What Is The Difference Between A Drafter And An Civil Engineer?

Buildings, roads and other infrastructure projects would not be possible without the expertise and skill of civil engineers and drafters. They both work in the field of construction and are adept at making designs for different building projects. However, there are key differences in these two professions.

First of all, drafters and civil engineers differ in the educational training necessary to practice their respective professions. To become a drafter, a two-year associate’s degree in drafting is all that’s necessary. These courses, which can be taken at a technical college or community college, cover topics on sketching and design as well as computer aided design and drafting (CADD) software programs. They can specialize as civil drafters, architectural drafters, electrical drafters or mechanical drafters, just to name a few. Certification signifies competence and professionalism on the job but it is not mandatory.

The educational preparation to become a civil engineer, on the other hand, is more intensive. A bachelor’s degree in civil engineering typically takes four years to finish. This is a very math-intensive course which tackles, among others, topics in statistics, fluid dynamics and engineering mechanics and systems. Obtaining a license as a professional engineer is also necessary since you won’t be able to offer your services to the public without a license.

The second difference between drafters and civil engineers lies in the work that they do. The main responsibility of drafters is translating the rough sketches of architects and civil engineers into technical drawings. Civil drafters, for example, focus on making topographical maps for bridges, roads and other civil engineering projects. Architectural drafters, meanwhile, specialize in drawing residential and commercial buildings to scale. Drafters typically do their work using CADD software programs.

Civil engineers, on the other hand, are responsible for designing, constructing and maintaining buildings, flood-control projects, highways, sewage facilities and other kinds of large construction projects. This involves analyzing data and the results of surveys to prepare for a project, doing soil testing to check if the foundations are strong enough and taking into consideration the environmental hazards and government rules in any project undertaken. Civil engineers also provide cost estimates for a project and determine the length of time before it can be completed. They are also the ones who will face the public during bid proposals and public hearings to answer any questions or concerns they may have about the proposed project’s environmental impact or budgetary concerns.

It should be understood that civil engineers do know how to make blueprints and they are also well-versed in using CADD software. They can do the scale drawings themselves if they so choose. However, in actual practice, the accurate technical descriptions and scale drawings are done by drafters while the civil engineer attends to the other aspects of a given project. Of course, drafters and engineers typically work together when discussing project plans but the actual drawing is done by the drafters.

The final difference is in the wages received. The pay of civil engineers is much higher than that of drafters because they typically hold positions of more responsibility and authority compared to that of drafters who only take care of one aspect of a project.

Career Spotlight: Civil Engineer

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  1. Patti Osterberg says:

    Thank you for explaining the difference between civil engineers and drafters. It sounds like civil engineers are responsible more for the overall idea and design, while drafters are more about the details. I’m considering going into engineering, and civil engineering seems like a fascinating area to focus on. Do they generally work for a city or for a private company?

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