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Become A Cost Estimator

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Working As A Cost Estimator

  • Getting Information
  • Interacting With Computers
  • Estimating the Quantifiable Characteristics of Products, Events, or Information
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Mostly Sitting

  • $49,701

    Average Salary

What Does A Cost Estimator Do

Cost estimators collect and analyze data in order to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor required to manufacture a product, construct a building, or provide a service. They generally specialize in a particular product or industry.


Cost estimators typically do the following:

  • Identify factors affecting costs, such as production time, materials, and labor
  • Read blueprints and technical documents in order to prepare estimates
  • Collaborate with engineers, architects, clients, and contractors
  • Calculate, analyze, and adjust estimates 
  • Recommend ways to reduce costs
  • Work with sales teams to prepare estimates and bids for clients
  • Maintain records of estimated and actual costs

Accurately estimating the costs of construction and manufacturing projects is vital to the survival of businesses. Cost estimators provide managers with the information they need in order to submit competitive contract bids or price products appropriately.

Estimators analyze production processes to determine how much time, money, and labor a project needs. Their estimates account for many factors, including allowances for wasted material, bad weather, shipping delays, and other variables that can increase costs and lower profitability.

In building construction, cost estimators use software to simulate the construction process and evaluate the effects of design choices. They often consult databases to compare the costs of similar projects.

The following are examples of types of cost estimators:

Construction cost estimators prepare estimates for a building project. They may calculate the total cost of building a bridge or commercial shopping center, or they may calculate the cost of just one component, such as the foundation. They identify costs of elements such as raw materials and labor, and they may set a timeline for how long they expect the project to take. Although many work directly for construction firms, some work for contractors and engineering firms.

Manufacturing cost estimators calculate the costs of developing, producing, or redesigning a company’s goods or services. For example, a cost estimator working for a home appliance manufacturer may determine a new dishwasher’s production costs, allowing managers to make production decisions.

Some manufacturing cost estimators work in software development. Many high-technology products require a considerable amount of computer programming, and calculating the costs of software development requires great expertise.

Other workers, such as operations research analysts and construction managers, may also estimate costs in the course of their usual duties.

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How To Become A Cost Estimator

A bachelor’s degree is generally required to become a cost estimator, although some highly experienced construction workers may qualify without a bachelor’s degree.


Employers generally prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree. A strong background in mathematics is essential.

Construction cost estimators typically need a bachelor’s degree in an industry-related field, such as construction management, building science, or engineering.

Those interested in estimating manufacturing costs typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, business, or finance.


Some newly hired cost estimators may receive on-the-job training, depending on their experience. Training may include learning a company’s cost-estimating software and techniques.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some employers prefer that construction cost estimators, particularly those without a bachelor’s degree, have previous work experience in the construction industry. For example, experienced electricians and plumbers can become construction cost estimators if they have the necessary construction knowledge and math skills.

Candidates interested in becoming cost estimators can also gain experience through internships and cooperative education programs.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Voluntary certification can show competence and experience in the field. In some instances, employers may require professional certification before hiring.

The following organizations offer a variety of certifications:

  • American Society of Professional Estimators
  • Association for the Advancement of Cost Estimating International
  • International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association

Estimators must generally have at least 2 years of estimating experience and must pass a written exam to become certified.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Cost estimators consider and evaluate different construction and manufacturing methods and options to determine the most cost-effective solution that meets the required specifications.

Detail oriented. Cost estimators must pay attention to details, as minor changes can significantly affect the overall cost of a project or product.

Math skills. Cost estimators calculate labor, material, and equipment cost estimates for construction projects. They use software, such as spreadsheets and databases, and they need excellent math skills to accurately calculate these estimates.

Time-management skills. Cost estimators often work on fixed deadlines, so they must plan their work in advance and work efficiently and accurately.

Writing skills. Cost estimators write comprehensive reports, which often help managers make production decisions.

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Cost Estimator jobs

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Cost Estimator Career Paths

Cost Estimator
Cost Engineer Senior Estimator Estimator Project Manager
Commercial Project Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Finance Analyst Business Analyst Project Manager
Construction Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Cost Accountant Property Manager General Contractor
Construction Superintendent
9 Yearsyrs
Estimator Project Manager Project Manager Construction Manager
Director Of Construction
13 Yearsyrs
Manufacturing Engineer Operations Manager Purchasing Manager
Director Of Purchasing
10 Yearsyrs
Manufacturing Engineer Project Engineer Engineering Manager
Engineering Director
13 Yearsyrs
Senior Estimator Senior Project Manager President Of Operations
Estimator Project Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Cost Engineer Construction Manager Facilities Maintenance Manager
Facilities Project Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Program Manager General Manager Account Manager
Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Sales Manager Owner Project Superintendent
Owner/Project Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Cost Analyst Finance Analyst Accounting Manager
Plant Controller
10 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Consultant Senior Consultant
Program Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Senior Estimator Estimator Project Manager Construction Superintendent
Project Superintendent
10 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Marketing Manager Operations Manager
Purchasing Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Cost Analyst Accounting Manager Property Manager
Real Estate Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Finance Analyst Project Manager Construction Manager
Senior Construction Manager
14 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Program Manager
Senior Project Manager
12 Yearsyrs
Estimator Project Manager Construction Manager
Vice President Of Construction
10 Yearsyrs
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Cost Estimator Demographics


