Career, Salary and Education Information
What They Do: Cost estimators collect and analyze data in order to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor required to make a product or provide a service.
Work Environment: Cost estimators work mostly in offices, and some estimators also visit construction sites and factory assembly lines. Most work full time.
How to Become One: Most cost estimators need a bachelor's degree, although some workers with several years of experience in construction may qualify without a bachelor's degree.
Salary: The median annual wage for cost estimators is $65,170.
Job Outlook: Employment of cost estimators is projected to decline 2 percent over the next ten years.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of cost estimators with similar occupations.
Following is everything you need to know about a career as a cost estimator with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:
Top 3 Cost Estimator Jobs
Cost Estimator and Technical Writer
- Springville, UT
We have some exciting opportunities and we are looking to grow our team by bringing on a Cost Estimator and Technical Writer. In addition to smarts, skills, and experience, we're after someone who is ...
- West Sacramento, CA
ABOUT THE JOB Tepa is seeking a skilled Cost Estimator with experience to lead and support a wide range of military and non-military projects. You will review design documents, proposals ...
Construction Cost Estimator
- JLM STRATEGIC TALENT PARTNERS
- Bellevue, WA
Responsible for Consults to Lead Estimator on the development and accuracy of project cost estimate * Assist with quantity takeoffs and market research to estimating team * Participate in risk ...
What Cost Estimators Do[About this section] [To Top]
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 of Cost Estimators
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 profits.
In building construction, cost estimators use software to simulate the construction process and evaluate the costs of design choices. They often consult databases and their own records to compare the costs of similar projects.
The following are examples of types of cost estimators:
Construction cost estimators prepare estimates for buildings, roads, and other construction projects. 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.
Other workers, such as operations research analysts and construction managers, may also estimate costs in the course of their usual duties.
Work Environment for Cost Estimators[About this section] [To Top]
Cost estimators hold about 212,100 jobs. The largest employers of cost estimators are as follows:
|Specialty trade contractors||36%|
|Construction of buildings||17%|
|Automotive repair and maintenance||7%|
|Heavy and civil engineering construction||5%|
Cost estimators work mostly in offices, and some estimators visit construction sites and factory assembly lines during the course of their work.
Cost Estimator Work Schedules
Most cost estimators work full time and some work more than 40 hours per week.
How to Become a Cost Estimator[About this section] [To Top]
Get the education you need: Find schools for Cost Estimators near you!
Most cost estimators need a bachelor's degree, although some workers with several years of experience in construction may qualify without a bachelor's degree.
Education for Cost Estimators
Employers generally prefer candidates who have a bachelor's degree.
Construction cost estimators typically need a bachelor's degree in an industry-related field, such as construction management or engineering. Manufacturing cost estimators typically need a bachelor's degree in engineering, business, or finance.
Cost Estimator Training
Most cost estimators receive on-the-job training, which may include instruction in cost estimation techniques and software, as well as industry-specific software, such as building information modeling (BIM) and computer-aided design (CAD) software.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation for Cost Estimators
Some employers prefer that construction cost estimators, particularly those without a bachelor's degree, have previous work experience in the construction industry. Some construction cost estimators become qualified solely through extensive work experience.
Important Qualities for Cost Estimators
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.
Communication skills. Cost estimators write comprehensive reports, which often help managers make production decisions.
Detail oriented. Cost estimators must pay attention to details because minor changes can greatly 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 calculate these estimates accurately.
Time-management skills. Cost estimators often work on fixed deadlines, so they must plan in advance and work efficiently.
Cost Estimator Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]
The median annual wage for cost estimators is $65,170. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,880, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $115,690.
The median annual wages for cost estimators in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Heavy and civil engineering construction||$80,510|
|Construction of buildings||$76,450|
|Specialty trade contractors||$69,200|
|Automotive repair and maintenance||$60,420|
Most cost estimators work full time and some work more than 40 hours per week.
Job Outlook for Cost Estimators[About this section] [To Top]
Employment of cost estimators is projected to decline 2 percent over the next ten years.
Despite limited employment growth, about 18,500 openings for cost estimators are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Employment of Cost Estimators
Cost estimation software is improving the productivity of these workers, requiring fewer estimators to do the same amount of work. This will limit employment growth of cost estimators.
However, there will continue to be some demand for these workers because companies need accurate cost projections to ensure that their products and services are profitable.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2021||Projected Employment, 2031||Change, 2021-31|
More Cost Estimator Information[About this section] [To Top]
For more information about cost estimators, visit
American Society of Professional Estimators
Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International (AACE International)
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.