Earning an online CAD drafting and design certificate unlocks a plethora of opportunities for students, often serving as a steppingstone for more advanced degrees and more career opportunities. The drafting and design field allows students to focus on their engineering, design, drafting, and architectural skills. Often, these students pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree in areas such as architecture, mechanical engineering, or industrial engineering. These programs prepare students to work as various types of engineering technicians, or as drafters in a variety of disciplines. Earning a more advanced degree in the field can lead students to more prestigious architecture and engineering occupations.
Online Certificate in Drafting Degree Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected these accredited online drafting certificate programs based on the quality of the program, types of courses provided, faculty strength, school awards, rankings and reputation, including the reputation for providing online degree programs.
The Best Online Certificate in CAD Programs
1. Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Murfreesboro
Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Murfreesboro is one of 46 institutions in the Tennessee Board of Regents System. The school offers dozens of programs, including an online computer aided design option that leads to five credentials. Students can earn certificates in assistant drafter or detail drafter. They can also opt for diplomas in residential architecture drafter, mechanical drafter, or drafting and CAD technician.
The assistant drafter and detail drafter certificates require 432 and 864 hours of work, respectively. Students working toward a drafting diploma Typically, spend around 1,728 hours earning the credential. Part-time online learners usually earn a diploma in 16 months.
For admission, students must hold a high school diploma or be at least 18 years old. TCAT accepts students on a first-come, first-served basis.
Tennessee College of Applied Technology is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education.
2. Alexandria Technical & Community College
Alexandria Technical and Community College is a public, two-year institution based in Alexandria, Minnesota. The school offers certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees in around 40 areas of study.
ATCC offers a hybrid diploma in mechanical drafting, design, and engineering, as well as some unique course options. The rapid prototyping course teaches students to operate and maintain a rapid prototype printer. In the mechatronics class, students learn about electricity and construct basic circuits. Through a required machining course, students explore the basics of turning, milling, and grinding.
The certificate in drafting and design consists of 69 credits and takes just under two years to complete. Students enroll in 5-6 courses in the fall and spring semesters and take two summer courses. The time commitment ranges from 14-24 hours per week, depending on how many courses a student takes at once.
Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Murfreesboro is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
3. Ridgewater College
Ridgewater College’s Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Technology division offers a computer aided drafting program that students can complete entirely online. The program covers topics including elementary and advanced drafting, common manufacturing processes, and blueprint interpretation. Students also learn about the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ standards and best practices. Learners practice using popular industry tools, including AutoCad, Creo, Solidworks, and MasterCam 3D. Students gain hands-on experience through collaborative projects with Ridgewater’s manufacturing students.
Many of Ridgewater’s online courses hold certification from Quality Matters, an organization that evaluates web-based learning programs. The certificate in computer aided drafting and design boasts start dates in the fall and spring semesters.
Prospective students must submit an application along with a high school diploma or GED certificate. They do not need to submit transcripts, standardized test scores, or other materials.
Ridgewater College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
4. St. Charles Community College
St. Charles Community College, based in Cottleville, Missouri, offers associate degrees, certificates, and vocational training in more than 50 subject areas. The school offers 16 online degrees and certificates, including a certificate of achievement in computer aided drafting.
The online certificate in drafting and design comprises 34-35 credits, and students can complete 65% of the curriculum online. Learners take 13 credits of general education courses, which cover topics like algebra, English composition, U.S. history, and microcomputer applications. Students also take four core drafting courses and four electives. Elective options include 3D modeling, geographic information systems, and sustainable design. St. Charles delivers online classes through Canvas.
Online students gain access to helpful student services including online tutoring and tech support. Distance learners can schedule virtual tutoring sessions in math, science, English, or writing.
St. Charles Community College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
5. Central Georgia Technical College
Warner Robins, Georgia
Located in Warner Robins, Central Georgia Technical College offers training in industries including aerospace, computer technology, and health sciences.
Drafting students can earn three credentials through CGTC’s online courses. Learners can pursue technical certificates in computer aided design (CAD) operator or advanced computer aided design technician. Learners can also opt for a diploma in drafting technology. The CAD operator and CAD technician certificates require 20 and 31 credits, respectively. The drafting technology diploma comprises 46 credits, including eight general education credits. Certificate in drafting and design holders can go on to earn a 60-credit associate degree in drafting from CGTC.
