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Office Draftman
Significant Points

This series includes positions involving the supervision or performance of drafting work for charts, diagrams, floor plans, office forms, and other types of graphic presentation of statistical, administrative, or related data. Positions in this series require skill in the application of drafting techniques, ability to read statistical tables and make arithmetical computations, and knowledge of the various types of graphic presentation that are appropriate for portrayal of statistical, administrative, and related data.

Nature of the Work

Office draftsmen in the Federal Government are responsible for graphic presentations of many types of statistical, administrative, and related data, depending on the mission of the department or agency where they are located. These data may be of a general nature or of a specialized or technical nature, such as medical, economic, and budgetary data. Graphic presentation of data is needed for internal office use, exhibits, lectures, slides, moving pictures, and television, and for books, magazines, pamphlets, reports, newspapers, and similar publications.

Performance of office drafting work requires skill in the use of office drafting equipment, including accurate use of measuring devices; ability to read statistical tables and to make arithmetical computations; and, for most positions, ability to lay out or design various types of charts, such as those listed below. Draftsmen frequently work under the pressure of close deadlines for printing dates and lecture engagements.

Office draftsmen are required to have the ability to use drafting and drawing equipment and the ability to apply the principles of perspective. Some office draftsmen perform duties which require some use of tone shading, color harmony, proportion, etc. However, the purpose of office drafting duties is to portray the relationship of data through the application of drafting techniques. Such drafting duties do not require the use of artistic ability (e.g., for the purpose of producing and emotional effect) as is required in illustrating work.

Office draftsmen are required to be familiar to varying degrees with the design of most types of charts used for graphic presentation of data. The following are some of the types of charts that they work on:

1. Rectilinear coordinate charts, such as simple arithmetic line charts, and strata charts.

2. Bar and column charts, such as plain bar, component bar, and percentage bar charts which may be vertical or horizontal, also called barographs, pipe-organ charts, or staircase charts.

3. Semilogarithmic charts which show rate of change or percentage of gain or loss represented by logarithmic division of the vertical scale.

4. Frequency and related distributions, including histograms, two-way frequency charts, and cumulative-frequency charts.

5. Miscellaneous charts and diagrams, such as pie charts, scatter diagrams, correlation charts, flow charts, organization charts, assembly charts, time-study charts, floor plans, office forms, and statistical maps or geographical charts including base maps, crosshatched or shaded maps, spot maps, and maps with graphic forms superimposed.

6. Charts which make use of symbolic figures to represent quantities; symbolic figures are frequently used in bar charts, flow charts, and geographic charts, sometimes called pictorial charts or pictograms.

7. Charts drawn in three-dimensional graphic form, a technique frequently used for pie charts and bar charts.

Office drafting work may be done in black-and-white or in color and in any of the art media. It is frequently done in pen-and-ink with the use of shading patterns and screens printed on a transparent film with a wax back which adheres to the drawing for crosshatching, shading, or coloring of certain areas of the drawing. In addition to various types of pens, inks, paints, and shading sheets (described above), some examples of equipment typically used by office draftsmen are compasses, ellipse guides, triangles, T-squares, curves, drafting scales, slide rules, mechanical lettering sets, and cold-type composing machines. Many office draftsmen are required to do cold-type composing for titles, captions, texts of pamphlets, etc.

In order to prepare work for publication, draftsmen are required to know how to use colors for reproduction, the effects produced by photographic enlargement or reduction of their work, the proper use of overlays, halftones, etc., and other means of increasing the numbers of effects possible in graphic presentation of statistical, administrative, and related data.

Office draftsmen frequently are required to work with people in other information and arts occupations, such as illustrating or visual information, as members of a team on joint projects. Some draftsmen are required to deal directly with employees and supervisors requesting drafting work. This involves finding out how the requestors want the job to be done, advising them on the manner in which they should present the data to be drafted, and requesting further information when the data submitted are incomplete.

