Young man working at computer screen showing CAD design software in operation

If you are interested in art & design and have a technical mind, then a career in computer-aided design (CAD) could be for you. As a CAD technician or operative, you could be turning a client’s idea or an architect’s sketch into an interactive 3D model of what a building will look like. Your work will be valued by architects, engineers and clients, and you will be an important member of any construction project team.  

You could take a university degree or a college course, but apprenticeships are a great way into a CAD career.  

What is an apprentice CAD technician?

The role 

As part of a CAD apprenticeship, apprentices work with architects, engineers and other construction workers to produce CAD plans and drawings. You will develop skills and proficiency in the various CAD software packages, and learn how to take technical information and convert it into 3D and 2D drawings and plans that will be used by other construction professionals.  

Apprentice CAD technician role & responsibilities 

An apprentice CAD technician learns how to use computer-aided design software to create 3D virtual models and 2D plans of buildings and architectural features. Computer-aided design apprentices learn skills in CAD and become responsible for producing technical drawings, elevations, building layouts, maps, diagrams and other types of plans for construction projects.  

Step-by-step guide to becoming an apprentice CAD designer

Research the trade 

If you have an interest in computer-aided design, one of the first things you can do is research the construction industry and look at the ways it uses CAD. What opportunities are there for CAD operatives? Read case studies of what it is like to work as a CAD technician, and look at some of the areas in which you might be working. You could be designing signs, packaging or machinery, not just buildings.  

Understand the part CAD plays in construction 

Computer-aided design plays a critical role in the modern construction industry. CAD has replaced pencil and paper for architects, who no longer need to spend hours at their drawing boards making meticulous changes by hand as a project progresses. CAD has become a more intuitive, adaptable and efficient way to plan, model and simulate building design. CAD is also more client-friendly, as it simplifies the process of producing architectural models and makes design changes easier to visualise.  

Explore the different types of CAD role 

CAD technicians are also known as CAD operatives, CAD engineers, BIM technicians, digital design technicians and civil CAD operators. While there are slight variations in each job title, a CAD apprenticeship will provide you with the essential skills for each of these roles. Find out more with our job profile. A CAD manager will supervise a team of CAD technicians.  

Educational requirements 

The qualifications for CAD apprenticeships are usually five GCSEs at grades 9-4 (A*-C) including English and Maths, as well as a technical subject such as Design Technology or Physics.   

Essential skills and attributes 

CAD apprentices should have excellent attention to detail, as well as a good level of ability in maths. It is useful to be able to work well with others and to use your own initiative. Computer skills and communication skills are essential.  

Design skills 

It goes without saying that apprentice CAD technicians or operatives should be skilful and passionate about art and design. While your design skills will increase throughout your apprenticeship, you should have a good basic level of proficiency in CAD software programs such as Autodesk.  

Where to find apprenticeship opportunities

One of the best ways to find CAD apprenticeships is on Talentview. You can search by region and job role, and apply direct to the employer from the vacancy listing. You can also find apprenticeships by applying directly to employers, contacting local colleges or asking friends or family members if they know of apprenticeships available at companies.   

Applying for a CAD technician apprenticeship

If you are applying for apprenticeships, it is always a good idea to:   

Starting your apprenticeship

You can start your CAD apprenticeship at any age, as long as you are over 16 and no longer in full-time education. Remember, apprenticeships are not just for school leavers – anyone of working age can start a new career and gain a nationally recognised qualification while earning while they learn on an apprenticeship.  

Completing your training

CAD apprenticeships take up to 3 years to complete. The apprenticeship qualification you will earn will usually be as a Civil Engineering Technician (Level 3).  

Tips for success as an apprentice CAD designer

There are great career prospects for qualified CAD technicians. You could find yourself working in construction, civil engineering, manufacturing or on major infrastructure projects. If you have a real interest in CAD design for a particular sector, try to find an apprenticeship that will allow you to work on computer-aided design projects in this field. There are lots of online courses you can do in CAD software if you feel you need more knowledge before you start your CAD apprenticeship. 

Find out more about CAD apprenticeships in construction

At Go Construct we have lots of useful information about CAD apprenticeships.  

Search for a CAD apprenticeship on Talentview