AutoCAD is computer-aided design software created by Autodesk for creating two-dimensional drawings and three-dimensional models. It produces illustrations ranging from concept plans to cinematic-quality animations, which production staff, managers and customers use to visualize structures, machines and environments. Because the software offers an easy method of creating and modifying images, it has become a standard tool for many jobs.
Many drafters use AutoCAD to turn the concepts and specifications of architects, engineers and other manufacturing designers into blueprints and drawings. Production workers then use these plans to create tools, machines and structures. Drafters often focus on such specialties as aeronautics, architecture or electronics. They typically need postsecondary education, such as an associate’s degree, to enter the field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2011, average yearly salaries were $50,160 for architectural and civil drafters, $57,240 for electrical and electronics drafters, $52,150 for mechanical drafters and $48,370 for all other drafters.
Architects might use AutoCAD to design structures such a single-family homes and office buildings. They estimate the costs, materials and schedules required for construction, and manage construction contracts. Although they create plans and meet with clients in offices, they often travel to project sites to view the progress of their work. Architects must be licensed, which typically requires a degree in architecture from an accredited educational institution, at least three years of related work experience, and successful completion of the Architect Registration Examination. The BLS reports that architects earned a mean $79,300 per year as of May 2011.
May engineers depend on AutoCAD to design machines and processes that solve practical problems. They might design anything from aircraft to sewage treatment plants to computer circuits. They are often known by their specialties such as petroleum, nuclear, mechanical and civil engineers. They typically need a bachelor’s degree for entry level positions, although management jobs might require a master’s degree. A professional engineer license may be necessary for work offered directly to the public. Mean annual salaries for the profession as of May 2011 included $103,870 for aerospace engineers, $83,550 for mechanical engineers and $82,710 for civil engineers.
Industrial designers combine art and technology to create products that look attractive and function according to user expectations. They begin by sketching out ideas and then creating three-dimensional virtual models, often using AutoCAD. They consult with engineers and production staff on manufacturing suitability, then create prototypes that testers, managers and clients can evaluate. Industrial designers typically specialize in a product category such as cars, toys or furniture. A bachelor’s degree is the usual entry-level education. A portfolio of their best designs acts as the designer’s calling card when looking for employment or soliciting customers. Industrial designers received a mean $63,570 yearly as of May 2011, the BLS reports.