How do I Become a Cost Estimator?

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  • Written By: Elva K.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 06 April 2020
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Whenever there are proposed construction jobs, competing contractors will bid on the job. For the contractor to know how much to bid, there must be a cost estimator who accurately estimates the total cost of construction. The work entails actually going to the site of construction and gathering relevant information for the purpose of compiling a final estimate of cost. This could be stressful work; if the cost estimation is not accurate, it could result in a company losing a bid or losing money. If you would like to become a cost estimator, you will likely need a college degree and specific training in cost estimation.

High school is not too early to begin your academic preparation to become a cost estimator. For instance, high school education should involve shop courses such as plan reader training, mechanical drawing, or drafting. Also relevant to take would be courses such as business math and business management, because math and business are part and parcel of cost estimation.


If you aspire to become a cost estimator, your college degree will most likely be in construction, architecture, building science, or engineering. These majors emphasize the types of topics a cost estimator would need to know. You will learn procedure as well as which things should be considered when compiling an estimate. For instance, to know how much to estimate for the cost of building a building, you will learn about things such as the cost of building material, the cost of wiring a building electrically, water accessibility, surface topography, getting plumbing services, drainage, insurance, building equipment, taxes, overhead, and the amount it will cost to hire construction workers.

During college, it can be helpful to get a summer job or at least observe at a construction site. Having this type of summer experience will enable you to get a real-world sense of what construction of a building involves. Thus, when your schooling is completed, you will not only have an academic perspective of cost estimation but you will also have a practical sense of cost estimation based on your own experience. You will learn that sometimes things happen, such as shipping delays, bad weather, and other occurrences that cannot be controlled, and you will learn to integrate that into your cost estimation.

Keep in mind also that because cost estimation involves a lot of math calculation, it will be necessary to become proficient at using computers if you hope to become a cost estimator. For instance, if you hope to analyze input and determine the cost of a construction project per unit, it is necessary to use a computer to do the analysis. In addition, doing cost estimation will require the use of spreadsheets and other business software, such as bid information modeling (BIM) software, where you would begin with blueprints and then create three-dimensional models to enable more accurate building process estimation. Thus, it is important that have excellent computer skills if you hope to become a cost estimator.

You will most likely apply for a job during the last semester of your college experience. The career services department at your school can help you to find a job. Granted, you may also be able to get a job if you contact the construction company where you had your summer job, particularly if that company is hiring entry-level cost estimators.

Also, after gaining work experience, passing an exam, and publishing an article about cost estimating, you will qualify to achieve certification through the Society of Cost Estimation and Analysis (SCEA). Having certification could help you to become a project manager at a construction company, a building consultant for the government, or even an engineering manager in some cases. Or, you could start your own business as a building consultant who provides cost estimation services.


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