The skills it takes to become a 3D Modeller in rail

It‘s a great time to work in the rail sector with major HS2 phase one civils packages gathering traction, multiple London Underground projects in progress and several major rail projects taking place around the world. And one skill set in particular that rail employers are looking for is 3D modellers.

With companies looking to expand their computer aided design (CAD) teams to manage the influx of work they’re getting  Ed Murison, Senior Rail Specialist, shares how to get into 3D modelling and the qualities and skills it takes to embark on a career within this engineering niche.


What educational background do employers expect 3D Modellers to have and how can someone get experience?

To start a career in 3D Modelling you’ll need to get a HNC or a BTEC qualification awarded by Edexcel, and typical routes into this career would be through work experience, apprenticeships and post graduate engineering positions. Typically, the bigger design consultancies are the best to go to for entry level positions.

Are there any common transferable skills from other lines of work?

The CAD industry is undoubtedly evolving with the technological revolution. With the advancement and complexity of computer software, CAD Modellers work between Engineering and IT sectors. Many CAD Modellers come from one of the two, and the best often have a foot in both camps.

Within engineering, CAD Modelling is becoming a lot more sought after as a career and desired skill set. Due to the technical advancement of recent years, and the growth of BIM within engineering offering great career progression, many CAD Modellers have transferred from other walks of life, most commonly; Engineers, IT Operators and Mapping (GIS) Specialists.

What are the most common career path stages for 3D Modellers?

Starting as a Junior Technician, your potential career path could be something like the order below:

  •  Junior Technician
  • 2D Technician
  • Junior 3D Modeller
  • 3D Modeller
  • CAD Coordinator
  • CAD Lead
  • BIM Coordinator
  • BIM Manager

An important thing to note is that the job titles can vary between companies; a BIM Coordinator at one company might be equivalent to a CAD Lead at another. My advice is to treat each job application separately so you fully understand the remit of the job you’re applying for.

What are the traits and skills that are most desirable to employers?

Typically employers like to see a fast paced, accurate modeller, competent in IT with the relevant software experience. The desirable skills vary from role to role whether the priority is on speed or detail but I’d say more often than not speed is the more crucial.
The words ‘dynamic’ and ‘flexible’ are often thrown around when employers name their desirable traits. What is meant by this is that with the changes in the industry, most employers will want someone who is capable and willing to adapt to change, for example, someone that can take on a new process or working method and just run with it.

What interests and traits do 3D Modellers possess?

From speaking to 3D Modellers regularly, I’ve learnt that they take a keen interest in developments within their industry, from what’s happening on upcoming major projects such as HS2, to developments of CAD in the ever evolving BIM (Building Information Modelling) environment. To support this, we keep them up to date on the current rates they are likely to get for specific roles within 3D Modelling which will help them continue to progress their careers. The best 3D Modellers have an engineering mind-set; they are fast thinkers, sociable, able to think on the spot and good communicators.

What advice would you give to candidates looking to embark on a successful career in 3D Modelling?

I’ve spoken about this skillset being a middle ground to IT and engineering but don’t forget that the core of the job is a basic engineering understanding. Proficiency in complex software is the tool that enables vital engineering work to happen.


Contact Ed to find out more about 3D Modelling and how you could develop a career in this discipline.

Take a look at our current 3D roles here or browse our latest opportunities for HS2.

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