how to become an estimator in construction

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Construction estimating is viewed as a very well paying job in the construction industry and it has a certain sense of security to it. So how do you become a construction estimator?

The interesting thing about the construction estimating profession is that there are no set qualifications.  It would be nice if you had an engineering degree but I know many very successful estimators with little more than a high school education.  It would be nice if you had 10 years of field experience but I know very successful estimators with none.

A lot of what you need to do to become an estimator will depend on what you want to estimate.  If you are looking for a job estimating carpentry or concrete work the requirements will be less demanding than if you want to estimate the cost of $100 million high rise towers or nuclear power plants.

Employers interviewing estimators will look for three (3) specific areas of credentials to satisfy: Education, Experience, and Presentation.

Education:  If you have a degree in construction engineering, civil engineering or architecture then you have a big advantage to start with.  If you don’t have a construction related degree then try to complete a Certificate Program in Construction Estimating.

The graphics to the right of this article represent the the courses that make up the Certificate in Construction Estimating.  You can achieve this certificate at SDSU, Bucks County Community College, American Society of Professional Estimators, and Northwest AGC.

Experience:  Either you have it or you don’t.  Field experience doing the type of work you will be estimating is very good to have.  Experience producing successful estimates is the gold standard.  If you don’t have experience then make darn sure you satisfy the other two requirements listed here (Education and Presentation).

Presentation of your professionalism is important on several levels.  The personality traits of good estimators are considered by some to be at least as important as education.  Estimators must have an eye for detail, they must understand the value of money, they must be competitive and they must have an aptitude for mathematics.  They must be analytical, adaptable, and technically oriented.  Estimators often meet with clients and company management so they need people skills too.

We hope this brief article helps to answer the question “how to becoming a construction estimator”.

Construction estimators analyze the costs of and prepare estimates on construction projects. They may specialize in estimating costs for civil engineering, architectural, structural, electrical and mechanical construction projects; or they may specialize in estimating costs for one construction trade in particular, such as electrical.

They are employed by residential, commercial and industrial construction companies and major electrical, mechanical and trade contractors. In some cases they may be self employed, and in smaller organizations, estimators may also perform other tasks.


As a Construction Estimator, your duties may include the following:

  • Prepare estimates of probable costs of materials, labour and equipment, and subcontracts for construction projects based on contract bids, quotations, schematic drawings and specifications
  • Advise on tendering procedures, examine and analyze tenders, recommend tender awards and conduct negotiations
  • Establish and maintain tendering processes
  • Set up cost monitoring and reporting systems and procedures
  • Prepare cost and expenditure statements and forecasts at regular intervals for the duration of a project
  • Prepare and maintain a directory of suppliers, contractors and subcontractors
  • Liaise, consult and communicate with engineers, architects, owners, contractors and subcontractors, and prepare economic feasibility studies on changes and adjustments to cost estimates
  • Manage and co-ordinate construction projects, and prepare construction progress schedules

Work Conditions

The standard workweek for construction estimators is 40 hours (8 hours a day, 5 days a week). As with many careers in construction, there are peak periods that will require you to work overtime. The number of additional hours you work each week depends on the construction sector and region you work in, and will vary from one job to the next.

Construction estimators work in offices, but spend some time on construction sites reviewing progress and meeting with project stakeholders. They work with construction supervisors and managers to ensure accurate and up-to-date reports.

As with all careers in the construction industry, safety is the top priority. Estimators are trained to work safely and wear personal protective equipment such as hard hats, gloves and steel-toed boots whenever they are on construction sites.

Training and Certification

The Canadian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (CIQS) is a good source of information on courses and training providers for this occupation. The institute offers training courses in construction estimating, and also awards (in conjunction with regional associations) the Professional Quantity Surveyor and the Construction Estimator Certified designations to estimators who meet their certification requirements.

The Canadian Construction Association awards qualified people with Gold Seal Certificates for several construction occupations, including the Gold Seal Certificate – Construction Estimator designation. For more information, visit

The American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE) is another great resource for those looking for information on training providers for this trade. ASPE also awards a certification in estimating to those who meet the requirements. For more information visit

Completion of a college program in civil or construction engineering technology is normally required, or several years of experience working as a qualified tradesperson in a construction trade.

Specific skill requirements include the following:

  • Prepare estimates of labour and material costs
  • Estimate pre-contract costs
  • Prepare and maintain a directory of suppliers and contractors
  • Read and interpret blueprints, drawings and specifications
  • Provide economic feasibility studies and preliminary estimates for proposed projects
  • Operate CADD systems

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