Persons who are requesting drafting of technical numerical data usually give verbal instructions on the type of chart they want; frequently they provide a rough layout or make reference to a chart done previously to serve as a guideline. Office draftsmen are not required to have the technical subject-matter knowledge necessary for analysis of technical data in order to determine the proper type of graphic presentation. However, some data which are drafted can be readily understood by the layman; draftsmen may interpret these data and determine what type of chart would be most appropriate. Making a layout for graphic presentation of data (chart design) involves such determinations as the size of the chart, what scale or proportions should be used, position and margins, and composition including what size lettering should be used and where the lettering should be placed. A draftsman may make several layouts of one job and let the requestor select the one he prefers. The draftsman then puts this in final form. Draftsmen are required to have the ability to acquire enough information about the data being drafted to make an effective graphic presentation.

Office Draftman, GS-1021-02

This is typically a trainee level; however, it includes some limited performance jobs responsible for routine office drafting work that are not trainee positions. Work at this level requires the ability to use basic office drafting equipment. Assignments are simple and limited in variety; guidelines and instructions are specific and are followed under close supervision.

GS-2 office draftsmen work on a few types of graphic presentations such as line charts, bar charts, organization charts, placards, and signs. They are required, after some training, to have a working knowledge of all of the office drafting equipment available to them. They are provided with rough layouts or are given charts done previously to use as guides, and are provided with specific directions. Work on the revision of charts done previously is typical at this level. Some assignments may be more difficult than those described above in order to prepare draftsmen in trainee positions for work at the higher levels. Supervision at this level includes specific instructions before and during assignments, and close review of completed assignments to see that guidelines and instructions have been followed properly and that work is of an acceptable quality.

Office Draftman, GS-1021-03

Assignments at this level are varied but have well-established guidelines. Rough layouts or specific oral or written instructions are provided for new assignments. GS-3 office draftsmen typically receive such assignments as bar, line, pie, and organizational charts; statistical and administrative maps; and posters. They do freehand and mechanical lettering and use a variety of inks, paints, and colors. Most assignments at this level recur on a regular basis; they typically involve use of shading techniques requiring varied types of hatching and color, overlays, and the use of logarithmic and variable scales.

Assignments typically performed at this level on a recurring basis receive little supervision during progress but are closely reviewed upon completion. New assignments are explained in detail and are closely supervised. Supervision of recurring assignments at this level is proportionately less close.

An example of a position at this level is that of a draftsman who, with specific instructions, prepares graphs, charts, maps and diagrams, assists in the preparation of difficult graphic projects by performing the less difficult segments on a production-line technique basis, does freehand and mechanical lettering, lays out or traces and rules statistical tables and forms, and uses such materials as zip-a-tone, color and design tape, water colors, and crayons.

Office Draftman, GS-1021-04

Assignments at this level cover a wide variety of drafting jobs, including some one-of-a-kind assignments. GS-4 office draftsmen are required to make layouts from data received in tabular or narrative form. Rough layouts or instructions from the supervisor for style and scale are given for those assignments that are unique or infrequent.

GS-4 office drafting work covers a wide variety of assignments and requires the ability to perform the full range of drafting work requiring the use of standard methods for graphic presentation of statistical, administrative, and related data. In addition to graphic presentations mentioned at the lower levels, this includes such assignments as floor plans, office forms, flow charts, and book covers. GS-4 assignments typically involve all standard types of plotting, coloring, and other detail work and require a knowledge of a variety of methods, such as effects produced by use of overlays and halftones, to be used in preparing charts, graphs, etc., for reproduction.

Assignments are received with general instructions, are carried out with spotchecks for unique assignments, and are reviewed upon completion. The supervisor gives advice on unusual problems.

An example of a position at this level is that of a draftsman who, under general supervision, receives assignments accompanied by statistical tabulations, rough sketches, and instructions as to the desired type of presentation. Assignments consist of work order requests for graphic presentation of statistical data and other types of information of a medical, budgetary, organizational, workflow, or historical nature in a variety of arrangements, such as horizontal and vertical bar charts, arithmetic and logarithmic line charts, pie charts, scatter and frequency diagrams, statistical maps, etc. As required, the draftsman works on covers for reports, booklets, and other publications; does drafting and cold-type composing for reports, booklets, etc.; prepares certificates using freehand and Old English lettering; traces maps and illustrations; and draws floor plans to scale.

