How Earning a CAD Certification Can Prepare Your Students for College and Careers in Engineering, Architecture, and Manufacturing

Zoe Metalios is an intern at PLTW partner SolidProfessor and a full-time student at Columbia University. 

What is a CAD certification?  

Your students can earn a CAD certification by taking an exam that tests their proficiency in engineering design software.  

When a student passes an exam and earns an industry-recognized certification, it shows both employers and college admission reps that they have a comprehensive skill set.  

What entry-level online CAD certifications are out there? 

We recommend middle school and high school students start by earning entry-level CAD certifications. There are many CAD certifications to choose from, depending on the programs you use most in your curriculum. Here are some of the most popular entry-level CAD certifications:  

  • Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate (CSWA): The CSWA exam measures student’s knowledge in SOLIDWORKS software, and it is the first of three SOLIDWORKS Certification levels. The entry-level test covers 3D modeling, sketching, drawing, and other design concepts within SOLIDWORKS.  
  • AutoCAD Certified Associate: The AutoCAD User Certification is an entry-level certification that tests on the following topics: drawing commands, working with blocks, and other design concepts.  
  • Fusion 360 Certified Associate: This certification demonstrates a user’s knowledge of 3D CAD, covering topics including assembly modeling, part modeling, sketching, geometry, applied features, and more! Check out the Fusion 360 User Certification Exam Prep 2020 to test your skills and get comfortable with Fusion 360. Note: Fusion 360 is part of PLTW Engineering curriculum
  • Inventor Certified Associate: The Inventor certification tests student’s knowledge of mechanical design. The test covers topics like configuration, design automation techniques, and part modeling.  
  • Revit Certified Associate: The Revit certification covers topics in architectural design. To pass the test, your students will need a general understanding of modeling, families, documentation, and Revit project management.  
  • Certified Onshape Associate:  This Onshape certification tests users on both knowledge-based and practical modeling skills. There are four exam sections: Onshape part studio, part assembly, drawings, and sharing and collaboration.  

How Earning a Certification Will Help Students Prepare for College and Careers 

There are many reasons why earning a CAD certification can help students prepare for rigorous college programs and career paths in engineering, architecture, and manufacturing. Working toward earning a CAD certification will enhance students’ knowledge, give them a competitive advantage, and demonstrate to employers they’re committed to the industry. Here’s how: 

Enhances knowledge: Though high school and college curriculums provide technical engineering knowledge, certifications allow students to build on that knowledge by proving they have hands-on experience designing in CAD software.  

Gives a competitive advantage: In today’s competitive job market, being certified is a huge advantage. Having a certification instantly boosts professional credibility and proves students are competent in CAD software. When picking between two equally qualified candidates, a student with a CAD certification will stand out — and likely be considered over a student without a certification — it’s just that simple!  

Demonstrates commitment to career: Having a CAD certification shows enhanced commitment to engineering design and indicates that students are willing to put in the effort and take initiative to master key skill sets. Many certification providers also keep a list of people who hold their certifications, so companies recruiting people to fill job openings can look through those lists. Make sure your students are on the list! 

How educators can help their students get certified 

High school educators can help their students get certified by teaching their students how to use CAD software used in the real world. Educators can incorporate engineering design certifications into their syllabus to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and hands-on skills.  

Here are a few ways you can prepare your students to earn a CAD certification: 

  1. Use online certification prep courses. With a prep course, your students can get comfortable with the certification exam format and practice skills they’ll be tested on.  
  2. Flip your classroom. The flipped classroom model allows students to learn CAD software in their own time and apply that knowledge during class time with hands-on projects.  
  3.  Assign practice exams. To test your students’ knowledge and ensure they’re prepared for the exam, incorporate practice exams into your curriculum.   

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