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How to Become a Cost Estimator

Imagine you’re a business owner. You run a high-tech manufacturing plant and, even though you’re running at full capacity, you’re still turning away customers. You’re thinking about expanding, but you want to know if it would be a good investment. You’ve got a pretty good idea of how much more business you’d get if you expanded, but you need to know if there would still be a profit left after you paid for it. How do you find out how much the expansion would cost? By calling a cost estimator.

The job

Unlike business analysts, who often help companies decide how much money they can make with a new venture, cost estimators figure out how much it will cost to get that new venture up and running. They analyse the cost of things like labour, equipment, raw materials, and time. Many cost estimators work in construction, manufacturing, or engineering. Tasks may include:

  • Meeting with the client to determine their needs
  • Researching the costs of labor, materials, etc.
  • Assessing the risks involved in the project
  • Requesting and analyzing bids
  • Monitoring progess to make sure costs are in line with estimates
  • Researching an analyzing deviations from the estimates
  • Preparing reports

Where does a cost estimator work?

Cost estimators spend the majority of their time in the office working with facts and figures, although they may occasionally need to visit a plan or a construction site.




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What are the job prospects?

The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics forecasts that the field will grow by about 26 percent between now and 2022, which is considerably faster than the overall job market. That translates to about 58,000 new jobs in the U.S. alone. That forecast is based on the current business focus on cutting costs wherever possible.


What are the educational/training requirements?

In the U.S., there’s no regulation that demands a four-year degree for cost estimators. However, many employers do require a degree, especially in the following fields:

  • Math
  • Statistics
  • Engineering
  • Accounting
  • Physical sciences
  • Construction management
  • Industry experience also makes you more competitive, even if it’s not in estimating. In addition, some employers require certification from one of the following professional organisations:

American Society of Professional Estimators

Association for the Advancement of Cost Estimating International

International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association

In the UK, most estimators move into the job after working elsewhere in the field (as an administrator or a craftsperson, for instance). Other avenues include an apprenticeship scheme or studying for an HNC or HND or a degree in one of the following fields:

  • Structural engineering
  • Civil engineering
  • Construction
  • Quantity surveying

UK employers may encourage you to pursue professional development through one or more of the following qualifications:

-  Level 2 Diploma in Project Control, Estimating, Planning and Cost Engineering

-  Level 3 Diploma in Project Control

-  Level 3 (NVQ) Diploma in Construction Contracting Operations

-  Level 4 Certificate/Diploma in Site Management

-  Level 5 Diploma in Project Control (Cost)

-  Level 5 Diploma in Estimating

What other qualities do cost estimators need?

In addition to education and industry experience, successful cost estimators have at least some of the following skills:

  • Math
  • IT
  • Attention to detail
  • Organisation and time management
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Project management
  • Business


Cost estimating is a field that’s growing by leaps and bounds. If you have a head for math and analysis, or experience in the field of manufacturing or construction, you could have a great career as a cost estimator.


Photo credit: freeimages

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