Working as a Cost Estimator

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.

Duties

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.

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.

Education

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.

Training

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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Average Salary$55,055
Job Growth Rate9%

Cost Estimator Jobs

Cost Estimator Career Paths

Top Careers Before Cost Estimator
Estimator12.6 %
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Top Careers After Cost Estimator
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Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for a Cost Estimator

Cost Estimators in America make an average salary of $55,055 per year or $26 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $80,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $37,000 per year.
Average Salary
$55,055

Best Paying Cities

City
Average Salary

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Cost Estimator
Cost Estimator
Department of The Interior
Department of The Interior
07/23/2020
07/23/2020
$93,58707/23/2020
$93,587
Cost Estimator
Cost Estimator
Department of The Interior
Department of The Interior
07/23/2020
07/23/2020
$93,58707/23/2020
$93,587
Estimator/Cost Consultant
Estimator/Cost Consultant
Aerotek
Aerotek
07/07/2020
07/07/2020
$80,00007/07/2020
$80,000
Construction Cost Estimator
Construction Cost Estimator
King County Housing Authority
King County Housing Authority
07/03/2020
07/03/2020
$59,00007/03/2020
$59,000
Electrical Cost Estimator-Construction Contractor-Salary To 115K
Electrical Cost Estimator-Construction Contractor-Salary To 115K
Allsearch Recruiting
Allsearch Recruiting
06/25/2020
06/25/2020
$85,00006/25/2020
$85,000
See More Recent Salaries

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Cost Estimator Demographics

Gender

Male

71.4 %

Female

23.3 %

Unknown

5.3 %
Ethnicity

White

58.5 %

Hispanic or Latino

17.4 %

Black or African American

10.9 %
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

37.1 %

French

12.4 %

Chinese

9.0 %
Show More

Cost Estimator Education

Schools

University of Houston

11.7 %

Michigan State University

7.0 %

Ferris State University

6.3 %

Old Dominion University

6.3 %
Show More
Majors

Business

22.9 %

Civil Engineering

11.8 %

Construction Management

8.0 %

Accounting

7.7 %
Show More
Degrees

Bachelors

53.5 %

Masters

19.5 %

Associate

12.7 %

Certificate

6.3 %
Show More

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming A Cost Estimator

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Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For a Cost Estimator

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 31.2% of cost estimators listed facility on their resume, but soft skills such as analytical skills and math skills are important as well.

Best States For a Cost Estimator

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a cost estimator. The best states for people in this position are Massachusetts, Washington, Maine, and New Jersey. Cost estimators make the most in Massachusetts with an average salary of $63,599. Whereas in Washington and Maine, they would average $62,666 and $61,318, respectively. While cost estimators would only make an average of $60,993 in New Jersey, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. District of Columbia

Total Cost Estimator Jobs:
35
Highest 10% Earn:
$114,000
Location Quotient:
1.26
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Idaho

Total Cost Estimator Jobs:
21
Highest 10% Earn:
$100,000
Location Quotient:
1.52
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Vermont

Total Cost Estimator Jobs:
13
Highest 10% Earn:
$90,000
Location Quotient:
1.54
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Cost Estimator Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a cost estimator. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

At Zippia, we went through countless cost estimator resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Write a Cost Estimator Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless cost estimator resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

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Top Cost Estimator Employers

1. Faithful+Gould
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$91,142
Cost Estimators Hired: 
54+
2. Bechtel
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$80,844
Cost Estimators Hired: 
41+
3. Clune Construction
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$65,368
Cost Estimators Hired: 
34+
4. Lockheed Martin
4.9
Avg. Salary: 
$78,520
Cost Estimators Hired: 
31+
5. Turner & Townsend
4.3
Avg. Salary: 
$83,198
Cost Estimators Hired: 
20+
6. Raytheon
4.9
Avg. Salary: 
$78,151
Cost Estimators Hired: 
19+

Recently Added Cost Estimator Jobs

Updated October 2, 2020