Drafting and design technology programs prepare people to draw plans for architects, engineers, and others. Students learn to use drafting machines, CAD programs, and drawing tools. They also learn to make calculations, estimate materials, and make blueprints.
Every product we use and every structure we live and work in started out as a design. This is true for a house, a machine, a toy, a chair, or an electronic circuit. And every design had to be represented by a drawing - a draft - so that the people who constructed the product would know what to make.
Drafting and design used to be very separate tasks. A designer would make a freehand sketch of a concept, or maybe construct a crude model using cardboard, putty, and scrap materials. Then, a drafter would take that sketch or model and create drawings of exactly what a finished product would look like. The drawings would show the product from several different angles. Then, the designer would ask for changes, and the drafter would have to tear up the drawings and start over again.
Nowadays the two processes are closer together. Designers may still start with crude sketches or models, but often they are able to create a crude representation of the design using computer-assisted drafting and design (CADD) software. Then, it is the drafter's job to refine that CADD representation. Using CADD, the drafter and designer can rotate the image in three dimensions and view it from every possible angle. If something needs to be changed, the drafter merely modifies the design rather than starting from scratch.
When you study drafting and design technology, you still learn the principles of drawing by hand and with tools. But much of the focus is on using CADD.
You also have to learn one or more of the fields that use drafts. For example, some programs specialize in architectural drafting. In such a program, you would also study architectural terms and the problems of design and engineering that architects face. You would learn how to estimate needs for building materials from the details of a design. You would learn how to create and read blueprints. On the other hand, if your program emphasized drafting for manufacturing, you would learn different subjects. You would learn what aspects of a design make something easy or hard to manufacture. You would learn at least the rudiments of how to turn the draft into computer code that controls the machine tools that do the manufacturing.
Most educational programs in this field take about two years of full-time study beyond high school. Many community or two-year colleges and technical institutes offer this program. Although the schools are different, often the programs are very similar. Keep in mind that you may want to get more education later. A four-year college is more likely to give you credit for courses taken at a community college.