Online CAD SchoolsIt is common for aspiring designers to just assume that Computer-Aided Design (CAD) degree programs don’t exist on their own. After all, most of the design industry considers CAD as simply a form of design that falls under the larger umbrella of graphic design. The majority of the industry isn’t wrong; CAD is commonly taught within graphic design degree programs. But it is also a unique skillset that offers specific employment opportunities for those focused almost entirely on the use of a computer to aid in creating and modifying designs. CAD skills are often thought of as a way to increase the productivity as a designer, but these skills can also help improve the quality of the design, improve communication channels for a project and create a place to store the work – which is why there is a demand for CAD professionals.

Wherever there is demand for education, there will likely be opportunistic schools that are looking to fill that demand, and CAD degree programs are a good example of that. The first to benefit from the sudden influx of demand were regional technical colleges that began offering CAD drafting programs for students interested in fields like interior design or mechanical drafting. But, for obvious reasons, there has been a surge of online CAD drafting degree programs popping up from a number of different institutions. In order to compete with the more flexible online offerings, campus-based technical colleges began developing online CAD drafting degree programs as well. Now, online CAD degree programs are everywhere and demand for skilled and talented CAD professionals is still very high.

Students interested solely in computer-aided design no longer need to slog through a costlier and more extensive graphic design degree program. Now they can actually hone in specifically on CAD degree programs that not only focus specifically on the area of design that interests them, but also cost less effort and money to obtain. As with many art professions, it is possible to become a professional CAD drafter without obtaining a formal education or degree, but it is difficult and ill-advised. The best way to stand out in a crowded field is to prove you have a well-rounded and fundamental design skillset; and formal degree programs are the best way to ensure that.

Choosing an Online Computer Aided Design Degree Program

It sounds obvious, but the first step in finding the right online CAD degree program for you is to make sure you know what kind of skills you want to learn and what kind of degree you want to obtain. It has already been said repeatedly, but online graphic design degree programs feature large sections of curriculum devoted to computer-aided design, and they represent a common way to boost chances for employment as a computer-aided designer. Online web design degrees cover an even broader scope of design than graphic design degree programs, and those programs also feature computer-aided design portions of the curriculum. But those programs also cover many more design topics, some that might seem frivolous and unimportant to students focused specifically on computer-aided design. For those interested specifically in CAD degree programs, graphic design and web design programs over-serve in terms of education. There is nothing wrong with choosing graphic design or web design degree programs if CAD is of interest, but just be sure you know what you are signing up for.

It is also crucial to ensure that the programs of interest are accredited by legitimate and regulated accrediting bodies. The prevalence and popularity of online CAD degrees meant that there are some programs interested in the money and not educating the students. The good news is, that those programs aren’t accredited. The U.S Department of Education explains that the accreditation process is designed to “ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.” Accreditation will not only prove to a potential employer that your education credentials are legitimate, but it will also allow you to continue your education at other accredited institutions, without worrying if your credits will transfer.

There isn’t an accrediting body that specifically approves computer-aided design degree programs, but the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges is the primary accrediting body for technical schools that tend to offer CAD degree programs. Also, the Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs is useful for four-year institutions that offer CAD degrees. Finally, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design is an organization that creates their own national standards for art and design degree programs. They have more than 320 accredited institutional members and those schools are clearly worth researching as well.

It’s also important to look specifically at the curriculum and courses being offered. Most CAD education is standardized, but you want to make sure that the programs you are considering offer a wide breadth of design principles. It is one thing to understand specifically how a computer modifies a design, it’s another to understand the broader aspects of design that go into making an excellent computer-aided design.

Finally, there is no way to become a competent computer-aided designer without practicing the teachings in a laboratory. Any program that tries to teach CAD without a hands-on laboratory component of the curriculum isn’t worth the money. The best programs balance classroom theory and hands-on applications in a laboratory environment.  It might also be worth inquiring about the resources afforded to students. Is the laboratory new? What sort of technology is available? Does the school use the latest CAD software? These are all questions that may help you understand the characteristics of a particular program better.

Online Computer Aided Design Course Types

Unlike graphic design degree programs and web design degree programs, there are no Bachelor’s degrees and Master’s degrees available, at least not yet. A CAD drafting degree focuses on a specific skillset and a specific type of design, and obtaining a CAD degree essentially qualifies that graduate as a competent computer-aided designer. That said, there are more advanced offshoots of CAD degrees that are worth looking in to. There are certificates available in subjects like: Advanced Architectural Computer-Aided Drafting; Advanced Mechanical CAD; Animation and Visualization CAD; and Landscape CAD. Those certificates should be considered once you are sure you are interested in computer-aided design as a whole.