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What Does a Construction Estimator Do?

When it comes to constructing or designing a lab, or outfitting an industrial or commercial space, dozens of steps need to be completed before a construction project can begin, not least of which includes securing financial backing for the project. Before an investor will commit to funding a project or a bank will approve a loan, every detail of the project must be individually priced and added up to create an estimated total.

Estimates can be used to get approval for funding or may be part of the bidding process, but either way, being able to anticipate the cost of a project is vital to its successful completion. 

Although most construction companies build the same types of structures over and over again, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to pricing building projects. For each new project, a construction estimator takes the time to list every single cost, creating an estimate and setting a budget that needs to be strictly adhered to.

Throughout the process of building a project, an estimator will continue to track all purchases and associated work costs to ensure the project is completed without breaking the bank. At OnePointe Solutions, we have worked with countless construction estimators providing them with high quality, yet affordable industrial furniture that will meet the needs of the project without putting a damper on funds available.

Construction estimators have an important responsibility, both to the construction company they work for and for the clients funding the project. Most estimators are hired either full-time by a company or as independent contractors, and typically specialize in a specific field or industry.

A technical job that requires a keen eye for detail and extensive experience in the construction industry, skilled construction estimators can have long, successful, and lucrative careers. Interested in becoming a construction estimator?

Keep reading this guide to discover everything you need to know about the job and how you can qualify. 

Job Description: Construction Estimator

Construction estimators are tasked with the responsibility of determining all associated costs of a given construction project. Construction estimators may work in a specialized field, estimating and tracking only one part of a project, or they may be responsible for the project as a whole.

When a construction estimator estimates the potential cost of a full construction project, they often work from the ground up, listing every piece of equipment, every type of material, cost of labor, and more. Construction estimators provide preliminary estimates as well as during-construction financial tracking and management. 

Day-To-Day Responsibilities

The work of a construction estimator varies slightly from day to day, depending largely on the status of a project. In the early stages of a construction project, a construction estimator’s responsibilities will mostly be limited to the office.

Typically, the first step a construction estimator makes is to create a document called the “Scope of Work”. Scope documents include every detail of every step of the planned construction process, including instructions for specific types of materials approved based on budgetary considerations and design. 

Creating a “Scope of Work” can be a painstaking process, and requires plenty of knowledge of the construction process to do it correctly. Construction estimators must be familiar with virtually every aspect of building a structure since they’ll need to create a comprehensive list including everything from the smallest screws to the largest heavy machinery.

Completed Scope documents include a final estimate, and are the “financial blueprint” that helps to keep the project on budget. 

Additionally, construction estimators create a quantity takeoff, which features itemized descriptions of all materials required for the project. An estimator will not only need to list all required materials but will also need to include information on which specific products to purchase.

To do this, construction estimators must be familiar with the materials market and must be able to consider both quality and price in the process. 

In addition to doing research and creating bids/estimates, construction estimators spend plenty of time on site. Before any construction can begin, the estimator will need to visit the site to see if it will pose any environmental or practical challenges.

A site located on a hill, for example, may require specialized equipment to safely navigate the terrain. This is something a construction estimator will need to know and factor into their final Scope of Work. Once a construction project begins, construction estimators are responsible for tracking purchases and making adjustments.

In some cases, estimators will need to recommend alternative materials or change budgetary allocations for the sake of the project, so the ability to be flexible while still focusing on the overall budget is key. When you choose to work with us, at OnePointe Solutions we do our best to stick to your budget. Supplying you with free quotes for our industrial furniture and make recommendations to meet the needs of your project to give you peace of mind before you buy.

Most projects will accrue unexpected costs, which requires the estimator to do quick work to fit everything into the original budget. 

Workplace Environment

Construction estimators split their time between the office and various job sites, and often are required to juggle multiple projects at once. In the office, construction estimators perform research, contact vendors, and create documents estimating project costs.

Before construction begins, this work is largely hypothetical, but once the ground is broken, estimators have to make real-time adjustments and decisions on material and labor costs. The detailed work of creating financial estimates and tracking budgets can mean long hours of sitting still, using different types of software, and doing precise calculations. 

On an active construction site, an estimator may be working to assess special equipment or material needs, surveying the site, or consulting with workers to determine material needs. Sometimes required to work in harsh environmental conditions, construction estimators should be familiar with working on-site and comfortable spending long hours standing or walking. 

If you choose a career as a construction estimator, you can expect:

  • Long hours sitting or working at a computer
  • Extensive research and product comparisons
  • Reading plans, blueprints, and building code restrictions
  • Making quick decisions to address unexpected financial issues
  • Budget readjustments
  • Developing bids and estimates
  • Surveying land and construction sites

Qualifications to Become a Construction Estimator

Many opportunities for construction estimators exist, since sticking closely to a budget without sacrificing quality is key for any project. Not going over budget is never an option, and if a company wants to build a good reputation, they’ll be sure to never slap customers with unexpected charges.