Office Draftman, GS-1021-05

Positions at this level require greater versatility and originality than those at the GS-4 level. Assignments are varied and complex; they are at a level of difficulty requiring the use of special techniques. Assignments typically require a new approach and the use of other than standard methods. GS-5 office draftsmen perform design and layout of graphic presentations. This involves a determination of the type of chart or graph that will portray the data most effectively and will also be appropriate for the publication, audience, or other use for which it is needed.

GS-5 office draftsmen frequently cooperate on joint projects with others in the information and arts field, such as illustrators, visual information specialists, and editors. They sometimes participate in the design of covers and layout of texts for reports, booklets, and other publications.

GS-5 office draftsmen receive assignments with general instructions and work without technical supervision. Work may be subject to review by subject-matter specialists, editors, illustrators, or others working on publications for which drafting work is done.

Draftsmen performing work at this level may work on one general type of data or on data from a wide variety of subject-matter fields stemming from a number of different organizations; in any case, this work involves a wide variety of graphic presentations as illustrated by the following.

An example of a position at this level is that of a draftsman who, on the basis of general instructions only, independently selects approaches, materials, and work methods and plans layouts for a wide variety of types of graphic presentations of economic data. Wide variety refers to a scope in the types of graphic presentations comparable to the following: rectilinear coordinate charts, bar charts, semilogarithmic charts, frequency distribution, pie charts, scatter diagrams, correlation charts, flow charts, and statistical maps. Working for a staff of economists, the draftsman designs and drafts new charts on a regular basis to meet new methods of presentation or adjustments in scale required by changing economic conditions.

Individual Occupational Requirements

Employers prefer applicants who have completed postsecondary school training in drafting, which is offered by technical institutes, community colleges, and some 4-year colleges and universities. Employers are most interested in applicants with well-developed drafting and mechanical drawing skills; knowledge of drafting standards, mathematics, science, and engineering technology; and a solid background in CADD techniques.

Education and training. High school courses in mathematics, science, computer technology, design, computer graphics, and, where available, drafting are useful for people considering a drafting career. Employers prefer applicants who have also completed training after high school at a technical institute, community college, or 4-year college or university. Prospective students should contact prospective employers to ask which schools they prefer and contact schools to ask for information about the kinds of jobs their graduates have, the type and condition of instructional facilities and equipment, and teacher qualifications.

Technical institutes offer intensive technical training, but they provide a less general education than do community colleges. Either certificates or diplomas may be awarded, and programs can vary considerably in length and in the types of courses offered. Many technical institutes offer 2-year associate degree programs.

Community colleges offer programs similar to those in technical institutes but include more classes in drafting theory and also often require general education classes. Courses taken at community colleges are more likely to be accepted for credit at 4-year colleges. After completing a 2-year associate degree program, graduates may obtain jobs as drafters or continue their education in a related field at a 4-year college. Most 4-year colleges do not offer training in drafting, but they do offer classes in engineering, architecture, and mathematics that are useful for obtaining a job as a drafter.

Technical training obtained in the Armed Forces also can be applied in civilian drafting jobs. Some additional training may be necessary, depending on the technical area or military specialty.

Training differs somewhat within the drafting specialties, although the basics, such as mathematics, are similar. In an electronics drafting program, for example, students learn how to depict electronic components and circuits in drawings. In architectural drafting, they learn the technical specifications of buildings.

Certification and other qualifications. Mechanical ability and visual aptitude are important for drafters. Prospective drafters should be able to draw well and perform detailed work accurately. Artistic ability is helpful in some specialized fields, as is knowledge of manufacturing and construction methods. In addition, prospective drafters should have good interpersonal skills because they work closely with engineers, surveyors, architects, and other professionals and, sometimes, with customers.

