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.
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.
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.