Cost Estimators

by Kate Williams

What Cost Estimators Do

Cost estimators collect and analyze data in order to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor required to make a product or provide a service.

Work Environment

Cost estimators work mostly in offices, and some estimators also visit construction sites and factory assembly lines. Most work full time.

How to Become a Cost Estimator

Most cost estimators need a bachelor’s degree, although some workers with several years of experience in construction may qualify without a bachelor’s degree.


The median annual wage for cost estimators was $65,250 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of cost estimators is projected to decline 1 percent from 2019 to 2029. Cost estimation software is improving the productivity of these workers, requiring fewer estimators to perform the same amount of work.

Cost estimators collect and analyze data in order to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor required to manufacture a product, construct a building, or provide a service. They generally specialize in a particular product or industry.


Cost estimators typically do the following:

  • Identify factors affecting costs, such as production time, materials, and labor
  • Read blueprints and technical documents in order to prepare estimates
  • Collaborate with engineers, architects, clients, and contractors
  • Calculate, analyze, and adjust estimates
  • Recommend ways to reduce costs
  • Work with sales teams to prepare estimates and bids for clients
  • Maintain records of estimated and actual costs

Accurately estimating the costs of construction and manufacturing projects is vital to the survival of businesses. Cost estimators provide managers with the information they need in order to submit competitive contract bids or price products appropriately.

Estimators analyze production processes to determine how much time, money, and labor a project needs. Their estimates account for many factors, including allowances for wasted material, bad weather, shipping delays, and other variables that can increase costs and lower profits.

In building construction, cost estimators use software to simulate the construction process and evaluate the costs of design choices. They often consult databases and their own records to compare the costs of similar projects.

The following are examples of types of cost estimators:

Construction cost estimators prepare estimates for buildings, roads, and other construction projects. They may calculate the total cost of building a bridge or commercial shopping center, or they may calculate the cost of just one component, such as the foundation. They identify costs of elements such as raw materials and labor, and they may set a timeline for how long they expect the project to take. Although many work directly for construction firms, some work for contractors and engineering firms.

Manufacturing cost estimators calculate the costs of developing, producing, or redesigning a company’s goods or services. For example, a cost estimator working for a home appliance manufacturer may determine a new dishwasher’s production costs, allowing managers to make production decisions.

Other workers, such as operations research analysts and construction managers, may also estimate costs in the course of their usual duties.

Cost estimators held about 214,200 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of cost estimators were as follows:

Specialty trade contractors 36%
Construction of buildings 17
Manufacturing 13
Automotive repair and maintenance 7
Heavy and civil engineering construction 6

Cost estimators work mostly in offices, and some estimators visit construction sites and factory assembly lines during the course of their work.

Work Schedules

Most cost estimators work full time and some work more than 40 hours per week.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of cost estimators.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Accountants and Auditors

Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records.

Bachelor’s degree $71,550

Budget Analysts

Budget analysts help public and private organizations plan their finances.

Bachelor’s degree $76,540

Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators

Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators evaluate insurance claims.

See How to Become One $66,540

Construction Managers

Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from start to finish.

Bachelor’s degree $95,260

Financial Analysts

Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions.

Bachelor’s degree $81,590

Financial Managers

Financial managers create financial reports, direct investment activities, and develop plans for the long-term financial goals of their organization.

Bachelor’s degree $129,890

Industrial Production Managers

Industrial production managers oversee the daily operations of manufacturing and related plants.

Bachelor’s degree $105,480


Logisticians analyze and coordinate an organization’s supply chain.

Bachelor’s degree $74,750

Operations Research Analysts

Operations research analysts use advanced mathematical and analytical methods to help solve complex issues.

Bachelor’s degree $84,810

For more information about cost estimators, visit

American Society of Professional Estimators

Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International (AACE International)

International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association


Cost Estimators

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Cost Estimators,
at (visited ).

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