What Is a CAD Engineer?

By Indeed Editorial Team

March 5, 2021

Engineering is a broad field of study, made up of many different disciplines. If you have an interest in creating technical drawings and using computer applications, then you may want to look into becoming a CAD engineer. CAD engineers use creativity and innovative thinking to design different tools, equipment, products and structures. In this article, we explain what a CAD engineer does and how to become one.

Related: 8 Different Types of Engineering: Responsibilities, Salaries and More

What is a CAD engineer?

A CAD engineer is a highly skilled professional whose job entails using computer-aided design software. They need to be experts in applications such as AutoCAD, Pro/ENGINEER and SolidWorks. They have a deep understanding of science, physics, materials, mathematics and engineering principles.

CAD engineers work across many different industries to decide how certain products should be designed and built. They are also responsible for determining if a project is even feasible to accomplish. Their planning process must be thorough so that their designs can be created in real life.

Related: What Is an Engineer?

What does a CAD engineer do?

A CAD engineer is responsible for the following tasks:

  • Designing project frameworks

  • Producing detailed construction and design plans for architects and engineers from other disciplines to follow

  • Collaborating with industrial and packaging engineers to develop, manufacture and market products

  • Making time and expense estimates on a project basis

  • Creating two and three-dimensional technical drawings

  • Designing floor plans, renderings and elevations using computer software

  • Choosing which materials to use for a product

  • Overseeing assistant drafters and others involved in a design project

  • Coding and testing software

  • Developing procedures and standards for a design team

  • Finding technical solutions to meet a client's goals

  • Training and offering support and guidance to their team

Related: Learn About Being a Design Engineer

Salary for CAD engineers

Since many engineering roles require highly skilled professionals, CAD engineering can be a lucrative career. Engineering salaries vary depending on the type of engineering, level of education, years of experience, location and industry.

The national average salary for an engineer is $65,993 per year and may include access to employment benefits, such as paid time off, health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, tuition reimbursement, stock ownership and 401(k) and other retirement options. (For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.)

What skills does a CAD engineer need?

CAD engineering is a very technical career that requires both hands-on work and critical thinking. CAD engineers should develop the following skills:

  • Business savvy: CAD engineers need to create products that are going to sell. It's useful to be able to meet with clients and learn about their goals. You may need to collaborate with them to think of ways to market a new product.

  • Attention to detail: Engineering is a very detail-oriented profession, so it is important to follow the company's protocol closely to ensure the safety of your team and the end-user.

  • Communication: Since CAD engineers often work with a team, you will need effective written and verbal communication skills to collaborate with your coworkers. Much of your communication may be through emails, so you need to be able to clearly convey your ideas and plans through text. You might also collaborate with team members in person to discuss projects.

  • Creativity: Creativity is essential when you are drafting new designs and models. Being able to think creatively while troubleshooting also allows you to bring a fresh perspective for improvements.

  • Curiosity: Curiosity can fuel your research and desire to learn more about your industry. You need to stay updated on the latest technology trends. Reading consumer and market reports can help you better understand the progress within your industry.

  • Decision making: When creating models, you need to have the ability to make smart design decisions. Much of what CAD engineers do depends on the wants and needs of a client, so you need to be able to determine which design choices meet those requirements.

  • Innovation: Creating new designs requires innovative thinking. Engineers are always finding new solutions to everyday problems and working on ways to make things look and operate more effectively.

  • Leadership: CAD engineers need to effectively delegate work and motivate their team of assistant drafters. Part of the job is to clearly explain new projects to team members and oversee that they complete everything on time.

  • Problem solving: Creating prototypes and testing them is a large part of a CAD engineer's job. If something isn't working properly, you need to be able to identify problems and find solutions to them.

  • Technology: Most CAD engineering involves using computer software and programs. You need to know how to use the computer to code, program, design and conduct tests. Updating and maintaining design files is crucial to saving your work, so you need to be skilled in backing up your projects.

Related: 12 Essential Engineering Skills for Your Resume

How to become a CAD engineer

If you are interested in becoming a CAD engineer, be prepared to immerse yourself in math, science and technology. CAD engineers need to be able to apply these subjects to real-life scenarios and projects. Follow these steps to become a qualified CAD engineer:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

CAD engineers need at least a bachelor's degree in a relevant field of engineering to be qualified for their job. Computer engineering, design engineering, manufacturing engineering, mechanical engineering or product design engineering technology are common types of engineering that CAD engineers study. During your courses, you might learn about machine design, CAD software and manufacturing processes. Many of the projects are hands-on instruction to ensure you can apply engineering concepts to real life.

Employers may also prefer that candidates have master's degrees or doctorates. Choose a master's program that focuses on computer engineering, design engineering or manufacturing engineering. Students interested in research or university teaching jobs tend to choose a doctoral program. Additional education can increase your job opportunities and earning potential as a CAD engineer.

Related: When a Professional Degree Will Help You Advance in Your Career

2. Gain work experience

Many engineering programs have co-op programs where you can gain work experience while also earning class credits. College courses, labs and internships allow you to complete projects and demonstrate your engineering skills. Use your internship as a chance to learn about the daily tasks of a CAD engineer and to create connections. These connections may help you find a full-time engineering position after you graduate.

After you're hired for a full-time job, your employer will likely also provide you with hands-on training. They will teach you about the company's products, services, processes and policies. You may learn more about using specific computer software or programs.

3. Obtain a certification

Since CAD engineers use AutoCAD for a lot of their work, it's useful to get an AutoCAD certification. This shows employers that you know how to use this program with proficiency, which can make you a more qualified candidate. There are three types of AutoCAD certifications: AutoCAD Certified User, AutoCAD Certified Professional and AutoCAD Civil 3D Certified Professional. You must pass an online exam to earn any of these certifications. These certifications can help you enter the following industries:

  • Architecture

  • Automotive design

  • Engineering

  • Fashion design

  • Manufacturing

Prepare for your exam by learning the AutoCAD program through specialized courses. Some training companies offer a set of these courses online. You can look forward to learning AutoCAD essentials such as dimensioning, manipulating and altering objects, printing and plotting, annotations and hatching.

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