Everything You Need to Know About Cost Estimator Job Description
Cost estimators are an invaluable part of many industries. They analyze expenses and financial plans to estimate costs for products, services, projects and more. If you’re detail-oriented, and analytical, and want to develop expertise in cost control, then a career as a cost estimator may be an excellent choice. This article will cover what the job involves.
Key Responsibilities: Turning Plans into Actionable Budgets
Cost estimators have a range of key duties and objectives:
- Analyzing Plans and Specs: Review project scope, drawings, material requirements, and plans to fully understand the work to be performed
- Soliciting Quotes: Reach out for pricing estimates from vendors supplying equipment, materials, and contracted labour
- Creating Detailed Expense Breakdowns: Develop comprehensive line item estimates encompassing all facets including site prep, permits, equipment rental, etc.
- Building Accurate Budgets: Compile expense projections, incorporate historical data, and identify cost factors that may impact total
- Presenting to Stakeholders: Convey budget proposals and recommendations in meetings, defending estimates
- Providing Updates: Continually track costs as projects evolve, alert management regarding changes
Hierarchy of Complexity
Not all cost estimator roles share the same level of responsibility. Entry-level estimators may focus on simple material takeoffs under supervision. Senior estimators work independently on expansive proposals…
Hard and Soft Skills Needed to Thrive
Cost estimators excel through specialized education, hands-on experience, and technical abilities:
While some junior roles provide on-the-job training, most companies want candidates with:
- Bachelor’s degree in engineering, construction management, finance, or business
- Relevant courses in financial accounting, statistics, construction materials/techniques
- Optional master’s degree provides an analytical boost
Learn by Doing
Classroom principles come alive through professional experience like:
- Assistant estimator roles under the guidance of industry veterans
- Rotational programs expose emerging estimators to multiple specialities
- Hands-on measuring and pricing exercises hone accuracy
Cost Estimator Job Description Template
The cost estimator is responsible for developing accurate and comprehensive expense projections and budgets for the company’s products, projects, operations, or services. The role researches cost factors and trends, analyzes data, solicits pricing information from vendors and contractors, models different cost scenarios, and compiles detailed estimates for leadership to make informed business decisions.
- Review project scopes, product/service specifications, construction plans, master schedules, and other documents to fully understand parameters
- Determine exact quantities of raw materials and operational supplies needed, factoring in spoilage/waste
- Solicit price quote estimates from vendors and contractors supplying components, equipment, materials
- Visit suppliers and prospective project sites to gather accurate local market rates if needed
- Enter cost data into Excel templates, Sage Timberline, RSMeans and other estimating platforms to model all costs
- Itemize all direct and indirect costs including site prep, permits, licenses, contractor fees
- Apply historical data, cost factors, and market trends to ensure realistic forecasts
- Provide updated reports on evolving estimates as scope changes occur
- Give oral and written presentations explaining estimates and budget proposals to leadership
- Work closely with project managers, accountants, and tradespeople to ensure understanding
- Identify cost-saving measures for construction/production methods without sacrificing quality
- Bachelor’s degree in Finance, Engineering, or Construction Management required
- Background in accounting and financial analysis
- Certification such as Certified Cost Consultant (CCC) or Certified Cost Estimator (CCE)
- Proficiency with Excel, RSMeans, Sage Timberline and related platforms
- Ability to analyze blueprints, specs, schedules, perform material takeoffs
- Strong verbal, written, and presentation communication abilities
- Exceptional analytical thinking and attention to detail
- Minimum 2 years experience in a similar cost analysis role preferred
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Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Cost Estimator
What does a cost estimator do?
Cost estimators work in a variety of industries to provide detailed, accurate expense projections for upcoming projects, products, or operations. They analyze plans and requirements to model all expected costs and then present final budget proposals to decision-makers.
What are some typical cost estimator responsibilities?
- Reviewing the scope of projects, product specs, or needs to fully understand what will be required
- Determining the quantities of equipment, materials, and supplies needed
- Collecting pricing data and quotes from vendors and subcontractors
- Creating detailed cost breakdowns for every line item, direct and indirect expenses
- Continually updating estimates as projects evolve, change orders occur
- Compiling final budget proposals based on historical data, current trends
- Presenting reports defending estimates to managers and stakeholders
What skills and qualifications do cost estimators need?
Strong analytical capabilities are essential, as are competencies with construction techniques and industry estimating software programs. Most employers expect candidates to have:
- Bachelor’s degree in a related field like engineering or construction management
- Coursework in areas such as accounting, finance, statistics
- Strong math skills, including algebra, geometry, modelling
- Proficiency with Microsoft Excel, RSMeans, Sage Timberline
- Excellent verbal, written, and presentation communication abilities
- Detail-oriented, ability to read blueprints and technical specs
- Some positions may require professional cost estimator certification (CCC, CCE)
- Prior experience in a related estimating role preferred
What are the potential career paths in cost estimating?
With the right combination of education and experience, cost estimators may progress into roles such as:
- Senior Cost Estimator: Leads estimating teams on large-scale projects
- Chief Estimator: Oversees the estimating function for an entire company
- Cost Engineering Manager: Responsible for benchmarking, analyzing historical data
- Project Controls Manager: Plans and manages budgets for an owner/developer