  • Male

  • Female

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • Chinese

  • French

  • Mandarin

  • German

  • Russian

  • Korean

  • Japanese

  • Dakota

  • Portuguese

  • Turkish

  • Vietnamese

  • Dari

  • Carrier

  • Hindi

  • Arabic

  • Gujarati

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Cost Estimator Education

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Real Cost Estimator Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Vice President-Quantity Surveying and Cost Estimating WTP America LLC Los Angeles, CA Oct 01, 2015 $165,000
Senior Cost Estimator Bethel Servies, Incorporated Anchorage, AK Jan 09, 2016 $160,000
Senior Cost Estimator Navillus Tile Inc. DBA Navillus Contracting New York, NY Jul 22, 2016 $144,040
Cost Estimator E. Fitzgerald Electric Co NY Sep 12, 2015 $138,965
Cost Estimator E. Fitzgerald Electric Co NY Jun 29, 2015 $138,965
Cost Estimator J. Phelan Construction Co., Inc. Huntington, NY Jun 01, 2016 $136,406
Cost Estimator Microsoft Corporation Redmond, WA Aug 17, 2016 $130,000
Data Center Construction Cost Estimator Facebook, Inc. Menlo Park, CA Oct 12, 2015 $126,000
Cost Estimator Safway Atlantic LLC Carlstadt, NJ Mar 04, 2015 $125,000
Cost Estimator DGC Capital Contracting Corporation Mount Vernon, NY Oct 12, 2015 $115,856
Cost Estimator Judlau Contracting, Inc. Alexandria, VA Mar 02, 2015 $105,000
Building Information Modelling (BIM) Cost Estimator Turner & Townsend, Inc. South San Francisco, CA Jul 29, 2016 $105,000
Cost Estimator Geomatrix Services, Inc. Bound Brook, NJ Mar 17, 2016 $64,584
Senior Cost Estimator Cooper-Standard Automotive Inc. Auburn Hills, MI Sep 22, 2016 $63,586 -
Senior Cost Estimator Cooper-Standard Automotive Inc. Novi, MI Sep 26, 2016 $63,586 -
Cost Estimator-II SLR Contracting & Service Company, Inc. Buffalo, NY Mar 15, 2016 $63,500
Cost Estimator John Darvish Construction Co. Ashburn, VA Sep 15, 2016 $63,000
Cost Estimator Grakon, LLC Des Moines, WA Aug 30, 2016 $62,629 -
Cost Estimator ESNY Construction Services Inc. New York, NY Sep 21, 2016 $62,610
Cost Estimator Hollywood International Regional Center, LLC Los Angeles, CA Aug 13, 2016 $62,610
Cost Estimator Thoth Estimating LLC Weatherford, TX Jan 02, 2016 $51,834
Cost Estimator VJ Associates of New England, Inc. Washington, DC Sep 05, 2015 $51,563
Cost Estimator VJ Associates of New England, Inc. Needham, MA Sep 05, 2015 $51,563
Cost Estimator Treviicos Corporation MA Sep 23, 2015 $51,563
Cost Estimator ITG International Transports, Inc. Lynnfield, MA Sep 03, 2015 $51,563
Senior Cost Estimator Cityrock Countertops, Inc. Raleigh, NC Jul 12, 2016 $51,522
Project Cost Estimator Shields, Inc. Winston-Salem, NC Sep 22, 2016 $50,960
Cost Estimator Soho Fashion, Inc. Los Angeles, CA Dec 21, 2016 $50,835

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Top Skills for A Cost Estimator


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Top Cost Estimator Skills

  1. Cost Proposals
  2. Vendors
  3. Contract Negotiations
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Developed cost proposals for various military and commercial vessels, particularly electronic systems.
  • Identified and evaluated national vendors and subcontractors; built and maintained relationships.
  • Participate in subcontract negotiations / evaluate subcontract proposals.
  • Estimated material costs, machining times and other processes necessary for production of commercial and military parts.
  • Prepared financial analysis in support of proposals.

Top Cost Estimator Employers