Cost Estimator Job Description
Cost estimators collect and analyze data to estimate the amount of time, money, and labor that is required for construction projects and product manufacturing.
Accurately predicting the cost of construction and manufacturing projects can be very difficult. Many variables are taken into account when creating estimates, including the weather, the cost of materials, and the amount of labor required.
Because these are such advanced calculations, cost estimators often enlist architects, contractors, construction managers, and engineers to help them estimate the costs in their particular areas of interests.
In construction, cost estimators normally work on only a small part of a larger project. For instance, a contractor who is interested in installing the electrical system in a new skyscraper may hire a cost estimator to predict the cost before they make their bid. On the same construction project, a different contractor may hire an estimator to predict the cost of the plumbing or ventilation system.
Not all cost estimators work in the construction industry, though. Some work with manufacturing companies to determine the cost of developing or producing new products. They take many variables into account to determine if a particular product will be profitable to manufacture.
Work Environment and Schedule
Most cost estimators work for contractors, construction firms, and manufacturing companies.
Cost estimators normally spend most of their time working in an office environment, but they’re often required to visit construction sites and factories. Depending on the industry and the location of particular client, visiting their site may require extended and frequent travel.
This can be a stressful occupation. Cost estimators are almost always under pressure to meet deadlines, and a mistake in an estimate can cause firms to lose a lot of money on a project that the estimator had predicted to be profitable.
Most cost estimators work full time. Because this is a deadline driven occupation, it’s common for cost estimators to work overtime when a deadline is approaching or when problems arise in a project.
How to Become a Cost Estimator
Though it’s not always required, most employers prefer to hire cost estimators with a bachelor’s degree. The type of degree you need will depend on the type of work you want to do. If you want to estimate manufacturing costs, a bachelor’s in engineering, mathematics, or statistics can be very useful. For other types of work, a business, economics, or finance degree may be more relevant.
Regardless of your major, the most important thing you will need to get a job in this occupation is a strong background in mathematics. If you’re still in high school and you’re considering a career in this field, taking high level math courses will help prepare you.
Getting an internship in the field while in college can be hugely beneficial when the time comes to get a job. In an internship, you will learn a lot about the day to day life of a cost estimator. More importantly, you will get the hands on experience that will help differentiate you from other candidates. If you’re interested in pursuing an internship, you should stop by your college’s career center.
Entry level cost estimators are normally trained on the job by working under the supervision of an experienced cost estimator. Depending on the employer and the complexity of the calculations in their industry, training can last anywhere from a few months to a few years.
Employers rarely require cost estimators to have certifications, but earning one can demonstrate experience and competence in the field. The most widely recognized certifications are offered by the Society of Cost Estimating an Analysis, the Association for the Advancement of Cost Estimating International, and the American Society of Professional Estimators.
To earn one of these certifications, you need to have at least two years of work experience and pass an exam. Additionally, some advanced certifications require that you have published at least one paper in the field.
There are currently 185,400 cost estimators in the United States, with 10,300 new cost estimator job openings created each year.
Cost Estimator jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Cost Estimator Salaries
Cost Estimator salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most cost estimators make between $44,400 – $76,400 per year, or $21.33 – $36.71 per hour.