There are three main types of architectural drafter jobs: those housed in architectural firms, those done primarily by engineers, and those held by independent drafting contractors, often on a freelance basis. The styles, techniques, and training of drafters within each category vary tremendously. Most of the time, drafters are certified architects, but not always. Much depends on the scope of the project and the needs of the design team at issue.
Professional firms support the majority of architectural drafter jobs. Firms generally serve as full-service architectural design centers, where clients can bring as little as a basic idea and a team of experts will help translate it to a workable plan. Drafting is an early step of nearly any building project. Most architects can do their own drafting, but sometimes architectural drafting jobs are also held by lesser-trained professionals, hired for drafting and drafting alone.
Many different types of architectural drafter jobs happen in firm settings. The details of each necessarily depend on the primary type of work being done. Landscape designers, for instance, need drawings of yard spaces, botanical features, and outdoor layouts. Residential and corporate architects require completely different kinds of structural drawings, and re-modelers need sketches of existing space constraints and additions. Different styles adhere to different conventions and styles.
Engineering uses for architectural drafting are slightly more nuanced. These drafters often plan out mechanical spaces, including airline interiors, boiler rooms, and luxury yacht spaces. Any sort of structure that has to house more than simple wiring and electrical considerations usually requires the expertise of someone with knowledge in engineering as well as technical drawing. Architectural drafter jobs in these categories are usually found in specific engineering construction companies or within mechanical operations firms.
Another type of drafter works independently, often from a home office or small studio. This kind of job is usually reserved for someone who has already established him or herself as something of an expert drafter. Architects often hire independent drafters to complete individual projects. This saves money on several fronts. Contractors are not employees, so they do not need to be paid unless there is work. They also usually charge less than would a full-time drafting employee.
Within these three types of architectural drafter jobs, there are several ways of actually approaching the work. Traditionally, the job is completed with pen and paper. Drafters make specific, to-scale sketches on special paper that later becomes the blueprints for construction. They may elect to do some, if not all, of this drafting on a computer, as well.
Computer aided design and drafting (CADD) is a method of using computers and virtual building simulations to compose technical maps and blueprints. Architectural CAD drafting jobs usually require special training on the most cutting-edge technology. Most of the time, this involves use of the AutoCAD software program, a ubiquitous platform in the architectural field.
As popular as AutoCAD drafter jobs are, not all architects rely on computers in making their drafts and sketches. The majority of modern building professionals use computerized drafting to a certain extent, but it would go too far to say that automated processes have completely displaced the older pen-and-paper approach. Most architectural drafter jobs combine some aspect of both styles.