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What does a cost estimator do?

Cost estimators figure out how much a project or product will cost. This helps business owners and managers decide whether to build a structure or manufacture a product. If a business doesn't think it can make enough money, it will not do it. Cost estimators also find out which jobs are making a profit.

They study information on all of the things that can change the cost of a project. This includes supplies, labor, location, and special equipment, like computer hardware and software.

In construction, they look at drawings and visit the site of the project. They determine the amount of materials and labor the firm will need. They tell the architect, construction manager, or owner if they think the project will be profitable or not. In large companies, they may specialize. For example, one may estimate only electrical work and another may focus on concrete.

In manufacturing and other firms, they are assigned to the engineering, cost, or pricing departments. They estimate the cost of making products, including materials and labor. They make a list of parts to see if it is better to make or purchase the parts. The cost of computer software development is one of the fastest growing and hardest to estimate. Some specialize in this.

Estimators use computers a lot to do all of the necessary paperwork. This allows them more time to study and analyze potential projects or products.

They spend most of their time in an office. However, construction estimators visit project worksites. They can be dusty, dirty, and sometimes unsafe. In manufacturing, they spend time on the factory floor. It can be noisy and dirty.

Estimators sometimes work extra hours. They work under pressure because if they make a mistake, their firm can lose a lot of money.

How do you get ready to become a cost estimator?

In construction, employers want people with a college degree in building construction, construction management or science, engineering, or architecture. In manufacturing, employers prefer to hire individuals with a degree in engineering, physical science, operations research, mathematics, or statistics. They can also have a degree in accounting, finance, business, economics, or a related subject.

Math and computer skills are very important.

They need training on the job because every company has its own way of handling estimates. Some move into management positions. Others may go into business for themselves as consultants. They get paid to provide estimates to government or to construction or manufacturing firms.

How much does a cost estimator get paid?

The middle half earned between $36,440 and $62,040 in 2002. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $28,670, and the highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $79,240.

How many jobs are there?

Cost estimators held about 188,000 jobs in 2002. Over 50 percent worked in the construction industry, and 20 percent worked in manufacturing industries.

What about the future?

The number of cost estimators is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2012. Jobs should be best for those with work experience and a bachelor's degree in a related field.

Are there other jobs like this?

  • Accountants
  • Budget analysts
  • Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators
  • Construction managers
  • Economists
  • Financial analysts
  • Industrial production managers
  • Insurance underwriters
  • Loan officers
  • Market and survey researchers
  • Operations research analysts
  • Personal financial advisors

Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

Where can you find more information?
More information about cost estimators and the above jobs can

Questions or Comments?
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