Because of this, construction estimators are always in demand, so entering this field can be a lucrative career move. To become a construction estimator, you’ll need to meet the following qualifications:

Education

Since construction estimators work in a variety of manufacturing fields, there is no formal education standard required to qualify for a position. Some specialty trades, like carpentry, for example, may only require their construction estimators to have a high school diploma, so there is not always a need to seek higher education.

On the other hand, if you want to work in a more technical field, like automotive manufacturing or industrial construction, it may benefit you to earn an engineering degree. 

Additionally, because construction estimators have to predict future markets and material prices and create complicated budgets, a background in finance can come in handy. A construction estimator will need strong math skills, something that having a degree can help to back up.

In general, relevant education related to the field you wish to enter will always give you an upper edge, but it isn’t always necessary if you meet other important qualifications. If you want to go from high school to college, but plan to pursue a career as a construction estimator in the future, consider seeking a degree in construction management. 

Experience

Finished estimates may be used by construction companies as a client bid, so knowing how to get the most ‘bang for your buck’ is vital for every project. Going over budget is never an option, and can seriously damage the reputation of a construction company.

Because of this, construction estimators have to have intimate experience with the various steps of the construction process and will be best equipped if they have prior experience working on a job site. 

Most construction estimators begin working in some technical area of construction like plumbing or electrical, but construction estimators come from every area of the construction world. Having previous experience working on a construction site and seeing the process of a build from start to finish helps a construction estimator have a better understanding of the details that go into a project.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, getting as much experience in construction as possible will give you a boost. 

Certification

Not all construction estimators hold certifications, and not all hiring companies will require that their applicants be certified. However, like holding a college degree, being certified by a relevant institution can give you a leg up. Certifications are typically easier to earn than formal degrees, but still prove that you have taken the time to learn relevant skills.

Certifications from the American Society of Professional Estimators or the Association for the Advancement of Cost Estimating International are recommended for estimators seeking to advance their professional careers. 

Special Skills

While experience and education will take you far, becoming a construction estimator requires some specific skills. Heavy in math, research, and planning, estimators have an important and highly detailed job that must be done perfectly.

In addition to making a budget and purchasing predictions, construction estimators also have to make changes on the fly and react to unexpected financial barriers. Some special skills that will help to make you a more successful construction estimator include: 

  • Strong math skills including basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and techniques used by engineers and architects
  • Knowledge of market prices and trends
  • Strong knowledge of financial software and Microsoft Office Suite products
  • Strong typing skills
  • Research skills – an understanding of reliable resources and information
  • Knowledge of local building codes and restrictions
  • Ability to survey and assess building sites for special equipment and material needs
  • Ability to read, understand, and create blueprints, plans, and specific instructional documents
  • Experience and interest in construction
  • A keen eye for detail
  • Flexibility
  • Ability to work alone or with a team

Average Construction Estimator Salary & Benefits

Whether employed by various construction companies as an independent contractor, or in a full-time position with one company, construction estimators typically make between $60K and $100K, with most averaging around $78,000 per year plus the same benefits typically offered to mid-level management including paid leave, pension plans, full health insurance, and more.

The Path to Becoming a Construction Estimator

If you enjoy math, have an eye for detail, and are interested in working in the construction industry, you could be right for a job as a construction estimator! Now that you know a little bit more about what it takes to become one, it’s time to start thinking about your path to your dream career.

Here are the basic steps you’ll need to take if you want to become a construction estimator in any field: 

1. High School Diploma

No matter what type of construction estimator you become, you will need to have a high school diploma. If you left high school before graduating to gain work experience or for some other reason, you will need to obtain a GED before you will be considered for a position as a construction estimator. 

2. Optional Education

You don’t need to attend college to become a construction estimator, but a degree in a relevant field can help increase your chances of landing a position. Degrees in mathematics, engineering, finance, and construction management offer the most relevant experience. 

3. Gain Construction Experience

Working any job in construction will help prepare you for a job as a construction estimator since estimators need to be familiar with every step of the process. Experience on a job site will help to give you a better understanding of what it takes so you won’t be budgeting for a job you only understand in the hypothetical.

Most estimators work their way up to their position after years of working in construction, often holding various positions to help themselves gain a more universal understanding of the process. 

4. Apply!

Once you feel confident knowing the various steps of the construction process, it is time to put yourself out there and apply. If you have been working in construction, you may be able to apply with companies that already know and trust you, increasing your chances of landing a contract position as your first estimator role.

Once you have completed a few contracts, you can start applying to permanent, full-time estimator positions. 

5. Get Certified

After you have spent some time working as a construction estimator, you may want to gain additional certifications to solidify your experience and expertise. You can take this step at any point in your career, but after your first few successful contracts, it’s the best time to get started. 

Need a Help Designing Your Industrial Facility?

Give us a call at (866) 222- 7494 to speak to one of our industrial designer to get started. They will provide you with free quotes, drawings and consultations for our custom industrial furniture to give you all you need to help access your budget for your next project.

Questions? Concerns? Want to start today? Get in touch. 866.612.7312

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