How to become a CAD Technician. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a CAD Technician do?
As a computer aided design (CAD) technician, you would use software to create design plans for buildings and machinery in a wide range of industries, such as engineering, construction and manufacturing. You could work in 2D design, which is known as surface modelling, and 3D design – called solid modelling.
You would use surface modelling to draw a flat representation of a product, for example a design for a new motor vehicle. Clients could then see the plans and give feedback before engineers build and test a prototype.
In solid modelling, you would create a 3D display of a structure or component. Engineers can then use this, for example, to take a ‘virtual tour’ around the inside of a new building to plan where to fit electrical cabling, or to ‘look inside’ a piece of manufacturing machinery to see where improvements to parts could be made.
You would also use your designs to help prepare cost estimates on projects, and produce assembly instructions and maintenance manuals for installation, service and repair technicians.
CAD work could have different names depending on the industry, including:
- computer aided industrial design (CAID)
- computer aided engineering (CAE)
- computer aided styling (CAS)
- computer aided manufacturing (CAM).
You would normally work in a small team, with each person working on a different part of a project under the guidance of a design engineer.
Your working hours would be 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. You would be based in a design office, working at a CAD design workstation or on a PC.
For construction and engineering design work you might be asked to work on site for part of the project.
How much does a CAD technician earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Junior CAD technicians can earn between £18,000 and £22,000 a year.
- Average salaries for experienced technicians are between £25,000 and £32,000.
- Senior CAD technicians can earn up to £43,000 a year.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You could become a CAD technician by starting as an apprentice with an engineering or construction firm. See the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) website for details about technician apprenticeships in the engineering construction industry.
- Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB)
To get onto an apprenticeship scheme, you may need GCSEs in maths, science, engineering, design and technology, or equivalent qualifications. However, enthusiasm for the industry is often just as important as qualifications.
An alternative way to gain CAD skills is to take a college course that covers computer design skills, such as:
- BTEC Certificates and Diplomas in Engineering levels 2 and 3
- BTEC National Certificates and Diplomas in Mechanical, Manufacturing or Civil Engineering Level 3
- City & Guilds Award in Computer Aided Design Parametric Modelling Level 1
- City & Guilds Award/Certificate in Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing at Level 2, and Level 3, which allows you to specialise in 2D or 3D design.
College courses tend to use AutoCAD software for learning, which would offer you a good understanding of technical design. Some colleges may also run more specialised software packages, including AutoCAD LT, Autodesk Architectural, CATIA, PRO/Engineer, SolidWorks and 3D Studio Max. Check with your local college for exact details of the software packages they offer.
See the SEMTA and ECITB websites for more information about careers in construction and engineering. The Engineering Training Council (Northern Ireland) also has careers information and a course database for local colleges.
Training and Development
Once you are working, you would receive further training from your employer in CAD software relevant to your industry. For example, you might train on PDS (Plant Design Systems) if your company designs petrochemical facilities.
You could take one of a number of work-based qualifications which cover CAD but the exact award you take would depend on your job. Qualifications include:
- NVQ Performing Engineering Operations levels 1 and 2
- NVQ Engineering Technical Support level 2 and 3
- EAL Diploma in Engineering and Technology Level 3.
You could also work towards a BTEC HNC, HND or foundation degree in engineering, construction or civil engineering.
As an experienced CAD technician you could register with the Engineering Council to gain Engineering Technician (EngTech) status, which could help your career prospects. See the Engineering Council website for more details.
- Engineering Council
Skills and Knowledge
- a knowledge of engineering design principles
- good maths and IT skills
- good communication skills
- an understanding of manufacturing processes and construction methods
- good problem-solving skills
- creative ability
- the ability to work as part of a team
- the ability to meet deadlines.
You can find work as a CAD technician in many industries, including light and heavy engineering, construction, aerospace, railways, electronics, broadcasting and telecommunications. Vehicle and consumer goods manufacturers are other common employers.
With experience, you could be promoted to team or section leader, project manager or site manager. With further training, you could become a design engineer. You may also be able to work freelance.