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Summary

cost estimators image
Cost estimators prepare estimates for the time, money, materials, and labor required to manufacture a product.
Quick Facts: Cost Estimators
2018 Median Pay $64,040 per year
$30.79 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2018 217,400
Job Outlook, 2018-28 9% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2018-28 18,700

What Cost Estimators Do

Cost estimators collect and analyze data in order to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor required to make a product or provide a service.

Work Environment

Cost estimators work mostly in offices, and some estimators also visit construction sites and factory assembly lines. Most work full time.

How to Become a Cost Estimator

Most cost estimators need a bachelor’s degree, although some workers with several years of experience in construction may qualify without a bachelor’s degree.

Pay

The median annual wage for cost estimators was $64,040 in May 2018.

Job Outlook

Employment of cost estimators is projected to grow 9 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. Overall job opportunities should be good because companies require accurate cost estimates in order to operate profitably.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for cost estimators.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of cost estimators with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about cost estimators by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Cost Estimators Do About this section

Cost estimators
Cost estimators often collaborate with engineers.

Cost estimators collect and analyze data in order to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor required to manufacture a product, construct a building, or provide a service. They generally specialize in a particular product or industry.

Duties

Cost estimators typically do the following:

  • Identify factors affecting costs, such as production time, materials, and labor
  • Read blueprints and technical documents in order to prepare estimates
  • Collaborate with engineers, architects, clients, and contractors
  • Calculate, analyze, and adjust estimates
  • Recommend ways to reduce costs
  • Work with sales teams to prepare estimates and bids for clients
  • Maintain records of estimated and actual costs

Accurately estimating the costs of construction and manufacturing projects is vital to the survival of businesses. Cost estimators provide managers with the information they need in order to submit competitive contract bids or price products appropriately.

Estimators analyze production processes to determine how much time, money, and labor a project needs. Their estimates account for many factors, including allowances for wasted material, bad weather, shipping delays, and other variables that can increase costs and lower profits.

In building construction, cost estimators use software to simulate the construction process and evaluate the costs of design choices. They often consult databases and their own records to compare the costs of similar projects.

The following are examples of types of cost estimators:

Construction cost estimators prepare estimates for buildings, roads, and other construction projects. They may calculate the total cost of building a bridge or commercial shopping center, or they may calculate the cost of just one component, such as the foundation. They identify costs of elements such as raw materials and labor, and they may set a timeline for how long they expect the project to take. Although many work directly for construction firms, some work for contractors and engineering firms.

Manufacturing cost estimators calculate the costs of developing, producing, or redesigning a company’s goods or services. For example, a cost estimator working for a home appliance manufacturer may determine a new dishwasher’s production costs, allowing managers to make production decisions.

Other workers, such as operations research analysts and construction managers, may also estimate costs in the course of their usual duties.

Work Environment About this section

Cost estimators
Cost estimators may visit construction sites to gather information.

Cost estimators held about 217,400 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of cost estimators were as follows:

Specialty trade contractors 35%
Construction of buildings 18
Manufacturing 12
Automotive repair and maintenance 7
Heavy and civil engineering construction 6

Cost estimators work mostly in offices, and some estimators visit construction sites and factory assembly lines during the course of their work.

Work Schedules

Most cost estimators work full time and some work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become a Cost Estimator About this section

Cost estimators
Cost estimators learn to use specialized cost estimating software.

Most cost estimators need a bachelor’s degree, although some workers with several years of experience in construction may qualify without a bachelor’s degree.

Education

Employers generally prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree.

Construction cost estimators typically need a bachelor’s degree in an industry-related field, such as construction management or engineering. Manufacturing cost estimators typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, business, or finance.

Training

Most cost estimators receive on-the-job training, which may include instruction in cost estimation techniques and software, as well as industry-specific software, such as building information modeling (BIM) and computer-aided design (CAD) software.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some employers prefer that construction cost estimators, particularly those without a bachelor’s degree, have previous work experience in the construction industry. Some construction cost estimators become qualified solely through extensive work experience.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Cost estimators consider and evaluate different construction and manufacturing methods and options to determine the most cost-effective solution that meets the required specifications.

Communication skills. Cost estimators write comprehensive reports, which often help managers make production decisions.

Detail oriented. Cost estimators must pay attention to details because minor changes can greatly affect the overall cost of a project or product.

Math skills. Cost estimators calculate labor, material, and equipment cost estimates for construction projects. They use software, such as spreadsheets and databases, and they need excellent math skills to calculate these estimates accurately.

Time-management skills. Cost estimators often work on fixed deadlines, so they must plan in advance and work efficiently.

Pay About this section

Cost Estimators

Median annual wages, May 2018

Business operations specialists

$67,120

Cost estimators

$64,040

Total, all occupations

$38,640

 

The median annual wage for cost estimators was $64,040 in May 2018. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,060, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $107,940.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for cost estimators in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Heavy and civil engineering construction $73,040
Construction of buildings 68,310
Specialty trade contractors 64,620
Manufacturing 61,320
Automotive repair and maintenance 55,110

Most cost estimators work full time and some work more than 40 hours per week.

Job Outlook About this section

Cost Estimators

Percent change in employment, projected 2018-28

Cost estimators

9%

Business operations specialists

7%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Employment of cost estimators is projected to grow 9 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster the average for all occupations.

There will continue to be demand for cost estimators because companies need accurate cost projections to ensure that their products and services are profitable.

Growth in the construction industry is expected to create the majority of new jobs for cost estimators, particularly in the specialty trade contractors industries.

Job Prospects

Overall job prospects should be good. Knowledge of building information modeling (BIM) and computer-aided design (CAD) software may improve job prospects, especially for those seeking employment in construction.

Jobs of cost estimators working in construction, like those of workers in many other trades in the construction industry, are sensitive to changing economic conditions.

Employment projections data for cost estimators, 2018-28
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Cost estimators

13-1051 217,400 236,100 9 18,700 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of cost estimators.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2018 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Accountants and auditors

Accountants and Auditors

Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records.

Bachelor's degree $70,500
Budget analysts

Budget Analysts

Budget analysts help public and private institutions organize their finances.

Bachelor's degree $76,220
Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators

Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators

Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators evaluate insurance claims.

See How to Become One $65,670
Construction managers

Construction Managers

Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from start to finish.

Bachelor's degree $93,370
Financial analysts

Financial Analysts

Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions.

Bachelor's degree $85,660
Financial managers

Financial Managers

Financial managers produce financial reports, direct investment activities, and develop strategies and plans for the long-term financial goals of their organization.

Bachelor's degree $127,990
Industrial production managers

Industrial Production Managers

Industrial production managers oversee the daily operations of manufacturing and related plants.

Bachelor's degree $103,380
Logisticians

Logisticians

Logisticians analyze and coordinate an organization’s supply chain.

Bachelor's degree $74,600
Operations research analysts

Operations Research Analysts

Operations research analysts use advanced mathematical and analytical methods to help solve complex issues.

Bachelor's degree $83,390
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Cost Estimators,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/cost-estimators.htm (visited October 23, 2019).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 4, 2019

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2018 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2018, the median annual wage for all workers was $38,640.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2018

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2018, which is the base year of the 2018-28 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2018-28

The projected percent change in employment from 2018 to 2028. The average growth rate for all occupations is 5 percent.

Employment Change, 2018-28

The projected numeric change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2018-28

The projected numeric change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2018 to 2028.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

2018 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2018, the median annual wage for all workers was $38,640.