Estimator Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: June 22, 2022

An Estimator, or Project Estimator, is responsible for deciding the projected time frame needed to complete a project and additional factors like labor needs, materials, budgets and potential setbacks. Their duties include communicating with personnel and contractual professionals or vendors, using computer software to weigh production risks or compile reports and making presentations to project leaders outlining their suggestions for upcoming projects.

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Estimator duties and responsibilities

Estimators work closely with many other professionals including consultants, contractors, accountants and operations personnel to provide the most accurate and comprehensive financial and budget analysis for their employers. Their duties often include:

  • Analyzing requirement documents, blueprints and project plans to gain a thorough understanding of the project
  • Determining what factors of production will influence the cost of a service or product
  • Preparing material estimates and cost estimates for the product or service
  • Creating labor estimates for any project
  • Developing and maintaining relationships with company vendors and contractors
  • Managing bids from vendors and contractors
  • Using bid data to prepare detailed a cost analysis
  • Presenting prepared estimates to management and other stakeholders
  • Compiling and recording actual costs
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What does an Estimator do?

Estimators typically work for corporations across industries, especially in construction services, to help leaders determine what they need to see a project through to completion. They work closely with contractors and team members to evaluate relative costs or potential risks and conclude whether they can complete a project within the time frame and budget that the client wants. Their job is to perform mathematical calculations and get quotes from vendors to estimate the costs needed for labor and materials. 

They may also be responsible for reevaluating project needs throughout the course of the project to adjust to environmental restraints or budget cuts.

Estimator skills and qualifications

Estimators use a variety of technical and soft skills to support the profitable operations of a company, including:

  • Proficiency in mathematics, statistics and data analysis
  • Excellent analytical skills and attention to detail
  • Report writing and strategic planning skills
  • Familiarity with analyzing requirement data to develop material and cost estimates for large projects
  • Expertise with analytic tools, such as spreadsheets and database managers
  • Ability to read and interpret technical documents
  • Excellent written communication and interpersonal skills
  • Exceptional time management skills

Estimator salary expectations

An Estimator earns an average of $68,920 per year. Salary may depend on the candidate’s level of education, experience and geographical location.

Estimator education and training requirements

Estimators must have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, finance, accounting, statistics or another related field. Candidates with degrees and training in engineering management or project management with relevant work experience may also be qualified for the role.

Common training requirements include the Certified Professional Estimator, awarded by the American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE). Estimators with five or more years of work experience are eligible to enroll in this training program. Estimators with less than five years of experience may enroll in the Associate Estimating Professional certification program. Both certifications demonstrate a candidate’s refined skills and expertise in the field.

Estimator experience requirements

Entry-level Estimator candidates should have at least one year of experience estimating costs in a relevant industry. Some entry-level candidates may have other finance, cost accounting or other project management related experience. Other candidates who have three or more years of experience may be able to start work with little-to-no additional training. Those who have five or more years of experience may have leadership potential and be ready for more specialized tasks. 

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Frequently asked questions about Estimators


What is the difference between an Estimator and a Quantity Surveyor?

Estimators and Quantity Surveyors both work to assist corporations and construction companies in assessing the needs of a particular project. They differ in the types of projects they work on and their involvement at each stage of a project. For example, Quantity Surveyors typically work on large-scale projects like the construction of damn, bridges or business parks. In contrast, Estimators typically work on smaller-scale projects like that range from building a home to developing a new form of software or product. 

Another difference is that Quantity Surveyors stay involved throughout a project’s life cycle, whereas Estimators usually perform their job duties before the start of the project.


What are the daily duties of an Estimator?

On a typical day, an Estimator starts by checking their email and phone messages to respond to time-sensitive messages from clients and vendors. Throughout the day, they evaluate multiple projects, determining the materials and labor needed to complete each project. They get quotes from Vendors and Contractors to make calculations to find out the total estimated cost of a project. Estimators also participate in meetings with Project Leaders and team members to discuss potential risks and budgeting needs.

During downtime in their office, Estimators compile reports outlining everything their client needs to complete a project within a set time frame, including the cost.


What qualities make a good Estimator?

A good Estimator has an investigative nature that drives their research to determine the amount of money, labor and tools necessary to complete a project. They have excellent interpersonal communication, allowing them to connect with and maintain business relationships with Contractors, freelance professionals or Vendors. Further, a good Estimator values the expertise of others and speaks with Project Managers and industry professionals to help determine relative costs or labor needs for a project. A good Estimator also enjoys mathematics and has experience performing statistical calculations to aid their decision-making.


Who does an Estimator report to?

Estimators typically report to the Project Manager to provide them with assistance in weighing the potential risks and costs associated with taking on a particular project. Freelance Estimators may report directly to the client. For example, an Estimator reports to a Property Owner looking to transform a piece of land into an apartment complex.

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