Cost estimators
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Overview
Cost estimators collect and analyze data in order to estimate 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.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for cost estimators are expected to grow by 11%, and should have about 24,500 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
The likelihood of autmoation for ${title} is near the middle of all careers' likelihoods.
Workforce size
Cost estimators, with 217,900 workers, form a larger workforce than 80% of careers.
Education
Only 36% of cost estimators have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by cost estimators
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
More cost estimators have bachelor's degrees than 61% of other careeers.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for cost estimators is higher than 73% of all other jobs' middle salaries. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most cost estimators.
This job's median $64KAll jobs' median $39K$64K$38K20142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 14% of cost estimators -- that's a smaller percentage than 71% of other jobs.
Gender of cost estimators
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For cost estimators, the median men's salary was 29% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 8% of cost estimators are minority, and 9% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of cost estimators
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (9%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Cost Estimators per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 48% of cost estimators, and 68% have company-sponsored health insurance (21% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for cost estimators
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of cost estimators who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (81%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do cost estimators earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for cost estimators, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for cost estimators compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for cost estimators (BLS Salary Data)
$64K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$64K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. We first show the full salary distribution for all cost estimators, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for cost estimators compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for cost estimators (ACS Salary Data)
$60K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$60K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where cost estimators work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Cost estimators (ACS)
Private for-profit (90.4%)
Private not-for-profit (0.5%)
Local government (0.5%)
State government (0.3%)
Federal government (0.4%)
Self-employed incorporated (5.1%)
Self-employed not incorporated (2.7%)
Working without pay (0.1%)
Distribution: Salaries of cost estimators by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$60K$61K$57K$45K$62K$102K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000$120,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of cost estimators by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$64K$75K$64K$65K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000State governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for cost estimators

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$66K$31K$63K$66K$55K$63K$65K$59K$46K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
05K10K15K20KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Cost estimators and gender

With 14% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 71% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
14%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Cost estimators
Men (86%)
Women (14%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median (middle) salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%, and the difference for cost estimators tops that, with the median salary for men 29% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$48K$62K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Cost estimators have one of the higher percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase for the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job even higher than that for 77% of other jobs.

29%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of cost estimators

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. There is a smaller percentage of minority cost estimators than for 97% of other careers. As with minority workers, there is also a smaller percentage of foreign-born workers in this career than in most other careers.

Race/origin of cost estimators
White (90% )
Asian (3% )
Other (2% )
Black (2% )
Multiracial (2% )
American Indian (1% )
Hispanic (0% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
8%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
9%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for cost estimators by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$50K$51K$54K$56K$61K$62K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KOtherAmerican IndianBlackMultiracialWhiteAsian
Distribution: Salaries for cost estimators by nativity
$59K$60K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KAll foreign-bornAll native citizens

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by cost estimators

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), cost estimators typically hold a bachelor's degree.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as cost estimators as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for cost estimators.

Education attained by cost estimators
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for cost estimators

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

Construction cost estimators typically need a bachelor’s degree in an industry-related field, such as construction management or engineering. Manufacturing cost estimators typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, business, or finance.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for cost estimators? Below we see the distribution of cost estimators salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as cost estimators, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$48K$56K$56K$56K$66K$75K$85K$0$50K$100K$150KNone (3%)High School (21%)Some College (29%)Associate's Degree (11%)Bachelor's Degree (31%)Master's Degree (4%)Professional Deg/Doct (0%)
Bachelor's degree pathways
College majors held by cost estimators

This table shows the college majors held by people working as cost estimators. Select any degree to see detailed information. We are able to connect careers to degrees using the American Community Survey (ACS), and their degrees are defined a little differently from our programs, which are based on standard CIP classifications. Therefore, selecting some degrees will lead to a selection of CIP-level programs from which to choose.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Degree
Select any title to learn more about that degree
Percentage of Cost estimators with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
11.2%
$0$200K$70K
8.9%
$0$200K$83K
5.6%
$0$200K$63K
4.0%
$0$200K$66K
3.7%
$0$200K$80K
3.0%
$0$200K$67K
2.2%
$0$200K$72K
2.2%
$0$200K$60K
2.0%
$0$200K$73K
1.9%
$0$200K$53K
1.8%
$0$200K$97K
1.5%
$0$200K$56K
1.3%
$0$200K$63K
1.2%
$0$200K$60K
The link between degrees and careers
The link between degrees and careers

With the following "sankey" diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as cost estimators, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. This visualization links fields of studies and careers, suggesting both similar careers and options for degrees. The full list of bachelor's degrees held by cost estimators given in the previous section reminds us that there are many paths to these careers beyond what we can summarize here.

Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for cost estimators

What jobs will most cost estimators hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of cost estimators reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Cost estimatorsManagers (specialized areas)Construction managersRetail salespersonsConstruction laborersChief executives and legislatorsJanitors and building cleanersService sales representativesClaims adjusters and insurance appraisersCivil engineersWholesale and manufacturing sales representativesChemical techniciansGeneral office clerks
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for cost estimators

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 5 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as cost estimators as well as 1% of respondents after working as cost estimators. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Lateral-move careers for cost estimators
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives
197,500
$0$200K$61K
Service sales representatives
131,900
$0$200K$57K
Managers (specialized areas)
84,000
$0$200K$72K
Construction managers
34,800
$0$200K$66K
Chief executives and legislators
24,000
$0$200K$96K
Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for cost estimators: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as cost estimators? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of cost estimators surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for cost estimators
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Customer service representatives
373,800
$0$200K$32K
1.2%
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives
197,500
$0$200K$61K
1.5%
First-line supervisors of retail sales workers
171,800
$0$200K$39K
1.5%
Service sales representatives
131,900
$0$200K$57K
3.4%
Managers (specialized areas)
84,000
$0$200K$72K
4.5%
First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers
70,600
$0$200K$56K
1.6%
Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers
52,700
$0$200K$39K
2.0%
First-line supervisors of non-retail sales workers
39,600
$0$200K$59K
1.4%
Construction managers
34,800
$0$200K$66K
2.6%
Office and administrative support workers
30,900
$0$200K$40K
1.0%
Cost estimators
24,500
$0$200K$60K
50.6%
Chief executives and legislators
24,000
$0$200K$96K
3.8%
No occupation
4.7%
Read about cost estimators
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

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 reduce 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 price products appropriately.

Estimators analyze production processes to determine how much time, money, and labor a project needs. Their estimates account for many factors, 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 costs of design choices. They often consult 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 buildings, roads, and other construction projects. They may calculate the total cost of building a bridge or commercial shopping center, or they may calculate the cost of just one component, 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 costs of developing, producing, or redesigning a company’s goods or services. For example, a cost estimator working for a home appliance manufacturer may determine a new dishwasher’s production costs, allowing managers to make production decisions.

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

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of cost estimators? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Analytical skills
Cost estimators consider and evaluate different construction and manufacturing methods and options to determine the most cost-effective solution that meets the required specifications.
Communication skills
Cost estimators write comprehensive reports, which often help managers make production decisions.
Detail oriented
Cost estimators must pay attention to details because minor changes can greatly affect the overall cost of a project or product.
Math skills
Cost estimators calculate labor, material, and equipment cost estimates for construction projects. They use software, such as spreadsheets and databases, and they need excellent math skills to calculate these estimates accurately.
Time-management skills
Cost estimators often work on fixed deadlines, so they must plan in advance and work efficiently.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for cost estimators
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) salary for cost estimators was higher than 73% of all other jobs' middle salaries. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $64KAll jobs' median $39K$66K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for cost estimators are anticipated to grow by 11% over the next decade; only 23% of jobs are predicted to grow more.

The projected employment for cost estimators is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

20002010202020300100,000200,000300,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most cost estimators? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as cost estimators. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Cost Estimators per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
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0.00.51.01.52.02.5
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where cost estimators earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for cost estimators compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for cost estimators.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Median salary ratio: Cost Estimators to all workers (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which cost estimators earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.00.51.01.52.0
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Cost estimators (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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