Forget dusty T-squares and cramped drafting tables. The modern engineer’s workspace is a digital canvas splashed with vibrant lines and intricate 3D models. At the heart of this revolution lies AutoCAD, the ubiquitous software that has transformed how we design and build the world around us. But its reach extends far beyond the architect’s desk. If you think AutoCAD is just for architects, brace yourself for a surprise.
In this article, we will delve into the hidden world of seven engineering careers that use AutoCAD, where the software is not just a tool but also a superpower. From towering skyscrapers to sleek machines, these engineers wield AutoCAD to translate their vision into reality. So, strap on your digital gloves and get ready to witness the magic of precision, creativity, and innovation unleashed through the lens of AutoCAD.
1. Project Engineers
A project engineer is someone who oversees all the technical and engineering aspects of a specific project. They are essentially responsible for the planning, coordination, and execution of projects. Their role may vary depending on the industry, but generally, a project engineer works to make sure a project is completed on time, within budget and meets the required specifications.
Project engineers typically work with AutoCAD software extensively. In fact, it is often considered a fundamental skill for this role, especially in fields such as civil engineering, mechanical engineering, construction, and other related disciplines. Project engineers often create or oversee the creation of intricate technical drawings and plans using AutoCAD. This includes designing specific components, systems, or entire projects depending on the field.
AutoCAD allows project engineers to understand how the designed elements interact and function within the larger system by visually representing and analysing these relationships in detail, which is a core part of their responsibilities. They also use the software to communicate design ideas and specifications to other engineers, technicians, and contractors clearly and accurately, minimising misunderstandings.
According to GlassDoor, a project engineer in the US is estimated to have an average salary of $106,122 a year as of December 2023.
2. Mechanical Engineers
A mechanical engineer typically applies principles of physics, mathematics, and material science to create designs for, analyse, manufacture, and sustain mechanical systems. They are basically the masterminds behind everything from machines and engines to HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, robotics, and more.
Mechanical engineers often consider AutoCAD software as a valuable tool in their work, leveraging its amazing features for various purposes throughout the product development and manufacturing processes.
More specifically, mechanical engineers create comprehensive 2D and 3D drawings of mechanical components and systems using AutoCAD’s drafting tools. They create realistic 3D models for prototyping and visualisation to see how components fit together and highlight any potential issues before physical prototypes are produced. These engineering drawings, as well as specifications and bills of materials, are called design documentation, and they are essential for manufacturing and assembly.
Besides, mechanical engineers use AutoCAD to evaluate structural integrity and thermal performance to ensure the final product meets performance and safety standards.
As designs evolve and undergo revisions, AutoCAD makes it easy for mechanical engineers to update drawings and models accordingly, which is valuable in the iterative design process. AutoCAD also facilitates collaboration among team members by sharing design files. This is particularly important when multiple engineers are working on different aspects of a project.
According to ZipRecruiter, the median yearly salary for mechanical engineers in the United States stands at $102,878, or $49 an hour, as of December 2023.
3. Civil Engineers
Working side by side with architects, a civil engineer is involved in the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of infrastructure projects. These projects usually include a wide range of structures and systems, such as bridges, buildings, roads, dams, airports, water supply and sewage systems, amongst others. Civil engineers contribute to shaping the physical infrastructure of societies and ensuring that these structures are safe, efficient, and sustainable.
AutoCAD is then used heavily by civil engineers to execute all the tasks we just mentioned. In more detail, they use the software mainly to create comprehensive and accurate 2D drawings and plans, most often floor plans, elevations, and other technical illustrations as well as 3D representations of structures.
Civil engineers integrate AutoCAD with other software tools to perform quantity takeoffs in order to estimate the quantities of all the materials needed for construction projects, helping in project budgeting.
As AutoCAD drawings software can incorporate GIS Integration, civil engineers are able to work with spatial data. This is particularly useful for projects that involve mapping and geospatial analysis. AutoCAD is also used to create custom tools, templates, and libraries. This improves efficiency by standardising design elements and automating repetitive tasks.
The specialised version of AutoCAD Civil 3D provides tools for analysis and simulation. It is typically used by civil engineers for tasks such as terrain modelling, hydrology analysis, and grading design.
Based on a report from Talent.com, civil engineers in the US receive an annual salary of $87,520 on average as of 2023.
4. Plumbing Engineers
A plumbing engineer is in charge of the design, planning, and implementation of plumbing systems in buildings. They often work with architects and civil engineers, as well as other professionals, to ensure that the water supply, drainage, and gas systems adhere to local building codes, regulations, and safety standards.
