How To Become A Cost Estimator

A cost estimator gathering the necessary data needed to be able to estimate how much a particular project will cost and the length of time before it can be completed.

You can work as a cost estimator for various fields. If you become a construction cost estimator, for example, you will be called upon to give an approximation of how much constructing a mall, hotel or office building will cost. Part of your calculations will include the cost of the building materials that will be used like nails, hollow blocks and steel trusses. You will also be computing the cost of labor as well as the time frame for the construction.

If you want to become a cost estimator for the manufacturing industry, you will be looking into the expenses associated with the development and production of a particular product. For instance, you would be gathering the data associated with making a new television model to see if it is profitable for the company. Technology companies also rely on cost estimators to check if a particular software program is worth developing.

Cost estimators don’t only look at the financial expenses associated with the materials or labor when making their estimations. They also consider such things as delays in the shipping of new materials that could increase costs or inclement weather that could postpone the project. These events need to be factored into the calculations because temporary stoppages and extra expenses could decrease profitability and impact the company’s bottom line.

To succeed as a cost estimator, you need to have excellent mathematical skills. You also need to be detail-oriented because even minor errors in the computations can affect the final estimates. You also need to possess technical knowledge especially in the use of computer software that would help make the calculations. You need to be very analytical as well since part of your work involves suggesting ways to decrease the cost without compromising the quality of a particular project.

Since you will be writing detailed reports about your estimates regarding a specific undertaking or about an existing manufacturing process, you also need to have excellent writing skills.

How you present your estimates and reasons in your report will determine if the company will proceed with a particular project or not. If you are working for a contracting firm, your report will potentially determine if the company gets the contract or not.

Why Become A Cost Estimator

One reason to become a cost estimator is that it enables those individuals who love making calculations and interpreting mathematical data to do something they enjoy doing at work. Virtually all industries have a need for cost estimators because they are responsible for determining if a particular endeavor is financially beneficial for the company or not.

While they don’t necessarily provide advice to investors on the viability of a particular project, cost estimators perform a very important role in ensuring that organizations are able to determine which projects are worth proceeding or not.

They play a huge role in keeping a company operating profitably. Another reason to become a cost estimator is that demand is expected to be strong for this profession in the next few years. These professionals also receive decent living wages.

Cost Estimator Work Environment

Cost estimators are mainly employed by companies involved in the construction of buildings as well as with building equipment contractors. They also work for manufacturing firms and with building exterior contractors, foundation contractors and structural contractors.

The work schedule is typically fulltime although overtime work may be required during times when deadlines are looming. They typically do their computations and write reports in their office but they may need to visit construction sites and manufacturing plants to get the data they need.

The pressure to give accurate estimates is very high since inaccurate approximations could cost the firm a lot of money.

Cost Estimator Salary

The Occupational Employment and Wages report of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the mean annual wage of cost estimators is $63,660.

Average Cost Estimator Annual Salary


The average annual salary for cost estimators is $68,420 a year. Salaries start at $37,000 a year and go up to $106,010 a year.

Average Cost Estimator Hourly Wage


The average hourly wage for a cost estimator is $32.90. Hourly wages are between $17.79 and $50.97 an hour.

Stats were based out of 210,900 employed cost estimators in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Cost Estimators

Top Paying Cities For Cost Estimators

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Cost Estimator Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a positive job outlook for cost estimators in the coming years. The agency projected an employment rate of 26 percent in the ten-year period covering 2012 to 2022. This translates to an additional 53,000 cost estimators, which will bring the 202,200 estimators hired in 2012 to 255,200 in 2022. The demand will come from the need for companies to get accurate cost estimates for their projects to ensure profitability. New jobs will also come from the growth of the construction industry.

Cost Estimator Degree

For those with long years of experience in the construction industry, it may be possible to get a job as a cost estimator without any college degree. Many companies prefer to hire those with a bachelor’s degree in the field where they will be performing the work.

Aspiring construction cost estimators will better prepare themselves for this career if their bachelors’ degree is in the field of engineering or construction management. Manufacturing cost estimators will have better chances of getting hired if their undergraduate degree is in the physical sciences, mathematics or statistics.

Getting work experience in a related field is also required by a number of employers in addition to a bachelor’s degree. This can be obtained by applying for a job after graduation or by going on an internship or enrolling in a cooperative education program.

Certification is not necessary but shows professionalism and competence in the field of cost estimating. Those who wish to advance to higher positions would do well to get professional certification from bodies like the American Society of Professional Estimators. Certification generally requires passing an exam and having at least a couple of years of work experience as a cost estimator.

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