Best Online CAD Certificate Programs

by Matthew Sweeney

Updated October 20, 2022

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CAD Certification Programs

CAD skills can prepare candidates for many professional opportunities, including 3D modeling, architectural drawing, and animation.

Skilled artists interested in turning their talents into architecture or civil engineering careers can benefit from computer-aided design (CAD) certificates. CAD professionals use computer software to visualize designs for buildings, products, and machines. Drafters use CAD to create digital models that follow designers' and architects' specifications.

The quickest path to becoming a full-time drafter, technician, or animator is by earning a CAD certificate online from an accredited school. CAD-related careers have not diminished due to the COVID-19 epidemic, as work occurs primarily in a digital environment and can be done remotely.

Read on for information on how to get the most out of an online CAD certificate, along with available professional pathways for graduates.

Related Programs That Might Interest You

The Best Online Certificate in Design (CAD) Programs

#1 Best Online CAD Certificate Programs

Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Murfreesboro

  • Murfreesboro, TN
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

The computer-aided design technology certificate at Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Murfreesboro introduces students to career-focused topics in a flexible learning environment. The public institution operates 28 certificate options for learners.

With career-focused classes, the computer-aided design program covers core topics while also offering insights into professional roles and responsibilities. Certificate-seekers train for their career goals during experiential learning opportunities. Flexible coursework options allow learners to find a format that fits their schedule. The online program provides full-time and part-time enrollment options. This flexibility helps working professionals and other busy students.

The accredited institution meets federal requirements to distribute financial aid assistance. Qualifying students in certificate programs can pay for school using the Pell Grant, for example. Of the total student body, 98% receive financial aid, and the school reports a 79% graduation rate.

Average Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
79%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
552
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
4% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Council on Occupational Education

#2 Best Online CAD Certificate Programs

St. Charles Community College

  • Cottleville, MO
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

St. Charles Community College offers an online CAD certificate that appeals to students seeking flexible computer-aided design career training. The public institution, located in Cottleville, Missouri, offers 25 certificate programs.

The computer-aided drafting curriculum challenges participants with industry-tailored classes, which offer insights into the profession. Certificate-seekers can also participate in hands-on learning opportunities relevant to the field. Flexible enrollment options allow learners to fit school into their schedule. The online program enrolls students full time and part time. This flexibility appeals to busy students and working professionals.

Distance learners can contact the financial aid office to learn more about eligibility for certificate programs. The college offers numerous internal and external funding opportunities, including scholarships, fellowships, and federal financial aid. Of the total student body, 82% receive financial aid, and the school reports a 25% graduation rate.

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,770
Out-of-state
$6,480
Retention Rate
66%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
6,363
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 Best Online CAD Certificate Programs

Quinsigamond Community College

  • Worcester, MA
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

The online computer-aided design certificate at Quinsigamond Community College ranks high for students seeking online CAD training. From its main campus in Worcester, Massachusetts, the public institution operates 44 certificate programs.

The computer-aided design curriculum draws on industry-relevant topics to provide participants a deep understanding of the profession. Certificate-seekers train for their career goals through experiential learning opportunities. Enrollees choose classes based on their schedule, needs, and career goals. The program offers distance learners the option to pursue full-time or part-time enrollment. This flexibility helps busy students balance school with work and other responsibilities.

Distance learners qualify for several forms of financial aid to cover the cost of a certificate. The school's funding options include scholarships, internal aid, and federal aid programs. Of the total student body, 81% receive financial aid, and the school reports a 22% graduation rate.

Average Tuition
In-state
$576
Out-of-state
$5,520
Retention Rate
60%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
7,291
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
29% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#4 Best Online CAD Certificate Programs

West Kentucky Community and Technical College

  • Paducah, KY
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

West Kentucky Community and Technical College offers an online computer-aided drafter certificate that appeals to students seeking flexible CAD career training. From its main campus in Paducah, the public institution operates 55 certificate programs.

The CAD curriculum incorporates industry-tailored classes that provide deep insights into the profession. Certificate-seekers prepare for the workforce by pursuing experiential learning opportunities. Enrollees can adapt the program based on their unique needs and schedule. Full-time and part-time students take classes as part of the program. Working professionals and busy students benefit from the flexible options.

The financial aid office provides more information about eligibility for aid and funding for certificate programs. The school connects students with financial aid information and provides guidance for learners applying for scholarships. Currently, 96% of enrollees receive financial aid and the school has a 53% graduation rate.

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,176
Out-of-state
$14,616
Retention Rate
69%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
6,327
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 Best Online CAD Certificate Programs

Mountain View College

  • Dallas, TX
  • 2 years
  • Campus

The online computer-aided design and drafting certificate at Mountain View College trains students for CAD careers in a flexible format. From its campus in Dallas, Texas, the public institution lets learners choose from 18 certificate options.

Participants in the computer-aided design program benefit from industry-tailored classes, deepening their knowledge of the field while providing insights into industry professions. Certificate-seekers train for their career goals by taking on experiential learning opportunities. Enrollees can modify the program based on their schedule. Distance learners choose from full-time and part-time enrollment options in the online program. This flexibility appeals to busy students and working professionals.

Students can reach out to the financial aid office to learn more about their eligibility for assistance. The school offers several internal and external funding opportunities, including scholarships and federal loans. The institution reports that 81% of learners receive financial aid, and the school has an 18% graduation rate.

Average Tuition
In-state
$3,330
Out-of-state
$5,220
Retention Rate
61%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
12,210
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
37% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Best Online Programs

Online Certificate in Design (CAD) Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%

Affordability - 15%

Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

What Is an Online Certificate in Design?

