How to Become a Building Estimator

Construction cost estimators are a vital part of a construction firm's success. To deliver a project successfully and profitably, a contractor must carefully control the project's cost, duration, quality, and safety record; the building estimator is largely responsible for controlling the project's cost. An estimator's job begins when the contractor decides to submit a bid. The estimator will visit the project site, review the drawings and specs, perform a quantity takeoff to determine the amount of materials required, and prepare a cost report based on this takeoff. Cost estimators are employed by every construction firm, and many are also employed by architectural or engineering firms to help plan budgets. To become a building estimator, you need the right educational background and some relevant work experience.


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    Obtain a bachelor's degree in a construction program. Most contracting firms prefer cost estimators who have earned a bachelor's degree in either construction management, construction science, or another related field. These programs include specific coursework covering estimating, and will also provide the student with a background in other areas of project management. You can also obtain an associate's degree in a construction field (such as carpentry) and try to gain relevant work experience afterward.
    • A degree in civil engineering or a related field will also help you to establish a career as an estimator. If you can, take extra coursework in construction estimating.
    • Many 1-year graduate degrees in construction management are open to applicants from unrelated backgrounds. This can provide you with appropriate educational experience even if you have already obtained a bachelor's degree in a field other than construction.
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    Join a professional estimating organization. If you are enrolled in a construction program, you will usually have access to student development programs run by professional organizations. In the United States, 3 organizations of this type are the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (ACEE), the American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE), and the Society of Cost Estimating and Analysis (SCEA). Membership in these organizations can provide you with training and networking opportunities.
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    Gain a relevant position with a construction firm. You will need to accumulate some relevant work experience before becoming a full-time estimator. With a bachelor's degree in construction management, you will typically be searching for a position as a project engineer, an assistant project manager, or an assistant in the estimating department. Any of these positions will strengthen your ability to become an estimator, although you should express that interest to potential employers so that you might be placed directly into the estimating department.
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    Participate in a construction firm's long-term estimator training. Because accurate estimating is so crucial to the health of the company and because each contractor handles estimating in their own way, most companies will have a long-term training program in which you become a full-fledged cost estimator. Once you have gained a position in the estimating department (even as an assistant), you can usually begin this training. When you complete your training after several years, you are then trusted to work independently.
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    Obtain further certification if desired. You can advance your career and improve your resume by obtaining voluntary certifications. Professional estimating organizations like the ACEE, ASPE, and SCEA offer certification programs for experienced estimators. These programs usually consist of a written exam and make you more attractive to your own employer and to potential future employers.


  • If you already have lengthy experience working in a construction trade, you may be able to get a job as an estimator without pursuing a bachelor's degree.

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Categories: Architecture and Design Occupations