Applicants must be at least 16 years old and hold a GED or high school diploma. For course placement, prospective students must submit standardized test scores, take the ACCUPLACER exam, or provide a postsecondary transcript.
Central Georgia Technical College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
6. Quinsigamond Community College
Based in Worcester, Massachusetts, Quinsigamond Community College offers more than 120 programs of study to over 13,000 students each year.
Quinsigamond offers a computer aided design certificate through its engineering technology department. The program, which emphasizes manufacturing technology, covers topics including manufacturing processes, materials, metallurgy, and electro-mechanical drafting. Students also learn to effectively convey their ideas through coursework on technical communication. Students complete 25 credits and Typically, finish the curriculum in two semesters. Learners can take at least 50% of their courses online.
The program includes a solid modeling course that prepares students for industry certification. Through hands-on projects, students learn to build complicated 3D models from 2D drawings. At the end of the course, students sit for the Certified SolidWorks Associate exam.
After completing the certificate in computer aided drafting and design, learners can apply their credits toward an associate degree in manufacturing technology.
Quinsigamond Community College is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Higher Education (NEASC-CIHE).
7. West Kentucky Community and Technical College
A member of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, West Kentucky Community and Technical College offers 17 programs entirely online, including a diploma in computer aided drafting and design.
The drafting and design diploma comprises 48-50 credits and takes four semesters to complete. Students must complete two general education classes: humanities and quantitative reasoning. Learners build a drafting foundation through six technical core courses including drafting fundamentals and engineering graphics. Students can complete the rest of the 22 required credits through technical electives. Some electives include introduction to architecture, 3D printing technology, and construction management. Students take online courses in two 16-week terms each year.
Certificate in drafting and design holders can earn WKCTC’s associate in applied science by taking additional general education courses.
West Kentucky Community and Technical College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
8. Mountain View College
Mountain View College, founded in 1970, is one of seven institutions in the Dallas Community College District. Mountain View offers dozens of certificates and degrees that students can complete entirely online.
The college offers a fully online certificate in computer aided drafting and design that focuses on architectural drafting. The program includes unique courses in architectural blueprint reading and architectural illustration. In addition, students learn to use AutoCAD software to create architectural drawings for residential and commercial projects. Notably, the program includes a topographical drafting class, which introduces map drafting and contour drawings.
Drafting students complete 29-30 credits and finish the program in two semesters. Students take seven required courses and one elective. Elective options include 3D animation, pipe drafting, and civil drafting. Online learners take courses asynchronously through eight-week sessions.
Mountain View College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Certificate in Drafting Program?
Example Courses for an Online Certificate in Drafting
Drafting and design courses may vary depending on the school, but they all share a common goal to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in drafting and design careers. Sample curricula have been listed below.
- In the AutoCAD course, students learn how to use to most popular computer-aided drafting software. The course reviews AutoCAD functions used in drawing including basic and advanced commands. Students also learn about 3D CAD in the course.
- The mechanisms course teaches students about the inner workings of machines, particularly mechanisms. Course topics include linkages, belt and chain drives, cams, bearings, speed reducers, and gears. Students also explore topics in fluid power.
- Print Reading for CAD Design
- In print reading for CAD design courses, students learn about drafting essentials including line types, tolerances, auxiliary views, dimensions, sections, and other basics required to conduct basic engineering drawing.
- CAD Drawing Using Free Software
- Students in the CAD drawing using free software course learn about CAD functions used by professionals and the functions used by those with no experience in the CAD drafting field. They take a hands-on approach to coursework and learn in a 3D environment using Google Sketchup or other free CAD software found on the Internet.
- Manufacturing Processes for CAD Design
- The manufacturing processes for CAD design course teaches students about manufacturing materials and methods. Course topics include machining, steels, plastics, molding, casting, and material selections. Students also learn about material handling and inventory reductions, emphasizing the understanding of manufacturing processes and systems.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Certificate In Drafting?
Students should consider a variety of elements when determining how long it will take them to earn an online certificate in drafting and design. First and foremost, each school offers its own unique program, meaning one school might take less time to earn the same certificate as another school. Though online programs do afford students a level of flexibility, the structure of an online program can vary from school to school.
