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CAD Operative

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*

£17000

-

£50000

Typical hours per week

39 - 41

Number employed in the UK

208,050

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.

University

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

To do a degree you’ll need at least:

  • 5 GCSEs (including maths, English and IT) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent
  • 2 A Levels, or equivalent

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.

For these, you’ll generally need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent

Traineeship

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.

Apprenticeship

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.

For an apprenticeship you’ll need:

  • 5 GSCEs (in science, maths or design subjects) at grades 9 to 4 (A to C), or equivalent

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.

Skills

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

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 technician, 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 and have been updated as of 2019


Jobs

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 Using computer aided design, construction CAD operators produce 2 & 3D drawings ...
    Read more
  • Current role Project manager Oversee construction projects from start to finish in order to achieve successfu...
    Read more
  • Current role Design manager Responsible for managing all the functions of a building supplies depot, includi...
    Read more
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