Online certificate in design programs prepare learners for careers working with CAD technology. Enrollees learn to use CAD industry-standard software to create 2D and 3D models and related documentation — essential skills for architectural and civil drafters. Earning certificates also prepares individuals to pursue professional credentials in drafting or design.

Online CAD certificates can help students kick-start careers in drafting before going on to earn their degrees. A graduate can expect to transition directly into an entry-level position as a drafter or specialized technician.

What's the Difference Between a Certificate in Design and an Associate Degree in Computer-Aided Design?

Aspiring enrollees should know the differences between CAD certificates and associate degrees in CAD before committing to their programs. A certificate program's coursework focuses entirely on preparing the learner for a career working with CAD. An associate degree covers CAD fundamentals and electives, but also includes general education coursework. A CAD certificate takes two semesters to earn, while an associate usually takes two years.

An associate degree offers more customizable learning tracks and can lead to employment as an architectural manager or senior drafter.

What Can You Do With a Certificate in Design?

Most people with CAD certificates pursue careers as drafters or designers in architecture, civil engineering, and manufacturing. However, the skills developed by this certificate can also apply to other fields, including industrial engineering and animation.

The following section explores common career paths for students with certificates in design.

Architectural and Civil Drafter

Architectural and civil drafters prepare detailed drawings and plans for architectural structures and products, according to specifications from architects and designers. A certificate in design is generally the minimum requirement for this work, as the job requires familiarity with using CAD software and systems for 2D and 3D documentation modeling. Learners who want to work as architectural drafters and civil drafters must complete coursework in architectural drawing and building code foundations.

Animator

Animators create video imagery for various forms of media, including film, commercials, and video games. A CAD certificate can lead to a career in this field because it familiarizes you with the tools used to create 2D and 3D imagery on a computer. For instance, the skills you gain from taking courses in modeling, rendering, and animating for presentations and 3D modeling techniques also apply to industry tools for 3D animation, such as Unity.

Mapping Technician

These engineers make new maps of the Earth's surface, modify existing maps, and collect field data to help make mapping more accurate. A certificate in design can give you a competitive edge in this field, as it will familiarize you with CAD software used in computerized mapping. Future mapping technicians usually take coursework in advanced 3D modeling techniques and math for computer-aided design.

Choosing an Online Program

When choosing an online CAD certificate program, it's best to consider accreditation, cost, and curriculum. Learn more about how to choose an online program with the following links.

Accreditation for CAD Programs

Always research accreditation status for any prospective academic program before applying. Accreditation ensures that programs and schools meet educational standards, and attending an accredited school means you will be able to transfer credits and qualify for employment later.

It's best to attend programs from schools that hold regional accreditation. For vocational schools that are nationally accredited, check whether they have earned an endorsement from the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges or the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training. If not, the program might not be legitimate.

What to Expect From a Certificate in Design Program

The typical CAD certificate curriculum covers the fundamentals for using industry-standard software for architecture, manufacturing, and mechanical engineering. Enrollees explore coursework in mechanisms, building codes, and manufacturing methods. Below are a few commonly included courses.

CAD Certificate Curriculum

How Long Does It Take To Get a CAD Certificate?

It typically takes one year to earn a CAD certificate. This can depend, however, on your course load and school. Some programs offer an accelerated track that may only take a few months or even a single semester to earn. Other schools might require you to take courses in a precise sequence with a regular course load and might not allow you to finish your certificate at an accelerated pace.

CAD Certifications

Earning a certificate prepares you to apply for a professional CAD certification, such as the certified drafter credential from the American Design Drafting Association (ADDA). To apply, you usually need around 1,000 hours of practical education (which your CAD certificate typically covers) or work experience. You then take an exam and pay a fee.

You can renew your CAD certification, which remains valid for around five years, by retesting or documenting consistent employment in the field.

This credential, offered by ADDA, measures competency in drafting theory and principles. The exam does not cover CAD software specifically but instead focuses on the quality drafting foundations. Individuals starting in the industry who want to prove their competency as generalists can consider this credential. Autodesk has created several professional credentials for drafters and designers. This credential certifies a professional's mastery in using the Autodesk drafting software's functions for drawing, editing, and annotating output. An Autodesk certification best serves the needs of professionals working as architectural or civil engineering drafters.

Drafting and Design Careers

The field of drafting and design encompasses many diverse careers. Most students with CAD certificates or degrees pursue careers as drafters, designers, or specialized technicians in architecture, civil engineering, and manufacturing. However, a CAD degree is a versatile credential that can open up careers beyond these industries.

Below are a few of the most common careers for students with CAD degrees, along with each career's median salary and projected employment growth rate.

Career Median Salary (2020) Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)
Drafter $57,960 -4%
Industrial Engineering Technicians $57,320 1%
Civil Engineering Technicians $54,080 3%
Surveying and Mapping Technicians $46,200 1%
Source: BLS

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Become CAD-Certified?

You can become professionally CAD-certified by earning a certificate from an accredited school and then applying for a professional credential in your area of interest. There are several CAD-related certification options to pursue.

How Long Does It Take To Get a CAD Certificate?

It usually takes two semesters or one year to earn a CAD certificate, depending on whether a program offers accelerated or part-time options.

Are CAD Jobs in Demand?

Entry-level CAD jobs in drafting have seen slower growth in recent years, but industrial engineering technicians and civil engineering technicians still have positive employment projections. However, many employers now expect architects and designers to have CAD skills, so CAD skills remain in demand.

Header Image Credit: Klaus Vedfelt | Getty Images

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