A plumbing engineer uses AutoCAD in various ways, like creating detailed 2D and 3D drawings of plumbing systems, designing the layout and configuration of pipes, fixtures, and other components within buildings, generating visual representations of plumbing systems to aid in understanding and communication, identifying and resolving potential conflicts or issues in the plumbing system design.
The software also helps plumbing engineers to determine system specifications. These typically include details about pipe sizes, materials, and others in AutoCAD drawings. Using AutoCAD files, plumbing engineers can also communicate their designs with other project stakeholders.
In December 2023, the average salary for a plumbing engineer with AutoCAD skills in the US accounted for $95,484 annually.
5. Electrical Engineers
An electrical engineer is a professional who applies principles of electrical and electronic engineering to help design, develop, test, and maintain electrical components and systems. These systems can include power generation and distribution, communication systems, electronic devices, control systems, and more. Electrical engineers play a vital role in multiple industries, contributing to the development of electrical infrastructure and the advancement of technology.
An electrical engineers uses AutoCAD for various purposes in the design and documentation of electrical systems, such as:
- Creating detailed 2D schematic diagrams of electrical systems. This includes representing electrical components, connections, and circuitry in a clear and organised manner.
- Designing the layout of electrical panels, which involves placing components such as switches, relays, and circuit breakers in an organised and efficient manner.
- Generating wiring diagrams illustrating the connections between different electrical components in a system.
- Planning and visualising the routing of cables and conduits within a facility.
Electrical engineers with AutoCAD proficiency can work in a big range of industries, such as construction and architecture, manufacturing and production, power generation and distribution, automotive, telecommunications, and health care, to name a few.
American electrical engineers are paid $53 on average per hour, which makes around $111,091 a year.
6. Geotechnical Engineers
A geotechnical engineer is a professional specialising in the study and analysis of the Earth’s subsurface materials, including soil, rocks, and groundwater. Their primary focus is to assess the mechanical, thermal, and hydraulic properties of these materials in the context of construction projects, infrastructure development, and environmental considerations.
AutoCAD is an indispensable tool for geotechnical engineers in order for them to do all that they should do to ensure the stability and safety of structures built either on or in the ground. More specifically, geotechnical engineers use the software for:
- Integrating geotechnical data into site plans to visualise and analyse subsurface conditions.
- Slope stability analysis, including creating cross-sections and profiles to assess potential risks.
- Mapping soil and rock samples obtained during site investigations.
- Creating construction drawings with geotechnical details for foundations, retaining walls, and other structures.
- Collaborating with other engineers by sharing AutoCAD files that include geotechnical data, ensuring integrated project designs.
- Visualising and communicating geotechnical information to project stakeholders.
In Canada, the average yearly base salary for a geotechnical engineer is $62,767.
7. Aerospace Engineers
Yes, that is right. Those are the NASA-working engineers.
More technically speaking, aerospace engineers work in aeronautics, which is the study of flight within Earth’s atmosphere, and astronautics, which encompasses space travel and exploration. They usually contribute to the design, development, testing, and maintenance of various aerospace vehicles, including aeroplanes, helicopters, satellites, and spacecraft.
We have learnt so far that where there is design, there is mostly AutoCAD and aerospace engineers use the software pretty widely to execute a large array of tasks.
Like most other engineers, aerospace engineers use AutoCAD to create detailed 2D and 3D drawings, but this time, ones of aircraft components, structures, and systems of spacecraft, including satellites, rovers, and other space exploration vehicles. This includes designing wings, fuselages, control surfaces, and other critical parts. AutoCAD is used for designing and integrating avionic systems, including electronic components for navigation, communication, and control within aircraft and spacecraft.
AutoCAD can be used in conjunction with other tools to perform structural analysis, ensuring that aerospace structures can withstand the stresses and forces they experience during flight.
Other things that aerospace engineers use AutoCAD to create or generate include:
- System diagrams, schematics, and the layout and connections of various systems within aerospace vehicles.
- Manufacturing drawings and specifications.
- Assembly drawings that provide a visual representation of how various components come together to form the complete aircraft or spacecraft.
According to PayScale, aerospace engineers with experience in using AutoCAD earn an average of $681,000 a year. This is, by far, the highest salary of all the ones we mentioned in this article.
AutoCAD is not just software; it is a language of precision, creativity, and boundless potential that transforms mere ideas into tangible realities. But let’s not forget that the real magic lies not only in the software itself but also in the minds of the engineers who wield it; it is in their meticulous attention to detail, their ability to translate complex ideas into visual narratives, and their unwavering dedication to precision.
So, the next time you gaze at a towering skyscraper, marvel at the sleek curves of a modern car or witness a rocket pierce the heavens, remember the unsung heroes behind the scenes: the engineers who speak the language of AutoCAD, the ones building the future, one pixel at a time.