How to Become a

Cost Estimator

The complete career guide to be a Cost Estimator: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $64,810
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 8.8%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Don't Take Work Home
    Career Attribute

Cost estimators provide estimates on the likely costs of projects being completed by construction and manufacturing industries. They help companies accurately and profitably price bids or products by using computer simulation systems, industry knowledge, and calculations that anticipate likely delays.

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What is a Cost Estimator?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in cost estimator roles:

  • Review blueprints and other project/product documentation to create project estimates
  • Determine services needed, materials needed, amount of labor required, and likelihood of common delays to formulate accurate estimates
  • Evaluate initial estimates against final costs to better refine estimation process
  • Offer recommendations for potential ways to reduce project/product costs

A Day in the Life

Cost estimators work for construction and manufacturing companies and help to ensure company profits by creating accurate estimates for project costs. In construction, cost estimators help companies make accurate, informed bids on open projects. They evaluate project blueprints, documentation, worksites, and other materials to determine the cost of materials and labor for projects. They also calculate the costs of likely delays. This helps companies place bids that ensure projects are profitable.

In manufacturing, cost estimators perform the role of estimating the cost of new product development. Like construction cost estimators, manufacturing cost estimators use all product documentation and work alongside engineers to determine the overall costs of research and development of new products. Their estimates are used to create pricing models for future sales of the product that ensure return on investment.

Cost estimators use a variety of tools to create estimates. Often, they use specialized computer programs that help to calculate the cost of materials and estimate the amount of risk for delays. They also work with a variety of individuals to obtain quotes and validate estimates, like engineers, architects, and distributors. Finally, estimators provide quotes for projects/products to company leadership. When projects are completed, evaluators review actual costs and compare those to their estimates in order to refine processes and create more accurate future estimates.

Typical Work Schedule

Most cost estimator jobs are full-time roles conducted during normal business hours. Overtime may be required on occasion to complete estimations within short timeframes.

Projected Job Growth

Cost estimators play an important role in ensuring a company’s profitability, and as such, demand for talented cost estimators is expected to increase in the coming decade.

Cost Estimator Specializations

  • Construction cost estimators estimate the costs associates with construction projects—new building construction, remodeling projects, renovations, repairs, etc. They estimate the costs of materials, labor, and likely delays to create estimates to be used in company bids on projects.
  • Manufacturing cost estimators estimate the costs associated with product development and revisions. They estimate research, labor, material, and production costs in order to determine if new products or product changes will be profitable for their companies.

Career Progression

  • Early Career: Construction Worker, Entry-Level Engineer
  • Mid-Career: Construction Foreman, Mid-Level Engineer
  • Late Career: Cost Estimator, Senior-Level Engineer, General Contractor

Typical Employers

Most cost estimators are employed by companies in the construction and manufacturing industries.

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How To Become a Cost Estimator

There are a variety of paths you can take to become a cost estimator. Many cost estimators, especially those who work in construction, have only a high school diploma and began their careers as construction workers. With many years of experience as a construction worker—and later as a construction foreman or manager—you can gain the skills and knowledge you’ll need to work as a cost estimator. On-the-job construction experience can give workers a thorough understanding of the time and materials needed to complete a variety of projects.

Many cost estimator roles, however, require estimators to hold bachelor’s degrees, especially roles in the manufacturing industry. Often, the most qualified manufacturing cost estimators are trained in engineering or are former engineers. Common bachelor’s degrees pursued by aspiring cost estimators include engineering, finance, construction management, and related fields. These programs teach cost estimators the knowledge and skills they’ll need to create accurate estimates professionally.

Some higher-paying or more prestigious cost estimator roles may also require certification. Certification is awarded through organizations like the American Society of Professional Estimators and International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association. Becoming certified generally requires some years of experience as a professional cost estimator and the passing of a written examination.

Cost Estimator Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Cost Estimator salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Cost Estimator's can make an average annual salary of $64,810, or $31 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $45,650 or $22 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #231 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Cost Estimator. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Cost Estimators

  • 0.5%   Doctorate
  • 3.9%   Masters
  • 28%   Bachelors
  • 11.5%   Associates
  • 29.3%   College
  • 23%   High School
  • 3.7%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Cost Estimator job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 18,800 jobs for a total of 232,300 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 8.8% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #250 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Cost Estimators

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Nonresidential building construction 21,300 1,500 2%
Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 17,200 2,400 2%
Residential building construction 16,000 1,000 1%

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