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Helpful Hints to Becoming a CAD Professional

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From the skills employers are looking for, to the questions you may be asked during the interview, preparation is key.

CAD-DWhether it’s a building, machine, or vehicle, everything starts with a design. In most cases, those initial designs are created by architects or engineers. And they’re ultimately brought to life by fabricators, carpenters, or building contractors.

But there’s one very crucial step between design and construction that people often don’t think about—converting the approved design into a technical blueprint that enables the structure to be built. This is where the work of computer-aided drafting and design (CAD-D) professionals comes into play.

CAD offers a unique blend of skills and interests, and is an ideal path for those who enjoy bridging the worlds of art, math, and digital technology. While CAD drafters have been around for decades, the field is rapidly evolving due to new possibilities in terms of building and machine design, and advancing technologies used to create technical blueprints.

As a result, the skill set that employers are looking for today when it comes to hiring CAD professionals is, in many ways, different than it was in years past. Some of these skills include:

  • Ability to work quickly—advanced technology has sped up design cycles, so you need to be able to stay ahead of the game.
  • Technical adaptability—new and emerging technologies like cloud-based CAD software, 3D printing, etc., require a constant adaptation.
  • Strong “soft” skills—being able to communicate effectively and demonstrate your creativity are just as important as your mastery of the technical aspects of drafting.
  • Appreciation for sustainable environments—more and more work today hinges on being responsible to the environment, so CAD professionals must bring an appreciation for integrating concepts of sustainability into their work.

In addition to these skills that are reflective of today’s needs when it comes to CAD professionals, there also are those skills that have always been key to the success of drafters. Some of these include creativity, mathematical abilities, and an interest in engineering and STEM.

So, once you’ve determined that CAD is the right career path for you, the next step is finding the right program that will give you the most relevant, comprehensive preparation—such as the Computer-Aided Drafting and Design program at Penn Commercial/Technical School in Washington County, Pennsylvania.

Penn Commercial has been meeting the career educational needs of students in the area since 1929, with programs in areas like business, healthcare, and trade/technical professions. As a result of its long history, the school and its faculty have deep professional connections with business and industry throughout the country and beyond.

The program at Penn Commercial awards the Associate of Specialized Technology degree and can be completed in just 18 months. You’ll study such areas as:

  • Technical Mathematics
  • Architectural Drafting
  • Pipe Drafting
  • Machine Drafting
  • Structural Drafting
  • Technical Drafting
  • Computer-Aided Drafting
  • Ethics
  • Communication

The program is led by faculty members who have spent years working in the industry, and who work closely with their students and offer an abundance of hands-on training opportunities utilizing the most modern technology and resources.

Students in the program receive a laptop computer that comes fully equipped with the necessary software, and that software will be updated as needed as you progress through the program to reflect what’s being used in the profession.

In the end, the program is designed to prepare students for entry-level CAD positions working for such businesses as engineering firms, architectural agencies, landscape architecture companies, and manufacturing companies.

But before that happens, graduates of the program have to demonstrate their skills, abilities, and professional demeanor to interested employers.

In addition to the extensive industry connections at Penn Commercial that can ultimately benefit students, the school also offers a wide range of services and programs designed to assist graduates in their career search. Some of these include job placement assistance, externships, and alumni events where you can form valuable professional networks.

And the most important aspect of the career search process is the job interview. Here’s a sample of the kinds of questions that can be asked during an interview for a CAD position.

  • What CAD software programs are you familiar with?
  • What do you enjoy most about CAD?
  • Do you have a preference for mechanical, architectural, or civil drafting? If so, why do you prefer that specialization over the others?
  • Do you have any examples of work or projects you’ve completed?
  • Can you give an example of a project you’ve worked on in which you had a difficult project teammate, and how you worked through it?
  • What would you say is the most important skill when it comes to working as part of a team?
  • How would you go about describing your plans on a project and the reasoning you used to develop it to someone outside of the field in a way he or she would understand?
  • If you had two high-priority projects that had conflicting deadlines, how would you manage your time to ensure both were completed to the best of your ability?
  • Do you have any interest in pursuing advanced education and training with the intent of a career in engineering or architecture?
  • If I were to speak with a few of your instructors, how do you think they would describe you, your skills and abilities, and your professional work habits?

These questions are in addition to the more generalized questions you should always expect, such as describing your biggest strength, your biggest weakness, and where you see yourself in five or ten years, among others.

When it comes to the job interview, preparation is key.

In the end, when you combine the right professional field, the right education and training, and the best possible career preparation, powerful things can happen. And if you’re creative and also have a genuine interest in mathematics and digital technology, CAD may be the ideal career path for you.