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Cost Estimator

Career Overview

Cost estimators compile and analyze data on the enormous number of factors that can influence costs. In the construction industry these include materials, labor, location, duration of the project, and special machinery requirements. Inclement weather can influence a project, as can materials shortages and permitting problems.

After a contractor decides to bid on a project, the cost estimator goes to work at the site, looking at access to the site; the availability of electricity, water, and other services; and surface topography and drainage. The estimator will compile a list of every piece of material that has to go into the job, including those provided by subcontractors.


Today builders prefer cost estimators that have a bachelors degree in building science, construction science or construction management. In the industrial sector, cost estimators often have backgrounds in mathematics, engineering or operations management.

Current Employment

The Department of Labor estimates that 221,000 cost estimators were employed in 2006. Almost two thirds of those worked in the construction industry; fifteen percent were employed in manufacturing.

Job Outlook

Employment for cost estimators is expected to grow nineteen percent over the decade from 2006 to 2016, almost twice the rate for overall growth among all job categories. Job prospects will be excellent due to the increasing complexity of buildings in general, and the types of structures expected to be dominant in the next several years.

Salary Range

Lowest 10%  $15.61/hour  $32,470
Median Salary  $26.41/hour  $54,920
Highest 10%  $43.92/hour  $91,350

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

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