Estimator Job Description

Estimators, also known as cost estimators, create detailed cost estimates for various construction and repair projects, including budgets for materials, labor, and time spent on the job. Retail businesses, construction companies, mechanic and repair shops, and service-based businesses such as plumbing, painting, and electrical companies hire estimators to write project bids full time, traditionally during daytime business hours that include very few evening and weekend shifts. Estimators collaborate with staff members and industry professionals to design bids, and primarily report to the office manager. Estimators mainly work in office environments but also travel to jobsites to create more accurate project estimates.


Estimator Duties and Responsibilities

Daily job tasks performed by estimators vary based on their industry, the projects they’re bidding on, and the number of estimates they write. However, these core duties are common across most industries:

Review Plans

Estimators review plans, schematics, and blueprints to calculate the time and labor needed to complete a project.

Determine Costs

Estimators determine the costs of materials needed to complete projects by consulting with company managers, vendors, and sales professionals who will supply the needed materials. They might also review financial data from past projects to get a better idea of how much future projects will cost.

Write Estimates

Estimators write cost estimates that cover all labor, time, and material expenses for the job. To do this, they must consider all pertinent company policies regarding safety and overtime regulations to cover extra costs that may arise. They also suggest plan alternatives that reduce expenses.

Schedule Jobs

Estimators schedule jobs, using estimates to plan the number of hours and the size of the crew needed.

Follow Up with Customers

Estimators follow up with customers to gather their thoughts and opinions on the provided estimates and to discuss the status of their project once work has begun. This includes speaking with customers over the phone, through email, and in person.

Stay Up to Date

Estimators stay up to date on the costs of materials that companies frequently use to complete projects. They also stay current company pay rates for laborers and other information that directly affects planned projects.

Inspect Jobsites

Estimators visit jobsites to make note of any potential problems or extra costs that may affect project completion.


Estimator Skills and Qualifications

Estimators are detail-oriented, mathematically inclined professionals who create in-depth estimates for proposed projects that are attractive to customers and cost effective for companies. Employers hire estimators who have the following skills:

  • Communication skills – estimators use written communication skills to write in-depth estimates of proposed projects
  • Computer skills – estimators use software programs to write proposals and cost estimates
  • Customer service – estimators provide estimates in hopes of winning a bid and also interact with customers regarding job progress, tasks that require good customer service skills
  • Attention to detail – estimators use attention to detail to factor in all labor and material costs and to write estimates and bids that contain all the relevant information
  • Sales skills – estimators are ultimately attempting to sell services and materials to customers, so employers prefer skilled sales professionals for this job
  • Analytical thinking – estimators use analytical skills to determine everything that will be needed to complete proposed projects, from labor and time spent to materials
  • Mathematics – estimators use math to create detailed estimates that cover all the costs of a proposed project


Estimator Education and Training

Employers have varying requirements for estimators, though many prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in a related industry, such as engineering or construction management. However, candidates who have previous industry-related work history and real-world estimating experience are often accepted even over those with formal education. Because traveling to jobsites is a common component of the job, estimators must also have a valid driver’s license.

On-the-job training is provided to estimators so they can become familiar with the materials and equipment used by the company, analyze past project estimates, and learn how to perform their regular job duties. This training period varies by employer but typically lasts for several weeks before estimators begin writing estimates on their own. While in training, estimators work closely with the office manager, labor supervisor, or another leader within the company.


Estimator Salary and Outlook

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows that cost estimators earn a median annual salary of $63,110, or $30.34 hourly. The BLS projects employment in this field will grow 11 percent through 2026. This is faster-than-average job growth.

A majority of employers provide full-time estimators with comprehensive benefit packages that include medical, vision, life, and dental insurance. Retirement planning options are also typically offered, as are paid vacation days. Some companies may also provide estimators with profit-sharing and monetary bonuses for successfully bidding on large-scale, highly profitable projects.


Helpful Resources

These resources provide estimator job listings, career advice, and helpful tips and strategies for creating profitable project estimates:

American Society of Professional Estimators – use this website to search for jobs, look for certification programs, find education and training opportunities, and browse various professional resources

National Construction Estimator 2018 – find out more about construction costs for industrial, commercial, and residential projects with this book, which includes estimates for common building materials, needed manpower, and other important considerations

Professional Construction Estimators Association of America – visit this website to find professional networking opportunities, scholarship programs, news updates, and online training courses for construction estimators of all kinds

Estimator’s Pocket Book – this practical reference guide provides tips and techniques for pricing out projects, including strategies for creating estimates for different trades

International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association – use the ICEAA website to find job openings, take advantage of training workshops, participate in webinars, and discover certification programs that can lead to career advancement

The Red Book Unit Cost Estimator for Construction & Insurance Damage Repair – this guide is a useful tool for generating cost-effective estimates for various types of projects


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