If you are thinking about taking a CAD Class, it would be a good idea to make a learning plan first. Take the time to define some personal learning objectives. Your plan should include the best options in the way you like to learn. Consider too how much money will it take. Your plan should include the amount of time you will devote to training. YOur time investment should include class time and also time out side of class.
As a CAD instructor, I get asked a lot by prospective students what is the best type of CAD class to take. Normally, I ask a few questions before I frame my answer for them. My intent is to find about what CAD program they want to learn. What their professional background is and how long have they been in their industry. And if they have any time and financial constraints to consider while undertaking the learning process. I then talk to them for a few moments and give them some insights on learning a CAD program.
Learning CAD can be Difficult
First, CAD programs are not easy to learn. These programs are not like learning Microsoft Word or Excel. Most CAD applications have higher learning curves. Some parametric and 3D CAD applications have fairly steep learning curves. Due to their complexity, the commitment to learn is longer. CAD programs, such as AutoCAD or 3DS Max, can have up to 1500 to 3000 commands within the program. This is tantamount to almost learning a foreign language!
Your Learning Curve
Another factor rarely thought of is how long does it take a person to learn a concept. Concept comprehension is really important outside of the class learning session. I am referring to memory and retention. Both are very important. I hear from students all the time, “it made perfect sense, professor when you did it. But when I tried it yesterday, I couldn’t do it.” Remember the game where everyone stands in line and a phrase is whispered in your ear? You then repeat it and pass it down the line the same way. The result at the end is normally not the original phrase, but something amusedly different. Because our memory retention is very short.
To achieve competency, plan for every formal hour of instruction to spend at least four times as much on your own to learn the program. If you don’t, it’s like a athlete skipping their exercise routines. Do it or lose it! Repetition of commands builds hand and eye motor skills, personal confidence and eliminates hesitation in deciding what command to use. After a while, with continuous practice, students can concentrate on their design ideas, not how to operate the CAD program.
Making a Commitment to Learn
Students should seriously consider learning CAD as a professional commitment. Like most professions, continuous improvement through continued learning is imperative to stay competitive in today’s job market. Design has always been a creative and innovative endeavor. CAD applications tend to evolve around the way designers think, to assist in the visualization of design concepts. Software developers update their CAD applications to take advantage of new client driven design workflows. So there is a need to keep up; to be more productive and innovative. So, make the commitment to stay up to date. You have already spent time and money to get where you are. But don’t rest on your laurels.
Getting that Dream Job
Lastly, to get that dream job in the profession of your choice, learning just one program could limit your employment opportunities. There is not a single CAD program which can handle the entire design business process. Many CAD platforms tout their ability to do it all. But the reality is many employers get greater productivity and efficiency by using a suite of programs. Normally, the selected application performs better in a specific part of their design workflow process. A good place to look at what employers are seeking is the postings of jobs on many job boards. These postings will give you a idea for what CAD applications employers are looking for.
As you can see, it can be hard to decide where to begin. CAD platforms take time to learn, whether it is through class instruction, personal time or a combination of each. Since CAD is part of your job, make the commitment to stay abreast of all the changes. Include in your plan other CAD platforms to help you get the job you want. Regardless, before you start looking at taking a class, or dabble in other learning methods, make a personal training plan. Design you plan to fit your needs and review it each year. And by all means, stick to it.