CAD Design Schools in San Diego, CA with Program Descriptions

The San Diego area has six colleges that offer computer-aided design (CAD) programs. Learn about degree programs, admission info and program requirements for three schools within 40 miles of the city to make an informed education decision.

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San Diego CAD Design School Options

In the San Diego area, most of the colleges offering CAD-related courses and programs are 2-year, regional community colleges. This article looks at three schools that are no more than 40 minutes from the city center. It also features an easy-to-use table that allows for a quick comparison between these schools. A little information on three additional schools with CAD instruction is included near the end.

  • Serving the southern region of San Diego County, Southwestern College (SWC) offers several CAD certificate programs, as well as an associate's degree program. SWC has a main campus in Chula Vista, nearly 14 miles from San Diego, and additional campuses in San Ysidro, National City and Otay Mesa.
  • Serving the eastern region of San Diego County, Cuyamaca College, in El Cajon, has about 13,000 students in its credit and non-credit programs. It is about 15 miles from downtown and offers a certificate and associate degree programs.
  • Palomar College, in San Marcos, serves the northern region of San Diego County, around 36 miles from downtown San Diego. This college also has educational centers in Escondido and other locations in northern San Diego County. Students can earn several types of certificate and associate's degree programs.

Southwestern College

The School of Health, Exercise Science, Athletics and Applied Technology offers programs in CIS and electronics, architecture and automotive technology. The CAD programs at SWC are designed to teach students fundamental drafting skills, along with how to use CAD software to develop 2D and 3D models for a variety of uses. Three of the four programs offered at SWC are designed to allow students to enter the workplace directly.

Basic Certificate - CADD

The certificate program provides students with a background in CADD elements and allows students to gain hands-on training with CADD software. In the basic certificate program, students take 15 units (five classes) of coursework covering engineering design and graphics, CAD mechanical design and CAD detailing and dimensioning.

Advanced Certificate - CADD

Requirements for the advanced certificate at SWC include the 15 units of courses required in the basic certificate. Additionally, students take nine units (four classes) covering trigonometry, circuitry principles and computer simulation. Both certificate programs allow students access to design, presentation and engineering software.

Associate in Science - CADD

The program includes classes in engineering design and graphics, CAD mechanical design, trigonometry and AC/DC circuit principles. Students must also complete general education requirements in areas such as natural sciences, the humanities and language. The program provides students with the chance to use CAD software, as well as understand mechanical design principles.

Associate in Science in Design Technology

The associate's degree in design technology allows students to transfer to a 4-year college. The program is focused on the relationship between CAD elements and the mechanical engineering profession. Twenty-five units of required and elective major courses form the core of this degree option. In addition to general education courses, students examine mechanical design, architectural CAD, circuit principles, computer simulation and engineering design.

Cuyamaca College

Cuyamaca College offers a wide range of both career and college preparatory degrees and certificates. The CADD programs are offered through the CADD technology and survey department, which has seven instructors, each of whom has at least 15 years of industry experience.

Certificate in CADD - Building Design Industry or Manufacturing Industry

To earn a certificate in either specialization at Cuyamaca, students will need to complete six units of core requirements in engineering graphics and introductory computer-aided drafting and design. Students then choose a specialization and take nine units of coursework in that area of study. Depending upon the specialization, coursework might cover architectural drafting, dimensioning and tolerancing or 3D solid modeling.

Associate in Science in CADD Technology

Like the certificate option, this CADD degree program also offers two industry specializations: building design or manufacturing. In either track, students take two introductory courses. The building design track requires 12 units of architectural computer-aided drafting and design courses, while the manufacturing track involves 12 units of electronic drafting, modeling and dimensioning courses. In either program, students also take six units of related electives and complete general education requirements, such as communications, natural sciences and humanities.

Palomar College

Palomar College offers three options at both the certificate and degree levels in CAD, as well as three certificate and degree options in CAD-related subjects through the Trade and Industry Department. Some of these options relate to interactive media, 3D modeling and animation.

Certificate of Achievement in Computer-Assisted Drafting

Designed to prepare students for a career as a computer drafting operator, this certificate program requires completion of 30-33 units of required and elective courses. The core required courses include introductory and advanced AutoCAD, algebra and 3D design and presentation. Twelve units of elective coursework are also required, and elective options include classes such as technical drafting, circuit board design, architecture and trigonometry.

Certificate of Achievement in Electro-Mechanical Drafting and Design

To earn the certificate, students take 28-29 units of coursework. Required classes include AutoCAD, technical drafting, geometric dimensioning and tolerancing, circuit board design and analysis, 3D design and algebra courses. Elective options include classes such as CAD/CAM machining and advanced AutoCAD and allow students the option to do cooperative education to gather work experience.

Certificate of Achievement in Drafting Technology - Technical

The 29-30 credit drafting technology program includes courses in AutoCAD, Solidworks, CAD machining and tolerancing. Students also complete electives, such as mechanical drawing, 3D modeling and game animation. Students may also take an elective cooperative education.

Associate of Science in Computer-Assisted Drafting

The associate's option at Palomar requires the same required and elective coursework as the certificate does, but adds general education requirements. To earn an associate's degree at Palomar, students must complete a minimum of 18 units of general education credits as part of the 60 combined units of major, general education and elective credits required to graduate. Students must also maintain an overall GPA of 2.0/4.0 and receive a 'C' or higher in all major coursework.

