Frequently Asked Questions about the CAD Program

What is a CAD drafter or CAD Designer?

Everything around us manmade begins with an idea in a written plan. When these plans require illustrations or drawings to convey meaning, a CAD drafter is needed to prepare these ideas in graphic forms of communication. Drafters translate ideas and rough sketches of other professionals, such as architects and engineers, into scaled detail (or working) drawings. A CAD designer often prepares the plans and rough sketches for an architect or engineer. The designer has more education and thus more responsibility than the drafter but less than an architect or engineer.

What skills do I need to become a CAD drafter or CAD designer?

CAD drafters must be able to convert crude sketches and drawings into both two-dimensional and three-dimensional finished drawings. Some objects are better illustrated in section (cut open) and the drafter must be able to draw objects this way as well. CAD Designers often are found to have natural abilities in math, science and fine art. They not only do well in these courses, they enjoy these courses. Designers must be able to conceptualize and imagine things that don't yet exist. Many designers climb a career track that allows them to become engineers or architects after additional schooling. Both drafters and designers are good at taking and following directions. They are often found to have great patience and a good sense of humor.

What education do I need to become a CAD drafter or CAD designer?

CAD drafters receive their educations through vocational high school training, community college training or a combination of both which is known as the Tech-Prep program. It is important for drafters to learn how to prepare drawings through both verbal and written instructions.

CAD designers receive their education through community colleges and universities. While architectural and machine design are taught at many community colleges throughout the nation, specialized design fields, such as automotive design, are taught at very few universities.

What is the "CAD" in CAD drafting or CAD design?

CAD is an acronym for computer-aided drafting/design. A variety of different software are on the market to allow drafting and design to be done with a computer with greater speed and accuracy. CAD is a fairly new tool for these trades that is revolutionizing the way drafters/designers draw and think.

What if I learn one CAD program and a future job opening requires me to know another?

Kishwaukee College offers instruction in both AutoCAD ® and Solidworks ® CAD programs. These two seemingly have the biggest market share in this geographic area of the midwest. One of the things college should do for students is to teach them how to be flexible or adaptable. It is not uncommon for CAD graduates to find employment in a program they do not know and get immediate training. Some of the other CAD software our graduates have transitioned to are Pro Engineer ®, Catia ®, IDEAS ®, NX ®, Solid Edge ®, Inventor ® and Microstation ®, to name but a few. In general, graduates have reported back, "Once you have learned one, the second one comes easier." Program instructors believe it is a thought process they impart in students that helps them adapt. Instructor Schwendau says, "It is kind of like learning to ride a bike or motorcycle. They all may be a little different but there is enough similarity to allow users to adapt fairly rapidly after the first one is learned."

Do program graduates make much money for the cost of college?

Recent informal surveys of our graduates have shown them making entry level wages around $30,000 a year in our rural north-central area of Illinois. Those going into the Chicagoland or Rockford area are paid more.

More information can be found from Robert Green's annual survey of our profession here!

Annual census data shows that the cost of a 2-year college degree is rapidly recovered soon after employment as students holding a two year college degree fair better than their high school graduate counterparts. College attendance at Kishwaukee runs about $3,500 per year in 2012.

What other benefits are there in these fields?

The benefits of these fields depend largely on what company you go to work for. Benefits that are common are medical plans, 401K plans, pension plans, tuition plans, etc.

Drafters and designers seem to enjoy more steady employment than many other professionals however, drafters and designers often change jobs on their own accord frequently.

Drafters and designers that stay with a company are often promoted to higher paying positions such as management, quality assurance, sales, testing, trouble shooting, customer service, manufacturer's rep., corporate trainer, etc.

Are there many jobs in drafting and design?

There are over 15,000 drafters and 10,000 designers in Illinois at this time.

Many jobs are phoned into local colleges and "head hunters" and thus go unlisted in the newspapers. This is one method employers use to screen out unqualified applicants for these positions.

The federal government classifies both fields as showing average employment growth (3-6%) however, for those who opt to teach in this field (CAD-Drafting Technology Instructor) the field is showing high growth and a critical shortage (36%).

Is drafting or design fun or kind of boring?

If you like solving puzzles that tax your mind or, if you enjoy the feeling that comes from doing a job you know few others can accomplish, you might enjoy drafting and design.

Drafting and design offers prestige too. Drafters and designers have a hand in the future and get to see the future before others do. Most cases of industrial espionage or sabotage are centered in the engineering departments of large corporations where drawings are stolen!

Instructor Mark Schwendau says, "Some of the greatest days of my life have been seeing the houses I designed constructed."

What if my parents want me to go to a university?

It is a proven fact that most students who start out to achieve a 4 year degree, don't. While 85% of the parents in our geographic area want their children to go for a 4 year university degree, less than 1 in 4 will actually complete one.

Research supports a better (and less expensive) plan is to attend your local community college for a two year degree where the credits from same will transfer to a university for a bachelors degree. Community college graduates have a higher rate of success towards a bachelors than others.

This also gives students who are sidetracked from their educational experience by variables, such as family and finances, a stopping off point before resuming and oft times gives students enough of an education to enter jobs that can turn into lifelong careers.

In the best case scenario the employer will pick up part or all of the tab for their A.A.S. college graduate worker to conclude a 4-year university degree!