The American Design Drafting Association (ADDA) has established a certification program for drafters. Although employers usually do not require drafters to be certified, certification demonstrates knowledge and an understanding of nationally recognized practices. Individuals who wish to become certified must pass the Drafter Certification Test, which is administered periodically at ADDA-authorized sites. Applicants are tested on basic drafting concepts, such as geometric construction, working drawings, and architectural terms and standards.

Advancement. Entry-level or junior drafters usually do routine work under close supervision. After gaining experience, they may become intermediate drafters and progress to more difficult work with less supervision. At the intermediate level, they may need to exercise more judgment and perform calculations when preparing and modifying drawings. Drafters may eventually advance to senior drafter, designer, or supervisor. Many employers pay for continuing education; with appropriate college degrees, drafters may go on to become engineering technicians, engineers, or architects.

Job Outlook

Drafters can expect slower than average employment growth, with the best opportunities expected for those with at least 2 years of postsecondary training.

Employment change. Employment of drafters is expected to grow by 4 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is slower than the average for all occupations. However, growth will vary by specialty.

Architectural and civil drafting is expected to be the fastest growing specialty, increasing by 9 percent, which is about as fast as the average. Increases in overall construction activity stemming from U.S. population growth and the related need to improve the Nation’s infrastructure should spur demand for drafters trained in architectural and civil design.

In contrast to employment of architectural and civil drafters, little or no change in employment is expected of mechanical drafters and of electronic and electrical drafters. Many of these workers are concentrated in slow-growing or declining manufacturing industries that offer few opportunities for growth related to expansion. However, increasingly complex design problems associated with new products and manufacturing processes will increase the demand for mechanical drafters and electronic and electrical drafters employed in engineering and drafting services firms that will be charged with finding solutions to these problems.

Across all specialties, CADD systems that are more powerful and easier to use will allow many tasks to be done by other technical professionals, thus curbing demand for drafters. Job growth also should be slowed as some drafting work, which can be done by sending CADD files over the Internet, is outsourced offshore to countries that pay lower wages.

Job prospects. Opportunities should be best for individuals with at least 2 years of postsecondary training in a drafting program that provides strong technical skills and considerable experience with CADD systems. CADD has increased the complexity of drafting applications while enhancing the productivity of drafters. It also has enhanced the nature of drafting by creating more possibilities for design and drafting. As technology continues to advance, employers will look for drafters with a strong background in fundamental drafting principles, a high level of technical sophistication, and the ability to apply their knowledge to a broader range of responsibilities. Most job openings are expected to arise from the need to replace drafters who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force completely.

Employment of drafters remains tied to industries that are sensitive to cyclical changes in the economy, primarily construction and manufacturing. During recessions, drafters may be laid off. However, a growing number of drafters should continue to find employment on a temporary or contract basis as more companies turn to the employment services industry to meet their changing needs.

Demand for particular drafting specialties varies throughout the country because employment usually is contingent on the needs of local industry.


Drafters' earnings vary by specialty, location, and level of responsibility. Median annual wages of architectural and civil drafters were $44,490 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $35,290 and $55,740. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,220, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $67,110. Median annual wages for architectural and civil drafters in architectural, engineering, and related services were $44,390.

Median annual wages of mechanical drafters were $46,640 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $36,490 and $59,010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,390, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $71,340. Median annual wages for mechanical drafters in architectural, engineering, and related services were $47,630.

Median annual wages of electrical and electronics drafters were $51,320 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $40,210 and $65,400. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,050, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,790. In architectural, engineering, and related services, median annual wages for electrical and electronics drafters were $47,910.

Additional Sources

Information on schools offering programs in drafting and related fields is available from:

  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, 2101 Wilson Blvd., Suite 302, Arlington, VA 22201. Internet:

Information about certification is available from:

  • American Design Drafting Association, 105 E. Main St., Newbern, TN 38059. Internet:

Information on obtaining Office Drafman positions with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724–1850 or  (703) 724–1850  or TDD (978) 461–8404 and   (978) 461–8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for Federal jobs, download the Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process” online here.

Source: OPM's Position Classification Standards for White Collar Work

Last Modified Date: March 4, 2011

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