Draughtsmen and women, or drafters as they are also called, translate the ideas and rough sketches of engineers, architects and scientists into detailed drawings.

A draughtsperson prepares technical drawings and plans used by production and construction workers to build everything from manufactured products such as spacecraft or industrial machinery, to structures such as office buildings or oil and gas pipelines.

Their drawings provide visual guidelines, showing the technical details of the products and structures, specifying dimensions, materials to be used, and procedures and processes to be followed. Drafters fill in technical details, using drawings, rough sketches, specifications, codes and calculations supplied by engineers, surveyors, architects or scientists.

They use various drafting tools, engineering practices and mathematics to complete drawings, including technical handbooks, tables, calculators and computers.

Traditionally, draughtsmen sat at drawing boards and used compasses, dividers, protractors, triangles and other drafting devices to prepare a drawing manually.

Most draughtspersons now use computer-aided drafting (CAD) systems to prepare drawings. These systems employ computer workstations which create a drawing on a video screen. These systems make it easy to prepare many variations of a design and allow it to be viewed from angles not usually available with traditional drafting methods. The drawings are stored electronically so that variations, revisions or duplications can be made easily and quickly.

Although this equipment has become easier to operate, CAD is only a tool. People who produce technical drawings using CAD still function as drafters, and need most of the knowledge of traditional drafters, relating to drafting skills and standards, as well as CAD skills. Some drafting work, however, continues to be done by traditional manual and tracing methods in addition to using computers to draw designs.

Drafters prepare detailed drawings based on sketches and specifications prepared by architects, engineers or other designers. Projects differ radically and specialisation in preparing drawings in the various fields is therefore necessary:

Areas of drafting specialisation include:

Aeronautical, Architectural, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Structural Engineering, Town and Regional Planning, Geological, Landscape, Cartographical (maps), Mining, Marine.

Some of these in more detail are:

  • Architectural drafters draw plans for all kinds of buildings.
  • Civil engineering drafters draw plans for bridges, roads, irrigation and construction schemes.
  • Mechanical engineering drafters sketch plans for machines and engine parts, also of such things as: hydrological steelworks and air conditioning systems.
  • Electrical engineering drafters finalise plans for electrical circuits and wiring systems in buildings, etc.
  • Structural engineering drafters draw designs for towers and steel frames.
  • Town and regional planning drafters draw maps of sewage, drinking water, steam, heating, cooling and conveyor installations, and they may also build models for projects.
  • Cartographical drafters draw different types of maps such as cadastral, topographical and meteorological.
  • Mining drafters draw plans of mines, including three-dimensional plans, which could help, for example, with the upgrading of safety standards.
Within the various industries, distinction is made between tracers, detail draughtsmen and design draughtsmen:
  • Tracers copy drawings and generally assist draughtsmen
  • Detail draughtsmen finalise drawings
  • Design draughtsmen handle advanced work

Personal Requirements

  • able to transfer concepts onto paper
  • patience and perseverance
  • meticulously accurate
  • enjoy doing detailed work
  • able to concentrate for long periods
  • three-dimensional perception
  • good eye-hand coordination and free-hand drawing skills
  • interest in and flair for computer work
  • stamina - at times standing is required

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: An art portfolio will be required for entry into a design school or college 
Recommended subjects: Art or Engineering and Graphic Design (EGD) or both

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements. Many institutions select students by asking them to submit a portfolio, attend an interview or pass an entrance examination of a practical nature.

What to Study

Diploma: Draughtsperson training consists of 18 months of academic training, available at most universities of technology, and 18 months of in-service training at an approved firm. To be accepted for training, candidates must first apply for employment at possible employers. The employer usually pays the tuition fees and also pays the learner draughtsman a salary during training.

Diplomas available are:
N.Dip. Architectural Technology - CPUT, DUT, TUT
N.Dip. Cartography - CPUT, TUT
N.Dip. Surveying - CPUT, UKZN
N.Dip. Town and Regional Planning - CPUT, DUT, UJ, US, UFS, UV
N.Dip. Mine Surveying - UNISA
These courses take three years to complete.

Prospective draughtsman can also obtain certificate courses in Multi-Disciplinary Drawing Office Practice (N4 - N5) at TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) Colleges.

There are 3 ways to qualify as a registered artisan:

1. An apprenticeship is a fixed contract between company and apprentice, ranging in duration from between 18 months and 4 years. At the end of the contract, the apprentice writes a trade test leading to professional certification.

2. A learnership is a structured learning programme ranging from about a year to 3 years. A learnership comprises theoretical and practical training. Practical training is conducted on site (on the premises of the organisation). This has the advantage that the learner gets experience whilst training.

3. TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) Colleges offer theoretical training to prospective artisans via the new National Certificate Vocational (NCV). During this 3-year programme (levels 2 to 4), learners complete a school-leaving certificate (NCV) similar to the new National Senior Certificate (NSC) in schools. They are also exposed to a practical workshop component.

All learners are required to complete a practical internship under the supervision of an experienced artisan. As an alternative to doing the full qualification, a learner can apply to do a skills programme at a TVET College. Skills programmes are short practical hands-on courses.

For more information about qualifications and skills programmes, contact your nearest TVET College. TVET Colleges are accredited and funded by a SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) such as MerSETA or ChietaSETA. They also receive bursary funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the NCV programme.

After obtaining the certificate, the students must undergo three years of in-service training in a drawing office, before they can be called draughtsman. Alternatively, register with an employer providing suitable in-service training.


  • architectural and engineering firms
  • such organisations as: Mittal Steel, Eskom, Sasol, Transnet
  • municipalities
  • construction companies
  • metal manufacturing companies
  • machinery construction companies
  • mining companies
  • contract draughting firms
  • government departments, such as : Water Affairs, Agricultural Economics and Marketing, Mineral and Energy Affairs
  • self-employment, doing freelance work or with enough experience and capital, can start own business

Further Information

SA Institute of Draughting
P O Box 4424
Cape Town, 7551
Telefax: (066) 446-5676

SABS Design Institute
South African Bureau of Standards
1 Dr Lategan Road
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 428-7911

Academy Of Draughting Johannesburg
Oracle Close
Halfway Gardens
Midrand, 1686
Tel: (011) 262-4555

Academy Of Draughting Cape Town 
127 Cecil Rd
Salt River
Cape Town, 7925 
Tel: (021) 202-7890

AIE - School of Draughting & Technical Design
Oracle Close, Halfway Gardens
Midrand, 1686 
Tel: (011) 262-5115

Getting Started

  • visit a drawing office and talk to a draughtsman and ask permission to watch them at work
  • develop hobbies and activities such as model building, woodworking and simple repairing to help become familiar with such things as blueprints and technical instructions and also to increase your mechanical dexterity

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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