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4 Min. Read

What Does a Cost Estimator Do & How to Become One

What Does a Cost Estimator Do & How to Become One

If you’re detail-oriented and have technical skills, you might enjoy being a cost estimator for construction and other projects. It’s a great way to use real-world math and work in a career where you can see tangible results as a result of your work.

However, becoming a cost estimator isn’t necessarily an easy path. There’s a lot of competition for jobs, and you’ll need a bachelor’s degree just to get an entry-level position. As an established cost estimator working full-time for a company, you can expect to make a median salary of $66,610

Interested in learning more about “what does a cost estimator do” and how to become one? Here’s what you need to know.

Here’s What We’ll Cover:

The Job of a Cost Estimator

Why Do Job Costs Matter?

How to Become a Cost Estimator

Is Being a Cost Estimator For You?

The Job of a Cost Estimator

What does a cost estimator do? They focus on collecting and analyzing information about time, materials, and labor. This work allows them to offer an estimate of the out-of-pocket cost of building a building, manufacturing a product, or providing a service.

Generally, a cost estimator will specialize in a particular industry or type of product. For example, you might decide to be a cost estimator in the food industry, in auto manufacturing, or in commercial construction. 

You could also work in civil engineering, which needs construction cost estimators to estimate the costs of bridges, roads, and repair work. Shipbuilders and aircraft manufacturers also need accurate cost estimates.

Cost estimators also help companies determine the current costs of their operations, which can help them decide where to cut back, if necessary, to be more profitable. 

Why Do Job Costs Matter?

Why is it so important to have accurate cost estimates? 

Every project that a business chooses to do is based on how large of a return on investment, or ROI, the project will generate. The ROI is the amount of money the business will make compared to the out-of-pocket cost. If the company can’t get an accurate estimate of how much a project costs, they can’t move forward with the decision.

Contractors and estimators use a variety of types of software to review types of costs and plan a project. These apps help provide the average prices of materials, but a professional cost estimator will also talk to people involved in the project to get more precise estimates.

Once a project has been completed, a cost estimator can also help a company understand why the ROI is higher or lower than expected. Analyzing actual costs can help a business become more profitable by showing where expenses are higher than expected and allowing the company to adjust accordingly.

Companies are always looking for cost-effective ways to build their business and scale their products and services. At the same time, communities are also looking for ways to accurately estimate costs for new schools, commercial development, and more. There are many ways to use your skills when you’re trained as a cost estimator!

How to Become a Cost Estimator

How do you become a cost estimator? There are several steps involved — here are the most common paths.

First, you’ll likely need a bachelor’s degree in a field like construction, engineering, or perhaps business or finance. Some people who have worked in construction for a number of years are able to become cost estimators based on their experience rather than a degree.

You’ll learn a variety of estimating techniques that will help you whether you’re working on a small project or a large-scale operation. The best estimates are done with as much information as possible so the business can make a clear decision about what’s best.

Next, you’ll work full-time as an employee for a single company, or you might decide to start your own business as a cost estimator on a contract basis. When you run your own business, you’ll need tools that allow you to offer quotes to potential clients regarding how much it will cost for you to help with their project.

Is Being a Cost Estimator For You?

Cost estimation is an important part of almost every industry. From construction cost estimators to reviewing production processes, all companies need to understand the costs of moving forward before they decide it’s worth the investment.

As a cost estimator, you’ll have a direct impact on the business you work for and will be able to see the results of your work. If you’re detail-oriented and love numbers, it could be the perfect career for you.

Check out more of our career guides for information about other opportunities today!


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