How To Become a Construction Estimator (With FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated January 23, 2023

Published August 17, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Construction estimators analyze costs and prepare estimates on engineering, architectural, and structural projects. A career as a construction estimator can be a good way to enter the construction industry and apply your math and analytical skills. By learning how to become a construction estimator, you can decide whether you are suited to follow this career path. In this article, we describe the steps to become a construction estimator, explain the required skills, average salary, and work environment, and discuss how to start a construction estimator career.

How to become a construction estimator

If becoming a construction estimator interests you, follow these steps to start your career:

1. Earn a degree from an accredited educational institution

Work towards becoming a construction estimator by completing a three-year college program or bachelor's degree program. Majors to consider include civil engineering, construction management, or construction science. During your undergraduate program, complete courses in finance, accounting, and economics. Doing this helps you develop the ability to prepare estimates of labour, equipment, materials, and subcontractor costs.

2. Gain work experience

While studying at a university or college, look for opportunities to gain relevant work experience. Explore internships at construction companies to learn more about cost estimation and the construction process. Employers typically provide training to entry-level construction estimators and interns. Working as an intern can also help you build your network and develop mutually beneficial relationships.

Related: Learn About These 10 Construction Companies in Alberta

3. Become certified

Earning a certification qualifies you for more positions as a construction estimator. It can also help you advance your career to become a senior construction estimator. The Canadian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (CIQS) certifies construction estimators. It also sets the standard to hold the construction estimator certified (CEC) designation. You first need to meet the educational requirements outlined in the CIQS educational policy. CEC professionals may specialize in a mechanical or electrical discipline, but need to have practical knowledge of construction estimation and the construction industry.

You can also join the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) and complete the Gold Seal Certification (GSC) program. This national certification shows your expertise as a construction estimator and can make you a better candidate for open positions.

4. Engage in continuing learning

After your undergraduate program, consider earning an advanced degree in construction estimation, construction budgeting, or cost planning. You can also take economics courses online and estimation courses for your specialization. Consider joining professional associations, such as the International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association (ICEAA), to stay updated with best practices in construction estimation.

Related: What Are the Most In-Demand Careers?

What skills do construction estimators need?

Review the essential soft and hard skills to work as a construction estimator:

Analytical

Analytical skills are qualities that enable you to observe and interpret a subject and develop ideas. Working as a construction estimator requires these skills to analyze costs. These skills also help in evaluating construction methods to identify cost-effective solutions that meet a client's budget. For example, your role may involve reviewing costing procedures and comparing prices to ensure consistency. Develop your analytical thinking skills by engaging in activities that require you to analyze situations, such as reading.

Read more: Analytical Skills: Defined and Explained

Communication

Effective communication involves exchanging information with others. Verbal communication and active listening skills are useful for explaining project expenses to management and contractors. As a construction estimator, you can expect to use your written communication skills when creating project bids and writing comprehensive reports. Improve your communication skills by practising effective communication and requesting feedback.

Read more: Four Types of Communication (With Examples)

Problem-solving

Problem-solving is the ability to observe situations and offer unique solutions to issues. Construction estimators may face various challenges that require them to apply their problem-solving skills. For example, a construction estimator may have to deal with cost overruns and unavailable critical materials. In these instances, excellent problem-solving skills can help a construction estimator identify alternative materials. Improve your problem-solving skills by practising problem-solving and seeking opportunities to solve issues.

Time management

Construction estimators may need to work under strict deadlines to meet a project's delivery timeline. Having excellent time management skills can help you use your time effectively and work efficiently. Develop your time management skills by learning how to prioritize tasks and creating a to-do list for work activities.

Read more: Time Management Skills: Examples and Definitions

Attention to detail

To succeed in the workplace, construction estimators need to be detail-oriented. This skill helps to prevent calculation errors that can influence the cost of projects. Showing attention to detail also involves being proactive to avoid costing errors. Consider improving your attention to detail by engaging in activities that require you to focus on details, such as observing your environment.

Research

Research skills are qualities that help you find answers quickly. Construction estimators need strong research skills to find pricing information for construction materials. These skills are also important for discovering technical information from previous projects, digital publications, and online databases. You can develop your research skills by learning advanced search techniques and practising on research projects.

Technical

Technical skills are qualities you learn through education and training. Construction estimators need excellent math skills to prepare estimates. They also need to know how to analyze the costs and benefits of construction resources using computer software. Working as a construction estimator typically involves monitoring budgets and scheduling payments.

Read more: Technical Skills: Definitions and Examples

Average salary and work environment

The national average salary for a construction estimator is $65,825 per year, according to Indeed Salaries. Salaries may vary depending on your location, experience, and skill set. For example, construction estimators in Alberta earn an average of $68,896 per year, while those in Ontario make $70,483 per year, on average.

Many construction estimators work for industrial, residential, and commercial construction companies. You may also decide to work independently as a contractor or self-employed professional. Regardless of your type of employment, working as a construction estimator involves spending most of your time in an office performing calculations. You may also visit construction sites to ensure all estimates are correct and evaluate the progress of projects. Construction estimators typically work 40-hour workweeks, following a regular nine-to-five work schedule.

FAQs about becoming a construction estimator

Here are common questions about starting a career as a construction estimator:

What would an informative construction estimator resume include?

An informative resume would include your educational qualifications and certifications. It would also contain your work experience, including the activities you performed in previous roles. Describe your construction estimator skill set and consider including a proficiency level for each skill. A proficiency level describes how well you can apply a skill.

What is a construction estimator's typical day?

Construction estimators typically start their day by reviewing emails from clients and upper management. Shortly after, the construction manager assigns new estimation projects. Construction estimators then analyze the client's budgets and plans. They collaborate with engineers and architects to understand the client's requirements and research construction resources. Next, they contact suppliers, subcontractors, and specialists and gather project quotes. They then determine cost-effective estimates and prepare reports for clients and management to review. Construction estimators also track the project's progress and prepare reports on adjustments to cost estimates.

What is the difference between a construction estimator and a quantity surveyor?

A quantity surveyor estimates a project's costs, provides an accurate bill of quantities and ensures projects stay within the client's budget. They perform their duties before, during, and after a project begins. In comparison, construction estimators prepare estimates and analyze costs before a project begins. They provide insights that the construction team can use to execute the project.

Related: How To Become a Quantity Surveyor (in Four Easy Steps)

What is the job outlook for construction estimators?

According to the Canadian Occupational Projection System, you can expect the employment of construction estimators to increase from 2019 to 2028. The organization attributes this growth to an increase in demand for construction estimators. It projects that there would be a balance between the number of construction estimators and available job openings over the period.

Who does a construction estimator report to?

Construction estimators typically report to a construction manager or project manager. They may also report directly to clients, especially when working independently. Construction estimators work with engineers, architects, and construction builders in the workplace.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organization‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌, ‌and‌ ‌location.‌ Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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