Cost Estimators

Career, Salary and Education Information

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Top 3 Cost Estimator Jobs

  • Cost Estimator - PEG Contracting - Durham, NC

    databases, contractors, suppliers, etc. to utilize in estimates. Estimator/Cost Analyst

  • Automotive Technician Transmission Installer - AAMCO Transmissions and Total Car Care - Clearwater, FL

    Remove and Reinstall Transmission systems. Inspect, diagnose and repair vehicle automotive systems Assist other technicians in performing technical

  • Service Manager - Muth Electric - Aberdeen, SD

    Assists the Division Manager in analyzing the manpower requirements of the Service Department

See all Cost Estimator jobs

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 217,900 jobs. The largest employers of cost estimators are as follows:

Specialty trade contractors 37%
Construction of buildings 18
Manufacturing 12
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 about 1 in 4 worked 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 $61,790. 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 $35,870, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $103,250.

The median annual wages for cost estimators in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Heavy and civil engineering construction $68,750
Construction of buildings 63,910
Specialty trade contractors 62,460
Manufacturing 59,000
Automotive repair and maintenance 53,010

Most cost estimators work full time, and about 1 in 4 worked more than 40 hours per week.

Job Outlook for Cost Estimators[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of cost estimators is projected to grow 11 percent over the next ten years, faster the average for all occupations.

There will continue to be demand for cost estimators because companies need accurate cost projections to ensure that their products and services are profitable.

Growth in the construction industry is expected to create the majority of new jobs for cost estimators, particularly in the specialty trade contractors industries.

Job Prospects for Cost Estimators

Overall job prospects should be good. Knowledge of building information modeling (BIM) and computer-aided design (CAD) software may improve job prospects, especially for those seeking employment in construction.

Jobs of cost estimators working in construction, like those of workers in many other trades in the construction industry, are sensitive to changing economic conditions.

Employment projections data for Cost Estimators, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Cost estimators 217,900 240,900 11 23,000


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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