Cost Estimator Career Outlook and Salary

What will it cost? How many people do we need? How long will it take? For companies to be profitable, they need to be able to answer these questions – and more like them – before manufacturing a product or delivering a service.

That’s where cost estimators come in. They analyze data to estimate the cost of materials, equipment and labor, taking into account various scenarios, such as waste, weather and transportation.

Demand is expected to remain strong as companies seek more accurate cost projections and ways to save on products and services. Employment for cost estimators is projected to grow 11% through 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Some cost estimators specialize in the construction industry, working for engineering, architectural or construction firms. Others work in manufacturing, estimating the cost of producing goods. Typical duties include the following:

  • Reading blueprints and technical documents
  • Evaluating the profitability and viability of a product or service
  • Finding ways to cut costs and increase revenue
  • Using computer software to prepare estimates
  • Preparing proposals and client presentations

Cost estimators earned an average annual wage of $66,620 as of May 2016, according to the BLS. Among those working for Building Equipment Contractors earned an average salary of $69,500, while those who worked in Nonresidential Building Construction earned an average salary of $74,830. Cost estimators working for Oil and Gas Extraction firms averaged $101,160.

Salary potential and employment opportunities may vary depending on education and experience, as well as regional market conditions. Prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research to determine actual earning potential.

How to Become a Cost Estimator

A number of employers want cost estimators with a bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS. Those working in the construction industry may have backgrounds in construction management, engineering, mathematics, statistics or building science. Estimators that work in manufacturing may have degrees in business or finance.

Professional certifications – such as those offered by the American Society of Professional Estimators, AACE International and the International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association – can help cost estimators advance their career possibilities.

Successful cost estimators have analytical, critical thinking and technical skills, as well as the ability to work under strict deadlines.

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