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How to Get a Job as a Cost Estimator

Much like other construction jobs, cost estimators must possess a strong set of analytical and technical skills. Critical thinking, attention to detail, time management and strong speaking and writing skills are also important. Wagner says it's not difficult to break into cost estimating, but applicants should keep two crucial, job-search elements in mind: location and business-activity level. "Much of the cost world is oriented to major projects, programs and industries," he says. "You are much more likely to find a junior cost position in those places where large industrial or government projects and industries are located – particularly new and growing projects." Wagner encourages applicants to hone in on industries or organizations that are in a build-up or growth phase. "These young and growing projects are where costing is a critical function in new developments and where the most opportunities can be found," he says.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility fair Average
Stress Level poor Above Average
Flexibility poor Below Average

What is the Job Like?

Cost estimators typically work full-time schedules. Due to a high volume of tight deadlines, overtime is a given. For support or subcontractor employees, Wagner says turnover (or movement from one employer to another) stays fairly high. "I would estimate someone who remains with the same firm of that type more than five years is in the minority," he explains. "This usually happens for good reason – the employee is hired away by someone who has seen their work and wants them on their team." Aside from these pressures, Wagner says the vast range of assignments is one of this career's great benefits. "For every program or project you estimate or analyze, you will probably have the opportunity to see, touch and even operate the things you are estimating," he says. "In my case, there are not many office-type jobs that will let you sit in the cockpit of a B-2 bomber or F-15 fighter, walk the wings of a C-17 transport or watch the launch of a Titan rocket."

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Last updated by Stephanie Steinberg.


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