The daily duties of a project estimator vary considerably depending on the type of firm and the size of the project. According to the BLS, the vast majority of project estimators work in either the construction or manufacturing industries.
Construction Project Estimator
A cost estimator for a construction company assesses the potential development site for its appropriateness for building, checking for variables like plumbing and electrical availability. The next step is to determine the order of operations for expediency and identify the kinds and amounts of materials required.
All of these duties entail visits to potential construction sites, supply warehouses and service-oriented businesses. The project estimator takes measurements, records data and estimates the quantity of materials needed, and finally, using complex mathematical formulas, determines the final cost of development.
Manufacturing Project Estimator
The estimating professional who develops cost information for a manufacturing company will spend the majority of the workday preparing data associated with either producing a new product or improving the design of an existing product.
Involvement with vendors is also key, and the estimator may spend time visiting various subcontractors and negotiating with service professionals and suppliers. After careful calculations, the estimator will then forecast the production costs within a given timetable.
While there is no specific degree in cost estimation, a bachelor’s degree is usually required by employers. Aspiring project estimators who wish to work in the construction industry would be well-served by a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management or building science. These 4-year programs, aside from general course curriculum, instruct students on structural systems, project planning, surveying systems and construction methodology.
On the other hand, prospective project estimators who would like to work in manufacturing usually pursue degrees in mathematics, engineering or statistics. Also 4-year programs, these degree programs focus much more heavily on mathematics and its practical application in business. Core courses may include statistics, variable analysis, linear algebra and probability theory.
Though not a requirement for practice, industry certification is available and may be viewed positively by employers. The Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE) offers six levels of credentialing, all based on professional experience and a written examination. The American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE) is more geared towards manufacturing estimation, and offers the Certified Professional Estimator (CPE) designation to interested applicants.