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How to Become a Construction Estimator: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Find out how to become a construction estimator. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career as a construction estimator.

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Do I Want to Be a Construction Estimator?

Construction estimators are employed by construction firms, contractors and architects to gauge the cost of any given project. They consider factors like required materials and labor, location and time allotted to complete a job, and then they present estimates to clients and employers. Travel is frequently required, and a certain amount of stress exists related to looming deadlines.

Job Requirements

This career requires a combination of a bachelor's degree, practical work experience and, in some cases, certification. The following table outlines the core requirements for construction estimators:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree*
Degree Field Construction management, building science or another industry-related major*
Certification Optional certification is available; some employers require certain certifications*
Experience Some previous experience in the construction industry*
Key Skills Solid critical-thinking, analytical and communication skills, ability to manage time and meet deadlines, close attention to detail*
Computer Skills Construction management, financial analysis and project management software as well as spreadsheet and accounting software**
Technical Skills Experience with scanners may be useful**
Additional Requirements Overtime may be necessary to meet deadlines, ability to work under pressure and withstand stress, frequent travel to construction sites*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers of construction estimators tend to prefer applicants with relevant bachelor's degrees, such as in construction management (www.bls.gov). These programs are designed to give students a well-rounded background in the construction industry by including classes on construction methods and materials, mathematics, physics, safety, construction law and building codes. They typically require courses on cost estimating, so future estimators can directly learn the skills required by the job.

Success Tip:

  • Make strategic course choices. Some bachelor's degree programs offer opportunities for students to take business electives. Taking courses to sharpen financial and analytical skills may prove beneficial for future construction estimators. In fact, the BLS notes that some employers seek out estimators who have backgrounds in business, economics and finance.
  • Gain practical industry experience. Construction estimators need experience in the construction field in order to better understand the processes behind a construction project. Prospective estimators may consider an internship or co-op program with a construction company while in college. An aspiring estimator might also take an entry-level, part-time position at a construction firm during college.

Step 2: Obtain Employment

Once employed, construction estimators still need to undergo on-the-job training. Newer employees typically shadow practiced estimators to learn a company's specific estimation and work policies. This is typically a long-term training period that can last months or years.

Success Tip:

  • Sharpen necessary computer skills. Construction estimators often use complex computer programs to estimate construction costs in addition to accounting and spreadsheets software, like Intuit QuickBooks and Microsoft Excel. Working alongside an experienced construction estimator may be a good opportunity to become familiar with these software programs.

Step 3: Attain Certification

Though not always required, certification can provide employers with proof of an estimator's professional abilities. Several organizations offer certification in the construction estimation field, and each has different requirements. The American Society of Professional Estimators offers the Certification of Professional Estimators designation, which requires 5 years of experience, possession of technical writing and communication skills, completion of a workshop and successful passage of an exam.

Another option for certification is the Certified Estimating Professional designation available through the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering. Construction estimators must have 8 years of experience and/or education and pass an examination to become certified. Finally, certification is also available from the Society of Cost Estimating and Analysis. This organization's Certified Cost Estimator/Analyst designation requires as much as 7 years worth of experience or a combination of education and experience in addition to passage of an examination.

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