Cost Estimator Salary

Cost estimating is a growing field. As more construction management companies continue to build luxury, mixed-used residential buildings and more manufacturing companies continue to develop products, cost estimators must have a working knowledge of manufacturing principles, construction engineering guidelines, and business management theories. By using management software, they provide estimates of construction projects in order to predict expenditures.

Cost estimators must have some experience in the field. They typically enter the industry as records clerks and/or apprentices. Through on-the-job training, they advance to cost specialists. Estimators may also work in the manufacturing. In the field, they typically have an advanced knowledge of science. Cost estimators must also have a working knowledge of building and modeling software in order to predict costs associated with securing outside consulting and architectural drawings.

Cost estimators receive attractive salaries. They may work for construction management or manufacturing companies; or they may work as independent contractors. They typically have a background in construction engineering and supplement their studies with course work in finance. As part of their overall professional development, they may pursue a certification in their field, although licensing is not a requirement. The need for cost estimators is expected to continue as more and more building contractors and manufacturing companies grow their businesses.

Salary Overview

The specific salary for cost estimators is determined by a number of factors. Cost estimators must have a bachelor’s degree in the field of construction management or construction engineering. They must also have a working knowledge of science and manufacturing principles, math and finance concepts, and industry and management theories. Cost estimators who are certified tend to earn more working for the private sector than they do working for the federal government. However, cost estimators who are contract vendors tend to earn more than those who work for the private sector.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for cost estimators is $57,300. Cost estimators earn this salary primarily in construction and manufacturing industries. The highest ten percent of cost estimators earned $94,470. Entry-level cost estimators can expect to earn $33,150. Estimators who work in nonresidential building construction earn $65,410 while estimators who work in residential building construction earn $55,390. Cost estimators who work for general contractor companies (building finishing) earn slightly higher than those who work in residential building construction; they earn $55,430.*

*According to the BLS,

Job Description and Outlook

Certification and professional organizations do not require cost estimators to be certified in their field, but they can gain greater credibility with construction management companies when they have completed professional development coursework and have obtained a certification. In general, the duties of cost estimators vary based upon a construction project or manufacturing plan. Cost estimators compile data and analyze figures. They estimate the costs of construction projects, provide an analysis of projected expenditures, resolve issues concerning purchasing and materials management, and prepare revised budgets. For example, cost estimators review architectural drawings and the projected spending of a project. They visit sites to determine additional projected costs associated with roads and other types of infrastructure. They estimate the need for materials, personnel, and consulting options. They provide a comprehensive financial estimate of the life of a project.

Manufacturing cost estimators work closely with product engineers. They review blueprints, itemize parts, and estimate the type of equipment to accomplish the project. The cost estimator also considers additional resources and estimates the financial need for personnel and/or contractors.

Cost estimators must have a working knowledge of building information modeling software. They also use other tools such as financial software to predict estimates. The software provides accurate calculations and helps to produce reports and summaries of activities. Estimators typically work in offices and visit manufacturing factories and job sites. They work forty hours a week with some overtime. They typically work under time constraints.

Training and Education Requirements

Recent graduates entering the construction management industry must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program. Students typically do not choose cost estimating as a major. Instead, they select construction management or construction engineering programs and enroll in supplemental coursework such as cost estimating, construction technology, and project management. Students may also choose careers in engineering (construction) and business administration. Students must be familiar with other undergraduate coursework such as business, accounting (cost), marketing, and finance. Graduate studies may center on coursework in advanced studies in cost estimating such as cost-benefit analysis and management accounting.


Cost estimators are not required to be certified in their field. However, for long-term professional development and career advancement, they may pursue enrollment in certification programs. Cost estimators may pursue a certification program to become a Certified Cost Consultant, a Certified Cost Engineer, or a Certified Cost Technician. Each certification program is offered through the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering.

Professional Associations

Cost estimators may join the American Society of Professional Estimators. The organization provides continuing education programs, networking seminar training, and construction career updates. Women in the field of cost estimating and construction may join the National Association of Women in Construction. The organization provides members with advocacy information. Cost estimators may also pursue a membership with The Professional Construction Estimators Association. The organization monitors cost estimating standards in the construction industry and offers its members continuing education programs.

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