Cost Estimator Job Description

Career Information

cost estimator
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Job Description

Before committing to project, whether it involves construction or manufacturing, most entities want to know how much it's going to cost and how long it will take to complete. This is where a cost estimator comes in. This individual is trained to figure out approximately what the costs of completing a project will be. He or she considers production time and resources including labor, raw materials and equipment.

Employment Facts

There were 202,000 cost estimators employed in 2012. Most worked for construction firms, building equipment contractors and manufacturers.

Educational Requirements

You don't need a bachelor's degree to work in this field, but with many employers preferring to hire job candidates who have one, earning a college degree makes sense. It can be in a field related to the industry in which you want to work. For example, if your goal is to become a construction cost estimator, get a degree in construction management, but if you want to work in manufacturing, you can earn a degree in engineering, statistics or physical sciences. Alternatively, you might want, instead, to earn a business-related degree. Some options to consider are finance, accounting or economics. A strong background in math is also necessary.

A degree may get you a job, but don't expect to work independently until the employer who hires you trains you to estimate projects the way they do it.

Every company has its own method for doing things and they want their employees schooled in it. This on-the-job training may take several months or even a few years.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements

Although one doesn't have to be certified to work as a cost estimator, some employers will only hire job candidates who are.

Three organizations that offer certification are the American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE), the Association for the Advancement of Cost Estimating International (AACE) and the International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association (ICEAA). All three organizations require applicants for certification to pass a written examination. To be certified by the ASPE, individuals are required to pass two exams as well as write a technical paper. To maintain certification, the three organization require continuing education or re-examination.

A degree and certification don't guarantee success in this occupation. You are unlikely to do well without certain soft skills or personal qualities. For example you must have strong analytical, communication, critical thinking and time management skills. You should also be detail oriented.

Most employers will hire only job candidates who have already worked in the industry in which they are seeking a job as a cost estimator. You can get this experience by doing an internship or working in the industry in another capacity.

Job Outlook

The future looks promising for people who are working in this field. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth that is much faster, through 2022, than the average for all occupations.

It is expected to be one of the fastest growing occupations that require a bachelor's degree.

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?


In 2014 cost estimators earned a median annual salary of $60,050. Hourly wages were $28.87 (US).

Use the Salary Wizard at to find out how much a Cost Estimator currently earns in your city.

A Day in a Cost Estimator's Life

These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for cost estimator positions found on

  • Obtain material pricing and organize all the information necessary to aide in creating and submitting proposals to our clients
  • Use trackable detailed spreadsheets and company approved formulas to calculate the projected costs of proposed projects
  • Review blueprints and product specifications to accurately determine amount of materials
  • Solicit and review subcontractor proposals and assist with contract negotiations
  • Document overall material needed, including all codes, brands, and contact information necessary to process orders
  • Work with designers, architects, owner's reps and general contractors

Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

 DescriptionAnnual Salary (2014)Educational Requirements
Logistics AnalystIdentifies and recommends changes to product delivery or supply chain processes$73,870Bachelor's degree
AccountantMakes sure organizations' financial statements are accurate, and laws and procedures are properly followed$65,940Bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field
AssessorAnalyzes the values of homes in order to determine property taxes$52,570Bachelor's degree 
Risk Management SpecialistIdentify and manage an organization's operational or enterprise risks$65,440Bachelor's or Master's degree

Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Cost Estimator, on the Internet at (visited July 30, 2015).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Cost Estimators, on the Internet at (visited July 30, 2015).