Cost estimators collect and analyze data in order to assess 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 cut 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 to price products appropriately.

Estimators analyze production processes to determine how much time, money, and labor a project needs. Their estimates account for many things, 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 price of design choices. They often check 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 building, road, and other construction projects. They may calculate the total cost of constructing a bridge or commercial shopping center, or they may calculate the cost of just one part, 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 expense of developing, producing, or redesigning a company’s goods or services. For example, an estimator working for a home appliance manufacturer may determine a new dishwasher’s production costs, aiding managers in making decisions about its assembly.

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

Work Environment

Cost estimators held about 212,100 jobs in 2021. 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          5

Cost estimators work mostly in office settings, 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.

Education and Training

Cost estimators typically need a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation, although workers with several years of experience in construction sometimes qualify in that industry without a degree.


Employers generally prefer to hire candidates who have a bachelor’s degree.

Construction cost estimators typically need a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as construction or engineering. Manufacturing cost estimators typically need a degree in business or finance.


Most cost estimators receive on-the-job training, which may include instruction in cost estimation techniques and software and in building information modeling (BIM), computer-aided design (CAD), or other industry-specific software.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some employers prefer that construction cost estimators, particularly those without a bachelor’s degree, have work experience in the construction industry. Some construction cost estimators become qualified solely through extensive work experience.

Personality and Interests

Cost estimators typically have an interest in the Persuading, and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a cost estimator, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Cost estimators should also possess the following specific qualities:

Analytical skills. Accurately evaluating detailed specifications is crucial to a cost estimator’s success. For example, a cost estimator must determine how to minimize costs without sacrificing quality.

Detail oriented. Cost estimators must pay attention to small details because such details may have a large impact on a product’s overall cost.

Technical skills. Detailed knowledge of industry processes, materials, and costs are vital to estimators. In addition, they should be able to use specialized computer programs to calculate equations and handle large databases.

Time-management skills. Because cost estimators often work on fixed deadlines, they must plan their work in advance and work efficiently and accurately.

Writing skills. Cost estimators must be able to write detailed reports. Often, these reports determine whether or not contracts are awarded or products are manufactured.


The median annual wage for cost estimators was $65,170 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,880, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $115,690.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for cost estimators in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Heavy and civil engineering construction         $80,510
Construction of buildings 76,450
Specialty trade contractors 69,200
Manufacturing 62,570
Automotive repair and maintenance 60,420

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

Job Outlook

Employment of cost estimators is projected to decline 2 percent from 2021 to 2031.

Despite declining employment, about 18,500 openings for cost estimators are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire. 


Cost estimation software is improving the productivity of these workers, requiring fewer estimators to do the same amount of work. This will limit employment growth of cost estimators.

However, there will continue to be some demand for these workers because companies need accurate cost projections to ensure that their products and services are profitable.

For More Information


Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

I would like to cite this page for a report. Who is the author?

There is no published author for this page. Please use citation guidelines for webpages without an author available. 

I think I have found an error or inaccurate information on this page. Who should I contact?

This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. On this site, you can take the Career Personality Profiler assessment, the Holland Code assessment, or the Photo Career Quiz.

Get Our Newsletter