Associate of Science in Electro-Mechanical Drafting and Design

Requiring the same major and elective coursework as the certificate option, the 60-credit associate's program also requires general education coursework in areas such as English, social sciences and the humanities. In addition to coursework in CAD and circuit board design, students may also complete an elective cooperative education experience.

Associate of Science in Drafting Technology - Technical

To earn an associate's degree, students complete 60 credits of coursework, including a minimum of 18 general education credits and 29-30 credits of core coursework. Students delve into technical drafting, CAD, geometric dimensioning and technical mathematics and may gain hands-on training through a cooperative education experience.

Comparison of Schools

Prospective students should look at a number of factors when choosing a college. The following table allows for a quick comparison of many important aspects, including costs and size.

Southwestern College Cuyamaca College Palomar College
School Type 2-year, public 2-year, public 2-year, public
Total Enrollment (2012) 18,362* 8,453* 24,626*
Campus Setting Large suburb Large suburb Large suburb
Tuition & Fees (2012-2013) $1,334 in-state; $6,654 out-of-state* $1,386 in-state; $6,896 out-of-state* $1,328 in-state; $5,224 out-of-state*
% of First-Year Students Receiving Any Form of Aid (2011-2012) 76%* 69%* 57%*
Acceptance Rate (2011) Open admission Open admission Open admission
Retention Rate (2011-2012) 69% for full-time students; 40% for part-time students* 68% for full-time students; 47% for part-time students* 72% for full-time students; 45% for part-time students*
Graduation Rate (for students who began in 2009) 15%* 20%* 27%*

Source: *NCES College Navigator

Other School Options:

San Diego City College offers CAD-related coursework in its technical illustration certificate and degree programs, which have an optional focus on engineering applications. National University, in La Jolla, offers a bachelor's degree in manufacturing design and engineering, which combines traditional engineering concepts with computer-aided design and modeling courses. A little farther afield, about 30 miles north of San Diego in Oceanside, Miracosta College offers six associate's degree and certificate options in computer-aided design and drafting fields.

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Popular Schools

  • School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • California campus San Diego

    Online and Classroom-Based Programs

    • Associate
        • Associate in Computer Drafting and Design

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    • Non-Degree
        • Advanced Cloud Computing Certificate

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Masters degree applicants must have a Bachelors degree
    • Doctorate degree applicants must have a Masters degree
    School locations:
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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must live within close proximity to school locations
    • Must be graduated from high school by 2011
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    • Associate
        • Associate - Building Information Modeling

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Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Michigan campus Big Rapids
    Areas of study you may find at Ferris State University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
      • Drafting and Design Engineering
        • CAD Drafting and Design Technology
      • Electrical Engineering and Electronics
      • Engineering - Architectural
      • Environmental Engineering
      • Industrial Engineering
      • Manufacturing Engineering
      • Math
      • Mechanical Engineering
      • Plastics Engineering
      • Surveying
  • School locations:
    • New York campus Rochester
    Areas of study you may find at Rochester Institute of Technology include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
      • Computer Engineering
      • Drafting and Design Engineering
        • Architectural Drafting and Design
        • CAD Drafting and Design Technology
        • Mechanical Drafting and Design
      • Electrical Engineering and Electronics
      • Environmental Engineering
      • Industrial Engineering
      • Manufacturing Engineering
      • Materials Engineering
      • Math
      • Mechanical Engineering
      • Metallurgical Engineering
  • School locations:
    • Michigan campus Ypsilanti
    Areas of study you may find at Eastern Michigan University include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
      • Computer Engineering
      • Drafting and Design Engineering
        • CAD Drafting and Design Technology
        • Mechanical Drafting and Design
      • Electrical Engineering and Electronics
      • Engineering Physics
      • Industrial Engineering
      • Manufacturing Engineering
      • Math
      • Mechanical Engineering
      • Plastics Engineering
  • School locations:
    • Michigan campus Marquette
    Areas of study you may find at Northern Michigan University include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
      • Computer Engineering
      • Drafting and Design Engineering
        • Architectural Drafting and Design
        • CAD Drafting and Design Technology
      • Electrical Engineering and Electronics
      • Environmental Engineering
      • Industrial Engineering
      • Manufacturing Engineering
      • Math
      • Mechanical Engineering
  • School locations:
    • Alaska campus Anchorage
    Areas of study you may find at University of Alaska include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
      • Computer Engineering
      • Drafting and Design Engineering
        • Architectural Drafting and Design
        • CAD Drafting and Design Technology
        • Civil Engineering Drafting and Design
      • Electrical Engineering and Electronics
      • Engineering - Architectural
      • Environmental Engineering
      • Industrial Engineering
      • Manufacturing Engineering
      • Math
      • Mechanical Engineering
      • Petroleum Engineering
      • Surveying
  • School locations:
    • Missouri campus Warrensburg
    Areas of study you may find at University of Central Missouri include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Engineering
      • Drafting and Design Engineering
        • CAD Drafting and Design Technology
      • Electrical Engineering and Electronics
      • Environmental Engineering
      • Industrial Engineering
      • Manufacturing Engineering
      • Math
      • Mechanical Engineering

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