Project Estimator: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a cost estimator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about education and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

You may consider a career as a project estimator if you have a strong background in mathematics and are comfortable working in a deadline-driven environment. Project estimators can work in the construction or manufacturing sectors, and be required to visit field sites or be primarily office-based. A bachelor's degree is often the minimum requirement, but becoming certified may further help with job prospects.

Essential Information

The project estimator, also known as the cost estimator, serves a vital function in the growth of a construction or manufacturing company. This professional is responsible for accurately calculating the total costs associated with a construction project or the development of a new product. A project estimator may also review bids offered by subcontractors in order to choose the most cost effective option.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Certification is optional
Projected Job Growth 9% from 2014-2024*
Median Salary (2015) $60,390*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for cost estimators is anticipated to rise 9% between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than average. The BLS also reported in 2015 that the median yearly salary for a cost estimator was $60,390.

Job Duties

The daily duties of a project estimator vary considerably depending on the type of firm and the size of the project. According to the BLS, the vast majority of project estimators work in either the construction or manufacturing industries.

Construction Project Estimator

A cost estimator for a construction company assesses the potential development site for its appropriateness for building, checking for variables like plumbing and electrical availability. The next step is to determine the order of operations for expediency and identify the kinds and amounts of materials required.

All of these duties entail visits to potential construction sites, supply warehouses and service-oriented businesses. The project estimator takes measurements, records data and estimates the quantity of materials needed, and finally, using complex mathematical formulas, determines the final cost of development.

Manufacturing Project Estimator

The estimating professional who develops cost information for a manufacturing company will spend the majority of the workday preparing data associated with either producing a new product or improving the design of an existing product.

Involvement with vendors is also key, and the estimator may spend time visiting various subcontractors and negotiating with service professionals and suppliers. After careful calculations, the estimator will then forecast the production costs within a given timetable.

Job Requirements

Educational Preparation

While there is no specific degree in cost estimation, a bachelor's degree is usually required by employers. Aspiring project estimators who wish to work in the construction industry would be well-served by a bachelor's degree in construction science, construction management or building science. These 4-year programs, aside from general course curriculum, instruct students on structural systems, project planning, surveying systems and construction methodology.

On the other hand, prospective project estimators who would like to work in manufacturing usually pursue degrees in mathematics, engineering or statistics. Also 4-year programs, these degree programs focus much more heavily on mathematics and its practical application in business. Core courses may include statistics, variable analysis, linear algebra and probability theory.

Professional Certification

Though not a requirement for practice, industry certification is available and may be viewed positively by employers. The Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE) offers six levels of credentialing, all based on professional experience and a written examination. The American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE) is more geared towards manufacturing estimation, and offers the Certified Professional Estimator (CPE) designation to interested applicants.

Helpful Skills

Prospective project estimators must be adept in mathematics. They should also have keen analytical skills. These professionals must be able to manage the high stress of tight deadlines and the major responsibility of accurately forecasting the budget for a project.

To recap, prospective project estimators should first earn a bachelor's degree related to construction management or mathematics, depending on the industry in which they would like to work. Certifications exist as well, which prove the competencies gained from a combination of formal education and work experience. Once established, project estimators are responsible for assessing a building site or manufacturing process to determine the cost of development.

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