What is the difference between an architect and a draftsman?

The educational requirements to register as an architect are much more intensive than a draftsmen. Before becoming a registered architect, one must complete a masters degree in architecture along with at least two years of practical experience working in the field. By contrast, a qualified draftsmen must complete a two year TAFE course focusing predominantly on computer aided design drawing instead of the broad knowledge required by architects. Because of the difference in qualifications, architects are more expensive than draftsmen and can undertake more responsibility throughout different stages of the project.

architecture office workplace women business model plans draftsman

Architect vs draftsman

Despite being commonly confused, architects and draftsmen differ in a number of important ways. It is critical that you understand the difference between the two roles when making decisions for your project. The four main factors that separate a draftsmen vs architect are: their job description, education level, services offered, and their fees.

1. Job description

architect with clients meeting draft plans business outline calculator blueprints concept sketch drawing

The responsibilities of a draftsmen vs architect Australia are vastly different. Due to their more extensive training, an Architect will be involved in multiple stages of the project (planning, design production, construction budgeting, construction supervision) while a draftsman focuses only on the concept sketches and building drafts.

Throughout a project, architects are responsible for early consultation and initial planning, devising the concept and basic information for how to approach the job. This then turns to design production, where they will produce a rough sketch, refine that sketch and provide a quote for the overall project build cost.

Architects will also evaluate the bids of competing construction companies for the client and advise on the best options for the project. Finally, throughout the construction process they will be responsible for mediating with the contractors, managing the schedule and ensuring that the building is being constructed in accordance with the plans. Note that this is subject to change with each architect’s contract as some may have negotiated more or fewer duties, but this is a general guide.

The role of draftsmen throughout the project is similar to what architects do in the beginning but draftsmen are rarely involved beyond the planning stage. A draftsmen will meet with clients for early consultation and devise concept sketches before refining the plans and designs. This is their specialty and they are trained primarily in computer aided design. Occasionally a draftsman will be involved in the construction process to mediate any issues with the builders, especially if the project is complex. However, this is not common and should be negotiated in the initial stages of consultation.  

2. Education and training

Blueprints architecture plans drawing building construction

This is one of the major differences between an architect and a draftsmen. The average time it takes to become a fully registered architect is upwards of seven years, while a draftsmen is only two. An architect must complete a (usually three-year) undergraduate university degree before spending another two years obtaining a Masters of Architecture, followed by at least two years of practical experience in the field. Throughout their years of study they will learn about a broad range of topics, including mathematics, computer science, art, physics, engineering etc. Only after completing all of this training can someone be registered as an architect.

By contrast, a draftsmen spends generally two years completing a TAFE (or other similar) course specifically on the initial planning and drafting process, focusing on computer aided design. Other areas of study for draftsmen are also focused on the initial planning process of a project, such as blueprint reading, descriptive geometry and mechanical drafting.

3. Services offered

draft plans blueprint architecture schematics draftsman drawing floor plans building art real

In Australia, an Architect must be registered with the Architects’ Registration Board of their state or territory. This gives them the authority to offer their comprehensive services across multiple stages of the project’s construction and they can be held legally responsible for their work. This means that an architect’s services will assure the building is approved for construction by the council, or the construction agency itself. Many commercial projects will require architect approval before the project can commence.

Though a draftsman will have their two-year qualification, in Australia they are not required to have a license. Often draftsmen will work in conjunction with or under a fully licensed architect. In Queensland, draftsmen are not allowed to work with clients directly and their services must be employed through the greater umbrella of an architecture firm.

4. Cost/fees

construction plans real art illustration animated crane building construction model floor plans architecture

Architect vs draftsmen cost: architects have multiple difference fee structures which can influence the overall cost. The most common fee structure for an architect is a percentage fee, which is calculated as a portion of the total building costs. This is usually anywhere between 8-15% of the total build cost for an architect’s full services throughout the project, or for drafting house plans only the cost will be around 6-8%.

By contrast, a draftsman’s percentage fee will be much lower (usually 1-3%). The average cost per project is around $5,000 for an architect and $1,800 for a draftsman.

5. Salary

architect working drawing plans glasses floor plans construction concept sketches draftsman

Given the difference in their two roles and drafting service fees, the annual amount that an architect makes is significantly higher than a draftsman. Entry-level architecture positions begin at approximately $110,000 per year, while established architects can make up to $177,000 per year. The median salary for a draftsman, by contrast, is approximately $60,000 per year.

How do you know whether to hire an architect or a draftsman?

So, which is the right choice for you? It will, of course, depend on your project. Complex, large-scale builds will almost always require the services of an architect throughout the process. If you have the budget for an architect, it is a surefire way to ensure that you will have all of your project needs met and any issues throughout the process taken care of. It will also mean that you will be free of limitations in the specifics of the project as an architect will have the ability to recognize and design exactly what you want.

However, a draftsman can offer fairly similar services for just a fraction of the cost. A draftsman might be the right choice for you if you do not have the budget for an architect, if you already have a very clear idea of what you want, or if the project is not very complicated.

The best course of action is probably to seek quotes from architects and draftsmen alike and make an informed decision specific to your project.