is open plan. I have my own desk and computer, and teams share A3 printers and the A0 plotters that we use to print out plans.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

I love drawing. I originally learned to draw by hand, but it is now all done on CAD. It is great to see a building that you have worked on – it could be award-winning and you know you have had a part in it.

What is the hardest part of your work?

Deadlines. There is a lot of pressure sometimes to get work out on time, which is hard when you are waiting for information from other members of the design team. Normally, though, it is a 37-hour week.

What skills do you need?

You need to be able to use the computer programmes quickly and accurately. You also need to be a team-worker and have the imagination to be able to visualise the drawing in your head and then produce it onscreen.

What do you think you will do next?

I am considering doing a part-time degree and I would eventually like to manage a team of technicians.

Adrian's route to a career as a CAD Draughtsperson

  • Work experience while at school.
  • Offered a training placement.
  • Day-release to study for an HNC.

Adrian's tips

  • The best way to learn whether the job is right for you is to do work experience.
  • We take on quite a lot of trainees, so it is possible to start straight after school.

CAD Draughtsperson related jobs

  • Architect
  • Architectural technician/technologist
  • Building technician
  • Engineer: design
  • Exhibition designer
  • Graphic designer
  • Product designer

CAD Draughtsperson salary

  • Trainee technicians might start at around £15,000 with a newly graduated design engineer earning between £15,000 and £17,000.
  • Senior CAD technicians might earn around £25,000, rising to £35,000 for senior design engineers.
  • Some CAD technicians and designers work as self-employed contractors.

Becoming a CAD Draughtsperson

  • Many CAD technicians and designers start on Modern Apprenticeships or company training schemes, which means studying part-time at college and taking NVQs.
  • Design engineers usually have a degree, although it is possible to start on a Modern Apprenticeship (Skillseekers in Scotland).
  • There are also full-time GNVQ and BTEC courses and full and part-time degree courses.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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