What is a Cost Estimator?

A cost estimator collects and analyzes data so as to estimate how much time, money, material, and labour it will take to either provide a service, manufacture a product, or construct a building.

Estimators typically specialize in a type of product or a particular industry. Some examples of things that can be estimated or analyzed are: electronics, cars, buildings, bridges, ships, aircraft, software systems, government programs, and manufacturing facilities.

What does a Cost Estimator do?

Every new invention or program needs an estimation of what it will cost, and an analysis of the reasons why it will cost 'x' amount. A cost estimator can also analyze something that is already costing, in order to figure out why it's costing more or less than the original estimation.

A cost estimator analyzing data.

There is a growing need for cost estimators, as companies are always in search for cost-effective products and excellent cost projections. By collecting and analyzing data, a cost estimator can determine if it is more cost effective to either produce a product or service, or to purchase it. Cost estimates greatly assist management in price determination or bidding.

A cost estimator will consult with vendors, clients and construction foremen in order to formulate estimates. This may mean analyzing blueprints, or reading and analyzing documentation to give accurate estimates for labour, time, cost, and material.

When making their calculations, estimators factor in shipping delays, allowances for wasted material, bad weather, and other factors that can increase costs. Throughout the length of a project, the cost estimator will keep up to date with any changes that may be taking place in expenditures and scheduling, and provide documentation to management so as to keep them up to date as well.

There are generally two types of cost estimators:

Construction Cost Estimators - will estimate the cost of construction work. For example, estimating the cost to build a high-rise apartment building, a shopping centre, or a bridge. Cost estimates would include raw materials, labour, and length of build.

Manufacturing Cost Estimators - will estimate the cost of redesigning, producing, or developing products or services, such as home appliances, vehicles, or software systems.

A cost estimator will typically do the following:
- gather information on materials needed, labour required, and other factors
- identify cost factors, such as production time, materials, and labor expenses
- evaluate a product’s profitability or cost-effectiveness
- meet with clients, engineers, architects, and contractors on estimates
- meet with industry experts to resolve issues and discuss estimates
- read technical documents or blueprints in order to prepare estimates
- collaborate with sales teams to prepare estimates and bids for clients
- use computer software to input data and calculate estimates
- recommend ways to make a product more profitable or cost effective
- develop a plan for the duration of a project
- recommend ways to make an existing product more cost effective or profitable

Are you suited to be a cost estimator?

Cost estimators have distinct personalities. They tend to be enterprising individuals, which means they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic. They are dominant, persuasive, and motivational. Some of them are also conventional, meaning they’re conscientious and conservative.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if cost estimator is one of your top career matches.

Take the free test now Learn more about the career test

What is the workplace of a Cost Estimator like?

A cost estimator works mostly in an office environment, but will at times visit factory floors or construction sites. Depending on what industry the estimator works in, there may be frequent travel involved.

Cost estimators usually work full time. At times, overtime is required in order to prepare bids and meet deadlines.

Cost Estimators are also known as:
Cost Analyst Estimator