Complete Guide to an Online CAD Program

Quick Facts
Accreditation: Institutional
Degree Levels: Master's and Certificate
Avg Tuition: $21,287
Avg Salary: $82,221

Computer aided drafting (CAD) professionals are responsible for using special software to turn technical plans, drawings, and designs into digital images. Online CAD programs are available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate degree levels. There are a number of high school courses that students can take to prepare them for online CAD programs, such as computer technology, drafting, graphic art, and math.

Many CAD programs are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), including several online options at technical schools. Accreditation ensures a quality education and assures employers that graduates have specific skills. Those with accredited degrees may also want to consider getting a professional certification for career advancement. Read More

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Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - CAD/Computer Aided Drafting Degrees ( 4)

School Accreditation Annual Tuition Recommend Rate
Columbus State University SACS COC $16,920 20% (5 reviews)
55 Programs, 1 in CAD/Computer Aided Drafting (view all)
  • Master of Science in Applied Computer Science - Modeling and Simulation (Thesis Option)
Missouri University of Science and Technology HLC $25,918 Add Review
141 Programs, 1 in CAD/Computer Aided Drafting (view all)
  • Graduate Certificate in CAD/CAM & Rapid Product Realization
New Mexico State University HLC $21,022 Add Review
71 Programs, 1 in CAD/Computer Aided Drafting (view all)
  • Undergraduate Certificate in Drafting and Graphics Technology
Penn Foster Career School DEAC Not Provided 45% (141 reviews)
122 Programs, 2 in CAD/Computer Aided Drafting (view all)
  • Drafting with AutoCAD Diploma
  • Drafting with AutoCAD®

Online CAD/Computer Aided Drafting Degree Overview & Career Information

Associate degrees in CAD include a liberal arts component that requires students to fulfill general education courses in addition to drafting courses. These programs are found in a variety of settings, including community and junior colleges, as well as at technical or vocational schools. The coursework for these programs varies somewhat, depending on the setting. Programs at junior colleges and community colleges typically emphasize theory more than those found at vocational and technical institutions. All online drafting programs detail various aspects of the software used for this profession and focus on techniques of sketching and fundamentals of design. Candidates looking to enroll in online associate degree programs in drafting will need to have a high school diploma or its equivalency.

Online certificates and diplomas are available for students who wish to either study general CAD principles or narrow their focus by studying select CAD concepts, such as 3-D modeling or advanced plotting. Certificate programs are also available for specific versions of CAD software. 

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Online Master's in CAD/Computer Aided Drafting

An online master’s in computer-aided drafting (CAD), which is a computer science master’s degree, may prepare graduates for analyst, consultant, or leadership roles in companies that create real-life simulations for study such as the United States military and technology companies. Some online graduate degree holders may find positions as software engineers, while others may find employment as college instructors or university researchers. An online master’s in CAD, which also may be referred to as modeling or simulation master’s, usually requires 36 academic credits; full-time students can finish such programs in about two years.

Online CAD graduate students take foundations, or core, courses required for a computer science master’s degree such as programming languages, computer architecture, and database systems. Online CAD concentration courses include computer graphics, simulation, gaming, and human-computer interface development. Students who wish to earn an online master’s degree in CAD must demonstrate an understanding of computer science and computer programming fundamentals by their undergraduate grade point average. They must also submit GRE scores, a statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation. Public and private universities with computer science departments are most likely to offer online master’s in CAD, or similar, programs.

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Online Certificates in CAD/Computer Aided Drafting

Online CAD certificate programs provide training using a particular CAD software suite. Although not all online certificate programs have admission requirements, it's helpful to have knowledge of computers and design before entering a certification program. Many online certificate students already have a degree in a related field and are obtaining a certificate to specialize their skills. The courses required to complete an online certificate program vary and can take anywhere from a few weeks to a several months to complete. Depending on the online program, students will take between 10 and 30 credits.

Mastery of CAD is helpful in many industries, and some specialized versions of CAD offer their own certificates. Architectural CAD and AutoCAD are popular certificate programs and contain courses including programming; menu commands; and beginner, intermediate, and expert use of the tool. The goal of these certificate programs is to teach students to create actual drawings with CAD so that when they enter the job market, they will be able to use it effectively. Students will gain experience using CAD software to create documents and simulate real-world projects.

Graduates of online CAD certificate programs enter various careers that use online modeling and design software. Popular jobs include engineering, interior design, architecture, product design, and landscaping. These jobs will typically require additional formal education in a specific field in addition to the certificate.

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The Importance of An Accredited Online CAD Degree

Before enrolling in an online CAD program, it is recommended that students verify that the school offering the degree program has been accredited. Accreditation means that the school has been evaluated and approved by a recognized agency with high standards of academic excellence. While attending an accredited school isn't always required to land a job after receiving your degree, it does help ensure that your degree will be honored within professional or educational realms. Without accreditation, you may encounter difficulty when attempting to transfer your earned credits to another educational institution or applying for financial aid.

The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) accredits many schools offering CAD degree programs and is recognized by the US Department of Education as an authoritative accrediting agency in the United States. Please visit Guide to Online Schools' accreditation hub for more information.

CAD Certification Requirements

Once you have completed an online degree program and have a significant amount of experience using CAD, becoming certified is a great way to show potential employers or graduate schools that you're competent. Certification is obtained from a collaboration between Autodesk, the creator of AutoCAD, and Certiport testing centers. Depending on your experience level and career path, you may choose from two main levels of certification: Autodesk Certified User or Autodesk Certified Professional. Additional certifications are also available for Autodesk instructors or Autodesk professionals with specialized experience in road and highway design or mold design.

Certification at the "User" level is designed for those who wish to demonstrate a basic understanding of CAD, such as students or recent graduates. User-level testing examines creating drawings, altering objects, working with layouts, and plotting. Professional-level certification is designed for applicants with at least 400 hours of CAD experience who may be seeking career advancement. The "Professional" exam builds upon the concepts introduced at the Certified User level and also tests applicants on dimensioning, manipulating objects, and working with reusable content. Exam training guides are available through Autodesk.

Autodesk certification exams are offered at satellite testing centers across the United States. In order to remain current, Autodesk certification must be renewed each year that an updated version is released.


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