Some programs feature an individually paced format, allowing students to complete their work asynchronously, at their own pace. These students can also complete their work from any location at any time of day. Other online certificate programs operate in a cohort learning format, keeping all students on the same track and pace, requiring them to complete work at a certain time, and sometimes attend live online class sessions. These programs Typically, consist of about 60 credits of coursework and take around two years to complete.
What Can I Do with a Drafting Certificate?
Certificate programs in drafting and design provide students with the certification to work in drafting and design, while a degree in the same or a related area qualifies them for a broader range of career opportunities. Certificate programs often take less time and money to complete than degree programs.
Career Paths for Graduates of Drafting Certificate Programs
Earning a certificate in drafting and design can open a variety of career paths for graduates. Typically, these individuals go on to begin careers as drafters, civil engineering technicians, surveying and mapping technicians, industrial engineering technicians, or architectural and civil drafters. Many employers accept candidates who hold a certificate in drafting and design, though some require an associate or bachelor’s degree in a related field.
- Drafters work with rough sketches and specifications created by architects and engineers to design plans with computer-aided design (CAD) software. They also design products using manufacturing and engineering techniques.
- Median Annual Salary: $54,170
- Projected Growth Rate: 7%
- Civil Engineering Technician
- Civil engineering technicians review and read project plans and drawings to determine the size of different structures. They confer with engineers to prepare plans, evaluate various pre-construction field conditions, and set up and help maintain records and project files.
- Median Annual Salary: $51,620
- Projected Growth Rate: 9%
- Surveying and Mapping Technician
- Responsible for visiting sites to record survey measurements and other forms of descriptive data, surveying and mapping technicians operate surveying instruments like electronic distance-measuring equipment to collect data on a location.
- Median Annual Salary: $43,340
- Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- Industrial Engineering Technician
- Industrial engineering technicians derive and suggest revisions to operations methods, equipment layout, or material handling. They also collect data to help with the process of improving activities.
- Median Annual Salary: $54,280
- Projected Growth Rate: 1%
- Architectural and Civil Drafter
- Architectural and civil drafters create detailed drawings of structural and architectural features of buildings or topographical relief maps and drawings used in civil engineering projects.
- Median Annual Salary: $55,110
- Projected Growth Rate: N/A
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Educational Paths for Graduates of Drafting Certificate Programs
Many students who earn a certificate in drafting and design make the decision to pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree in a related field. Earning an undergraduate degree allows you to explore more diverse career opportunities with higher earning potential. Typically, students who earn a certificate in drafting and design go on to bachelor’s or associate programs in industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, computer aided drafting and design technology, computer engineering, or architecture.
- Architecture bachelor’s programs emphasize the connection between building technology, architecture, design, and computation with the history, arts design, and theory of architecture.
- Industrial Engineering
- Industrial engineering bachelor’s students learn to design creative solutions to make a business and industry function safer, leaner, faster, and more efficient.
- Mechanical Engineering
- Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering learn to understand all aspects of designing machinery including static machine components, applied differential equations, fluid mechanics, and thermodynamics.
- Computer Aided Drafting and Design Technology
- The associate of applied science in computer aided drafting and design technology program covers lessons in prototyping, modeling, and drafting. Student learn on 3D printers and take courses covering AutoCAD, CREO, and Inventor.
- Computer Engineering
- Computer engineering programs cover topics including computer applications, computer networks, digital design, and computer architecture. Students often take courses in signal processing and digital design.
Accreditation for Certificate Programs
Attending an accredited school should remain a top priority for drafting and design students. Two main types of accreditation exist: regional and national. Regionally accredited institutions are evaluated by regional agencies. Six different agencies exist in various regions, awarding regional accreditation.
Regionally accredited institutions often get included in tuition reimbursement plans and feature easily transferable credits. Nationally accredited institutions are often excluded from tuition reimbursement plans and credits are often declined from other learning institutions and many employers. Regional accreditation exists as the more prestigious and popular designation.
Students should look to obtain their certificate program from a regionally accredited institution to ensure their credits can easily transfer to an undergraduate program and satisfy the minimum requirements for most employers.
Financing Your Online Certificate in Drafting Program
Students interested in earning their certificate in drafting and design can explore a variety of financial aid opportunities to help them pay for their program. All students should complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine what opportunities they hold eligibility for. Students can gain funding through scholarships, loans, grants, and even work-study opportunities to help pay for their education.