CAD, in today’s world, has found its way into a lot of industries. Industries like automotive, aeronautics, architecture, prosthetics, and lots of others rely heavily on computer-aided designs. And CAD designers help these industries get the best out of their CAD software by carefully transforming concepts into reality.
By creating 2D drafts and 3D models that play a crucial role in a product’s development cycle, CAD designers have contributed to the immense growth and productivity enjoyed all over the world.
That said, who’s a CAD designer?
CAD designers use CAD software to create technical drafts of complex plans to aid in construction or manufacturing. The designs created by CAD designers not only help in determining the budget of a project but also make it easier for critical decisions to be made.
CAD designers, in some cases, may need to visit the job sites, to get a better understanding of what the project entails, and make whatever update is necessary.
What Separates CAD Designers and CAD Drafters
Although it’s almost impossible to talk about CAD designers without talking about CAD drafters, it’s important to note that the major thing that sets them apart is their level of skill, experience, and understanding.
A CAD drafter might be able to create great drafts, but they’d need a whole lot of information, guidance, and in some cases, input from management before the job is completed.
But unlike CAD drafters, CAD designers can be trusted to execute a detailed design project independently, with minimum reviews and oversight, while bringing their well-versed experience with the criteria and requirements demanded in that particular field of design.
One reason why organizations prefer working with CAD designers is that it saves them a whole lot of time that would’ve been spent straightening out every single bit of information with a drafter.
How Much Does A CAD Designer Make Annually
According to Payscale, an entry-level CAD designer with less than a year of experience should expect to receive an annual gross salary of $54,915 (based on 26 wages (including tips, incentives, and overtime pay)).
With 1-4 years of experience, an early career CAD designer receives an estimated cumulative salary of $59,940 (based on the review of 141 salaries).
A mid-career CAD designer with 5-9 years of experience in computer-aided design would receive an estimated cumulative salary of $64,631 (based on the review of 82 salaries).
But it gets better because a designer with 10-19 years of experience stands to earn an average total compensation of $72,396, (based on 52 salaries reviewed), and professional designers with 20 years of experience and above stand to earn $86,817.
It’s worth noting that location plays an important role in the yearly earnings of a CAD designer. In Portland, Oregon, CAD designers earn an average of 74.5 percent higher than the national average in their work description. In San Jose, California designers earn 51.2% more, and in Boston, Massachusetts designers earn 36.2% more than the national average.
But in New York, CAD designers earn 17.0% less. In Atlanta, Georgia it’s 13.5% less, and over at Michigan’s Grand Rapids, designers make 11.8% less than the national average, making it the location with the lowest wages for CAD designers.
How to Become a CAD Designer
Every CAD designer began their journey as a drafter. Our early days were spent learning how to create basic shapes, lines, following a ton of instructions, and getting as much training as we could.
By following guidelines, acquiring professional training and spending every other night in front of a monitor designing, and trying to understand the tricky details in a design, our skill with CAD improved, and we were able to generate better designs that met specified design requirements.
Although some industries organize designer level training for their CAD drafters to help them improve, the best way for a drafter to grow their skill and experience would be by meeting other CAD designers for assistance, setting design goals, working hard at meeting these goals, and asking a lot of questions to other professional CAD designers.
Become a solid CAD designer takes a while. And, since there’s no fixed amount of time a drafter would have to spend learning a software design kit to instantly become a CAD designer, don’t be in a hurry, make sure you pay attention to design principles.
And when it comes to design principles, one of the best places to find them, besides a mentor, would be in any design-centered book.
Remember that CAD design is all about teamwork, so whenever you run into any challenge where precise changes are required, it’s important that you not only make the necessary changes but also understand why those changes were required.
This way you can understand the process a lot faster.
Skills All CAD Designers Must Have
Depending on which field you choose to specialize in, the qualifications you’d need to become a professional CAD designer would vary.
Although the skills needed in the early stages of a designer’s CAD career can be self-taught, the best, and fastest way, to becoming a CAD designer is to get your degree from a local college. You could start with a two-year drafting curriculum, and then get certification for the particular CAD design field that interests you.
But the qualification means nothing if you’ve got none of these skills:
Excellent Software Skills
It’s impossible to become a CAD designer without a proper understanding of engineering software because you’d be working on numerous projects that may differ from each other, especially if you work for a CAD design company with clients from various industries.
For one, these clients, and by extension, their companies might not have the same tools you are used to. So, if you’ve mastered only one CAD software kit, and you’re not proficient with the CAD software your clients choose to use, you’d find it really challenging to complete their tasks.
Bottom line: You must know how to use at least three CAD kit.
Work With Minimal Guidance
With work-from-home on the rise because of COVID-19’s impact on the modern work culture, most CAD designers have transitioned to remote work.
But since remote work gives an immense amount of freedom, a CAD designer may fail in executing a project on time if they cannot work independently, without supervision.
Working individually, as we said earlier is what separates CAD drafters from CAD designers, so to be a successful designer; you must always be self-motivated. Why? because the last thing you need in your career is to build a reputation as a designer who can’t meet deadlines.
CAD design is all about connecting with your creative side whether it’s designing a floor plan, or modeling an automobile.
Your imagination, as a CAD designer, is one thing that’ll go a long way in contributing to your success. It’ll set you apart from other designers without a very powerful imagination. Take it from us; your imagination is the icing on the cake of your CAD designs.
What’s expected of a CAD Designer?
- Have a degree in design or equivalent experience.
- Must be able to sit for long periods because why not?
- Use of hands to operate computers.
- Extensive knowledge of several CAD software kits.
- Make decisions based on designs.
- Have excellent communication skills.
- Must be a team player
- Possess a great understanding of mathematics, engineering, and relevant industry information.
- Maintain industry standards
- Must be great at generating creative solutions by analyzing given data.
Best Software for CAD Designs
CAD has contributed immensely to countless industries. It has allowed companies to develop cutting edge technologies and amazing products. CAD has gone a long way in helping them achieve their goals quickly, efficiently, and also reduce their time to market.
And CAD achieved all these by making it easy to create high-quality designs, that can be easy to understand, modify, and share.
These are few CAD software kits every CAD designer must have a great understanding of.
Trusted by thousands of engineers, SOLIDWORKS is a great CAD software with an excellent user interface that allows CAD designers to create standard 3D designs, and render powerful simulations.
Although it’s a great tool, SOLIDWORKS stands on the high side of life and can cost upwards of $4,000. Now that’s a lot of money, money most startup CAD designers can not afford.
AutoCAD remains one of the oldest and most trusted CAD software, and just like SOLIDWORKS, it’s heavily priced. Something startups and freelance CAD designers may not be able to afford.
Currently, SolidFace remains the best free alternative to both AutoCAD and SOLIDWORKS. SolidFace is an excellent CAD software that allows users to easily create 2D / 3D models.
Like we said above, SolidFace can help you to quickly generate 2D projects in addition to 3D modeling, such as mechanical components, different engineering designs, civil plants, and graphic design in general.
When it comes to modeling, SolidFace automatically generates parametric references that can be edited in a very simple and collaborative way, allowing multiple bodies to be created.
It is an incredibly efficient instrument that helps build dependent elements in a single component file. It is built into the cloud, compliant with 3D printing, and, most of all, it comes entirely downloadable with its free version. Check it out here.