Education and Training Requirements
To prepare for a job in cost estimating, you should take courses in accounting, business, economics, and mathematics. Because a large part of this job involves comparing calculations, it is essential that you are comfortable and confident with your math skills. English courses with a heavy concentration in writing are also recommended to develop your communication skills. Cost estimators must be able to write clear and accurate reports of their analyses. Finally, drafting and shop courses are also useful since estimators must be able to review and understand blueprints and other design plans.
Though not required for the job, most employers of cost estimators in both construction and manufacturing prefer applicants with formal education (although very experienced construction professionals can qualify for employment without a bachelor's degree). In construction, cost estimators generally have bachelor's degrees in construction management, construction science, engineering, or architecture. Those employed with manufacturers often have degrees in physical science, business, mathematics, operations research, statistics, engineering, economics, finance, or accounting.
Many colleges and universities offer courses in cost estimating as part of the curriculum for an associate's, bachelor's, or master's degree. These courses cover subjects such as cost estimating, cost control, project planning and management, and estimating software.
The American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE) offers certificate programs in construction estimating, construction practices, civil sitework construction, construction project management, and other areas. To qualify for these certificates, students must take and pass a specified number of classes that varies by program. Contact the society for more information.
Other Education or Training
Several associations provide continuing education classes and webinars. For example, the ASPE offers online classes such as Introduction to Construction Estimating, Essential Construction Math, Construction Blueprint Reading, Estimating and Bidding, Construction Materials and Processes, Construction Equipment and Methods, and Oral and Written Communications. The International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association keeps its members up-to-date on current industry news, techniques, and trends through educational programs and conferences. AACE International also provides professional development opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Although it is not required, many cost estimators find it helpful to become certified to improve their standing within the professional community. Obtaining certification proves that the estimator has adequate job training and education. Information on certification procedures is available from organizations such as the American Society of Professional Estimators, AACE International, and the International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association. Those who become certified have met educational and experience requirements and passed an examination.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
To work as a cost estimator in the construction industry, you will likely need some experience before you start, which can be gained through an internship or cooperative education program.
Cost estimators usually have strong math and analytical abilities. They possess critical thinking skills and are able to envision a project from start to finish. Estimators are generally detail oriented, with considerable technical knowledge in their area of specialty. They work well with others, and are confident and assertive when presenting findings to engineers, business owners, and design professionals. In addition, cost estimators should have good time-management skills and be able to identify and troubleshoot potential pitfalls and delays that can impede a job.