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How to Become a Certified Estimator

Find out how to become a certified estimator. Research the education requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in cost estimating.

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Do I Want to Be a Certified Estimator?

Certified estimators, also known as certified cost estimators, generally work in the construction industry, though others work in manufacturing or other sectors. Common job tasks include reviewing bids, comparing vendor pricing, reading blueprints and communicating with other professionals, such as subcontractors. Frequent travel may be necessary, and estimators must be accurate and timely to prevent loss of funds related to jobs.

Job Requirements

A bachelor's degree, professional experience and voluntary certification are strongly recommended for this profession. The following table contains the main qualifications and requirements needed to become a certified estimator, listed from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Building science, construction management and other business-related or industry-related fields
Certification Certification is voluntary and offered by several organizations
Experience Relevant work experience can be beneficial
Key Skills Analytical, critical-thinking, communication and time-management skills, as well as a keen attention to detail
Computer Skills Knowledge of calculation programs and databases
Technical Skills Knowledge of industry and materials

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

Estimators with work experience and a bachelor's degree have the best prospects of finding employment, according to BLS. Related programs, such as the Bachelor of Science in Construction Science and Management, generally offer core or elective courses in estimating. To become an estimator in manufacturing, students should consider programs in areas like mathematics or engineering.

Regardless of which degree program a student chooses, a strong aptitude for mathematics and deductive reasoning, along with critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, are required for a career as a cost estimator. Students can also learn how to design or use blueprints and models, as well as track reports and costs on databases. Courses to develop these skills can be beneficial for anyone pursuing a career in cost estimating.

Success Tip:

  • Find an internship. Many undergraduate programs offer students internship programs in their field of choice, such as construction. Internships are designed to allow students to apply classroom instruction to real-life situations under the supervision of a trained professional.

Step 2: Obtain Work Experience

Work experience allows new estimators to learn from more experienced estimators. It provides hands-on knowledge of blueprints, construction materials and estimating procedures. Work experience is also a requirement for professional certification. Individuals seeking professional certification should acquire at least two years of professional experience after obtaining a bachelor's degree. Individuals without a bachelor's degree should have at least five years of professional experience before seeking certification.

Step 3: Obtain Professional Certification

The American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE), Society of Cost Estimating and Analysis (SCEA) and AACE International are the three main certification bodies for the cost estimating profession. The ASPE certification is for professionals working in the construction industry. The certification process for ASPE's Certified Professional Estimator (CPE) credential involves attending an orientation meeting, submitting a professional evaluation application, passing two written examinations and writing an acceptable technical paper of at least 2,500 words.

The SCEA supports professional cost estimators in the manufacturing, defense, space, environment and transportation industries. It promotes a common body of knowledge for estimators in both the public and private sectors. SCEA offers a Certified Cost Estimator/Analyst program (CCEA). Specialty certification examinations in areas like risk and parametrics are optional.

CCEA candidates are encouraged to train for the certification examinations. The Certified Estimator Body of Knowledge is a training program to prepare individuals for the test. The examination, which is divided into two parts, takes five hours. The first part tests foundational knowledge and practical application. The second part includes advanced analysis and case study.

The AACE offers a variety of certification options, including the Certified Cost Consultant (CCC), Certified Cost Engineer (CCE), Certified Cost Technician (CCT) and Certified Estimating Professional (CEP) credentials. All require professional experience, which can range from 4-8 years, or equivalent education and a written examination. Some have additional requirements.

Success Tip:

  • Do your research. There are many different certifications available, so cost estimators should ensure that they are pursuing the certification that best fits their career goals. It is important to research the different certifications to ensure all of the educational or experience requirements have been met.

Step 4: Complete Continuing Education and Professional Development Requirements

The ASPE has stringent requirements for certification renewal, which must be completed every three years. CPEs must actively participate in continuing education and be involved in the industry as well as contribute to the construction estimating industry.

The SCEA requires recertification every five years. SCEA recertification requires a fee and either retaking the examination or earning 30 points, where points are awarded on a system based on continuing education and professional involvement.

Recertification for the ACCE takes place every three years. The exception is CCT certification, which is an entry-level certification. After five years, CCTs must complete another level of professional certification. The other certifications require retaking the examination or gaining professional credits for recertification.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics