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CAD operators and CAD technicians use CAD (computer aided design) packages to produce drawings for construction and manufacturing purpose.

Average salaries are in the region of £14,000.00 to £40,000.00. Salaries will vary depending on location / employer

Career Profile

CAD operators and CAD technicians use CAD (computer aided design) packages to prepare drawings for manufacturing and construction.

What they do

CAD operators provide the guidelines and technical details of the product or structure that is being built. In this role, you work with architects, engineers, building services and other construction workers in producing plans and drawings.

These drawings show exactly how something can be constructed, and is achieved using various technology: 

  • 4D technology (3D plus schedule)
  • 5D (4D plus costs)
  • 6D (5D plus component information, such as a maintenance schedule)

You’ll need to have knowledge in using different software packages, such as Autodesk Revit. These drawing documents use specialised notations and symbols 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.

In this role, you would need to have some prior construction knowledge and have some technical knowledge.

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. Maths-based qualifications and understanding is also important for this type of work.

CAD operators need to have an organised, methodical approach to work, as there are multiple tasks that need to be done on a daily basis, and you may also need to balance working in the office as well as visiting sites. 

Typical duties include:

  • Being able to define problems and find solutions for them
  • Visiting sites 
  • 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


  • Newly trained CAD operatives can earn in the region of £14,600 - £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

Salaries depend on location, employer and level of responsibility. Salaries and career options also improve with chartered status.


Get more information about the whole range of construction vacancies on offer with out Careers Explorer A-Z.

Take our Personality Quiz to find out which construction career is right for you.

Case Study

What does your construction job involve?

I work for a multi-disciplinary civil engineering consultancy based in Cardiff. I work from home sometimes as my role is very flexible. I assist the engineers and designers in the production of technical drawings. This starts with creating a drawing template and I build this up into a technical drawing eventually used for construction. I do this by translating their hand-drawn sketches and ideas into electronic format.

How did you get started?

I really enjoyed art and design in school and was wondering what to do after my GCSEs. I didn’t want to stay on at school and do A-levels, but I had to do something to enable me to have a successful career. CAD was the best option for me as it involves design and computer technology, which was essential for my future career in construction.

After speaking to careers advisers and my family, I decided a CAD City and Guilds Diploma was the best option. I attended Nash College in Newport for two years on a full-time course.

However, in my first year I was lucky enough to secure a job with a small timber frame manufacturing company. I was 17 and a junior CAD technician, which meant I was able to get lots of good work experience and also attend college just one day a week. This enabled me to complete my course in a shorter amount of time.

Although I was made redundant five times during the recession, I managed to secure a role with Hyder and have been with them ever since.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I like the fact that although I am based in the Highways department I get the chance to work with other disciplines from Utilities, Infrastructure, Planning and Structures. As my role has progressed I’ve been given responsibility as a designer in some aspects of my job, mainly traffic sign and road markings design, which I do using specialist software.

I like the drawing element of my job and being able to interpret the engineer’s hand-drawn sketches into electronic format so that it can be presented to the client. My role is very flexible and I like the freedom of being able to mix home and office work. I also get the opportunity to work with colleagues in our other offices such as Birmingham, Guildford, Bristol and London and even offices as far away as Bangalore and Manilla. I like going out on site occasionally to see the things I’ve drawn being built.

What skills do you need?

I think the fact that I enjoyed art and design subjects in school had a lot to do with getting along well in my chosen career. When I think back to the skills I had at the beginning of my career they’re not much different to the core skills I have now.

Back then I looked forward to learning something new every day and still do today, whether it’s learning how to use a new piece of software to enable me to do my job more efficiently or helping an engineer figure a design issue out. In this role you work very much as part of a team so people skills and communication are important.

Proudest career moment?

This most definitely has to be passing my HND in Civil Engineering from the University of Glamorgan in 2011 after 10 long years in further education. Though that’s not the end of education for me, I want to study for an ENGTech Professional Qualification as another stepping stone in my career.

Where is your career heading next?

I’d like to stay working for Hyder and become a principal technician. I want to develop and work on my designs, especially the traffic signs and road markings as that will help me progress to that role.

Any advice on how to get into construction?

I’d tell anyone to seriously consider a career in the construction industry, especially if you consider yourself one of life’s problem solvers. Although some companies struggled during the recession and we’ve all been affected in some way, there are so many opportunities available that I’d definitely recommend a career in our industry.

I found that studying while working and gaining experience at the same time was a great way to progress and I hope to keep building on my education and experience throughout my career.

Take our Personality Quiz to find out which of the many careers in construction is right for you

Qualifications & Training

In England and Wales you can sometimes become a CAD operative or CAD technician by starting as an advanced apprentice with an engineering or construction firm. 

To get onto a construction apprenticeship scheme, you need five GCSEs (A-C) – or the equivalent – in subjects such as maths, science, engineering, design and technology. Enthusiasm for the industry goes a long way too and can be as important as the right construction qualifications. 

You have to find an employer who is willing to take you on as an apprentice, and many colleges, training providers and programmes introduce potential apprentices to interested employers.

CAD apprenticeships include a training qualification (known as the diploma or technical certificate), a work-based qualification (known as an NVQ), and basic English and maths (known as Functional Skills, or Essential Skills in Wales) and Employment Rights & Responsibilities to help you at work. It also covers employment responsibilities along with personal learning and thinking skills.

Another way to gain CAD skills is to take a college course. These include:

  • 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 and Guilds Certificate in Computer Aided Design Parametric Modelling Levels 1 to 3
  • City and Guilds Certificate in 2D Computer Aided Design (4353) Level 2, and Level 3, which allows you to specialise in 2D or 3D design

College courses tend to use AutoCAD for learning, which would offer you a good understanding of technical design. Some colleges may also run more specialised software packages, including AutoCAD LT, Autodesk Architectural, CATIA, PRO/Engineer, SolidWorks and 3ds Max.

You have more training once you are doing the job. This is usually specific CAD software relevant to your industry. So, for example, you might train on PDS (Plant Design Systems) if your company designs petrochemical facilities. 

You could take a work-based qualification (depending on your job) such as:

  • NVQ Performing Engineering Operations Levels 1 and 2
  • NVQ Engineering Technical Support Level 3
  • EAL Advanced Diploma in Engineering and Technology Level 3

You could also work towards a BTEC HNC, HND or foundation degree in engineering, construction or civil engineering.

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

In Scotland, there are similar routes that allow you to enter and progress within the industry as a CAD technician. "Earn while you learn" is a great option. This means you can study towards a recognised qualification while working within the industry.  If you are entering as an advanced apprentice, you will need a good group of standard grades/national 5. Following a HNC/HND will demand at least two higher grades. 

For information on the CAD technician role in Scotland please visit the SDS website My World of Work.


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Career trends and forecasts

16,690 additional staff needed


The UK construction industry will need an additional 16,690 non-construction professional, technical, IT and other office-based staff (which includes CAD operatives) to meet demand between 2017 - 2021, according to the latest Construction Skills Network research (LMI).  The majority of this demand will be in the South West followed by East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, and Scotland and Wales.

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