Facebook Pixel

CAD operative

Also known as -

CAD technician, CAD engineer, BIM technician, digital design technician, civil CAD operator

Computer-aided design (CAD) operators use computer software to produce 2D and 3D drawings for construction and manufacturing projects. As a CAD operator, you may be designing buildings, machinery or component parts. You’d be taking complex information and using it to produce technical building diagrams for architects, engineers and other construction workers.

Average salary*




Typical hours per week


Number employed in the UK


How to become a CAD operative

There are several routes to becoming a CAD operative. You could complete a university or college course, or an apprenticeship.

You should explore these routes to find out which is the right one for you. Although some of these options have certain qualification requirements, many employers are more interested in people who are enthusiastic, willing to learn and able to follow instructions.

You may need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card to work on a construction site.


You could complete a foundation or undergraduate degree in engineering, construction or civil engineering.

Find out what the entry requirements are where you live.

College/training provider

Your local college or training provider may offer courses such as:

  • BCS Certificate in 2D Computer Aided Design (ECDL CAD) Level 2
  • BTEC Certificates and Diplomas in Engineering Levels 2 and 3
  • BTEC National Certificates and Diplomas in Mechanical, Manufacturing or Civil Engineering Level 3
  • City & Guilds Certificate in Computer Aided Design Parametric Modelling Levels 1 to 3
  • City & Guilds Certificate in 2D Computer Aided Design Level 2, and Level 3.

Find out what the entry requirements are where you live.


If you are aged between 16 and 24 you may be eligible for a traineeship. This is a short course (2 weeks - 6 months) which helps you to gain work experience in your chosen role.


An apprenticeship with a construction firm is a good way into the industry.

Apprenticeships are open to anyone over the age of 16. As an apprentice, you will be fully employed by your company and expected to work a minimum of 30 hours a week. Your time will be split between on-the-job experience and a college or training provider.

Find out what the entry requirements are where you live.

Work experience

Work experience is essential to gaining employment within the construction industry. You could gain this at school, or by working weekends and holidays with a company or relative who works in construction. Potential employers will always be pleased to see work experience listed on your CV.


Additional skills which may benefit anyone considering a job as a CAD operative include:

  • Design skills and knowledge
  • Maths skills
  • Be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • Excellent verbal communication skills
  • Knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • Thinking and reasoning skills
  • Able to work well with others
  • Able to use your initiative
  • Able to use a computer and the main software packages confidently


To become a CAD operative, you could complete a:

  • Higher National Certificate (HNC) in a construction related discipline
  • Higher National Diploma (HND) in a construction related discipline

To become a CAD operative, you could complete a:

  • Construction Technical Apprenticeship Level 6 & Level 9 in Built Environment Design
  • HNC Architectural Technology

To become a CAD operative, you could complete a:

  • Higher National Certificate (HNC) in a construction related discipline
  • Higher National Diploma (HND) in a construction related discipline

You may need:

  • GCSE A*-C

What does a CAD operative do?

As a CAD operative you will be responsible for designing technical drawings. You will be creating solutions and designs which are used for the construction of buildings, and structures such as railways and bridges. 

The job role of a CAD operative involves the following duties:

  • Following complex instructions and diagrams to create or modify drawings
  • Taking verbal direction and implementing into sketches and calculations to produce the final work
  • Producing plans, elevations, technical details and building layouts
  • Coordinating filing, storage and retrieval of drawings
  • Drawing maps, diagrams or plans for construction projects and structures
  • Planning and drawing details of bridges, highways and waste water management systems
  • Being able to define problems and find solutions for them
  • Visiting sites 
  • Work with architects, engineers, building services and other construction workers in producing plans and drawings.
  • Knowledge in using different software packages to convey instructions about materials, technical specifications, assembly procedures, measurements and site requirements.  
  • CAD operators can be known by other names, such as BIM coordinator, digital design technician and civil CAD operators, and each have some role-specific duties that they do.
  • Accuracy is important for CAD operators, as you need to take lots of complicated and technical information and interpret it into a drawing, with little supervision.

How much could you earn as a CAD operative?

The expected salary for a CAD operative varies as you become more experienced.'

  • Newly trained CAD operatives can earn in the region of £17,000 - £20,000
  • Trained with experience CAD operatives can earn in the region of £20,000 - £35,000
  • Senior, chartered or master CAD operatives can earn in the region of £35,000 - £50,000

Hours and salary depend on location, employer and any overtime you may do. Salaries can also improve with chartered status.

* Salaries have been collected from multiple industry sources


Check out the latest CAD operative vacancies: 

As these are external websites, the number of vacancies related to your preferred role may vary. New opportunities will be posted as they come up.

Career path and progression

As a CAD operative, you could also work as a 3D visualiser/specialist, BIM manager or CAD modeller. You could progress to become a project or design manager and earn a higher salary.

You could take various work-based qualifications and learn more about engineering technology to further your career.

Experienced CAD technicians can register with the Engineering Council to gain EngTech status for professional development and to improve job prospects.

You could also set up your own business and work as a freelance CAD operative.

Progression Opportunities

Explore the progression opportunities below

  • Current role CAD operative Our guide to how to become a CAD Technician tells you everything you need to kno...
    Read more
  • Current role Project manager Considering a career in project management? See what the role of a construction ...
    Read more
  • Current role Design manager Find out more about design manager salary, roles and responsibilities in this Go...
    Read more
Web design by S8080