Computer-aided design, or CAD, is the use of software to assist with the drafting and design of buildings, machines, and other physical products. Along with computer aided engineering (CAE) software, CAD programs like Autodesk are extremely important tools for architecture and engineering professionals, allowing them to work and collaborate more efficiently, shortening the design cycle, reducing costs, and improving the accuracy of their designs.
The power and scope of CAD software has grown dramatically since the 1960s, when the first CAD programs were introduced to replicate manual drafting processes. Today, CAD programs can be used for 2D blueprints and 3D modeling, as well as the creation of animations and renderings that can help architects visualize building designs for clients. They can also conduct strength and dynamic analyses as well as other engineering calculations, generate construction simulations to assist with scheduling and project management, and complete other complex tasks critical to delivering projects on schedule and under budget.
A mastery of CAD software has become as important for careers in architecture and engineering as spreadsheet programs like Excel have become for careers in finance, allowing professionals in these fields to do their work more efficiently as well as providing functionality like 3D modeling and simulations that simply did not exist before. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics architects made a median annual salary of $80,750 in 2019, and typically have at least a bachelor’s degree in architecture along with professional certification through the Architect Registration Examination.
Certainly. Coursera offers a wide range of learning opportunities in architecture and engineering, including courses and Specializations focused on the use of CAD software as well as related computer-aided engineering (CAE) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) programs. You can learn from top-ranked schools like University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and National Taiwan University, or take courses directly from Autodesk, one of the leading CAD software producers.
Regardless of where you choose to learn from, Coursera lets you view course materials and complete assignments on a flexible schedule, making this an excellent opportunity for working professionals to upgrade their skills as well as for students just starting their education in architecture or engineering.
Analytical thinking skills and good math skills are skills you typically need to have before starting to learn CAD. You also typically need to know how to run a computer and have some creative experience for beginner level courses. You may need to know mechanical engineering concepts or manufacturing process management for more advanced CAD courses. Some other topics you could learn about before taking up CAD include aeronautics and aerospace if you plan to work in aviation and architecture if you plan to build things. CAD could serve as a way to make scale models of things like airships or buildings.
People who are creative, curious, and analytical are typically the ones who are best suited for roles in CAD. Creativity can offer inspiration when using CAD programs to create new things. Curiosity can be important because it could inspire questions and solutions that make a product more useful and effective. Analytical thinking can also be important because it can help creative minds skip past potential problems quickly. Additionally, people who enjoy problem-solving are typically well suited to working in the CAD field.
If you enjoy doing both creative tasks and technical tasks, learning CAD could be right for you. It can also help if you enjoy working mainly on the computer. With CAD, you typically get to explore your creative side by designing new things while using CAD software on your computer. You might then get the chance to see your creations made into real products. To accommodate your analytical side, you can typically dig deeper into the CAD programs, blueprints you create, and fine details about your CAD creations.
Types of places that hire people who have CAD backgrounds include research and design firms, construction companies, and surveyors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the largest employers of CAD drafters in 2019 were architectural firms, engineering firms, and related services firms. Other CAD employers included manufacturing facilities, administrative and support services, waste management companies, remediation services, and wholesale trade organizations. Freelancing is also typically an option for CAD drafters who prefer to enjoy an entrepreneurial lifestyle. Additionally, educational institutions may hire some CAD professionals to teach students about drafting.