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An estimator (also known as a cost engineer) calculates how much it costs to supply products or services to a client. They basically do all the sums before building work can start.


Average salaries are in the region of £26,000.00 to £70,000.00. Salaries will vary depending on location / employer

Career Profile

An estimator (also known as a cost engineer) calculates how much it costs to supply products or services to a client. They basically do all the sums before building work can start.

What they do

Working in construction as an estimator involves weighing up all the information about the building work and deciding exactly how much money it will take to do what the customer wants. A detailed and accurate price list for everything needed on a construction project, big or small is then drawn up.

As with many other construction jobs, this is an extremely interesting career because estimators are in demand to work out the cost of building anything and everything. That includes houses, shopping centres and factories, as well as bridges, underground transport and motorways.

Their role includes: 

  • Adding up materials prices
  • Working out the costs for hiring heavy or specialist equipment
  • Calculating transport costs, fuel and labour

If they work within a specialist area, for example, an employee working within a shopfitting company, they may analyse tender documents, architects' drawings and bill of quantities to accurately estimate the cost of a shopfitting project including the associated supplemental costs and the expected profit.

Other costs that have to be built into an estimator's price list are: 

  • Risk assessments
  • Health and Safety requirements
  • Inflation 
  • Exchange rates
  • Projected timescales and money for any unforeseen events

Typical duties include: 

  • Researching prices
  • Collecting quotes
  • Checking what the client wants
  • Using computer software
  • Collecting quotes from suppliers and sub-contractors
  • Drawing up bids for work
  • Keeping an eye on projects to make sure costs stay in line with forecasts

Hours & Salary: 

  • Newly trained estimators can earn in the region of £18,000 - £22,000
  • Trained with experience estimators can earn in the region of £22,000 - £34,000
  • Senior, chartered or master estimators can earn in the region of £34,000 - £41,500

Salaries typically depend on location, employer and level of responsibility. Salaries and careers options also improve with chartered status.


 

Head to the Careers Explorer A-Z for more information on the whole range of construction roles available.

You can also take our Personality Quiz to find out which construction career is right for you.

Case Study

Tom - Assistant Estimator|01:05

Ben Taylor 

Ben Taylor is an estimator with The Gelder Group

 

It's my job to produce an accurate quotation for a specific construction project and this includes the following:

  • Analysing the form of contract and examining all the details, such as any clauses
  • Raising any queries when it is unclear what the client wants compiling and sending enquiries relating to the part of the contract we will subcontract out (asking other companies to work on our behalf to complete the work)
  • Creating a bill of quantities, which is basically a schedule of all works required to complete the project including all materials, labour and any plant such as diggers or earthmovers

  • Finding and working out the costs of the construction workers who will be employed on the project, and plant and materials such as bricks and steel beams

  • Visiting the construction site and working out costs for having offices, managing all our waste and setting up access roads

  • Presenting the tender (bid for work) to our management team to finalise our figures and identify any possible problems or risks or whether any further information is needed

  • Submitting the tender on deadline, including the contractor’s proposals, programmes and cash flows as requested by the client

  • Attending and presenting our tender proposals to the client if required

How did you get started?

I worked at a builder’s merchant initially as a construction management trainee, then as part of the key account sales team. I had good product knowledge but my overall construction knowledge was fairly limited. I was looking to further my career when I saw an advert for a trainee construction job as an estimator with a local construction company.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Each project is unique. Being an estimator gives you the opportunity to explore all aspects of construction and get involved in projects early. I enjoy working on my own for long periods of time so I can fully understand a specific project.

What skills do you need?

The ability to work unsupervised to a deadline possibly three or four weeks away. This requires good time management and being able to prioritise your workload. Ultimately you are responsible for taking in a huge amount of information, identifying potential issues and committing your company to a working for a fixed price, which can be quite stressful.

You need to be very well organised and able to do several tasks at once. You also need to be able to present and justify your work to senior managers, architects and clients. 

Proudest career moment?

Being promoted from a trainee to an estimator within two and a half years of starting at the company. It was a steep learning curve, which continues to this day, but I’m well suited to the role.

Where next for your construction career?

Taking on more senior responsibilities within an estimating department of a successful construction company.

Any advice on how to get into construction?

It’s a unique and complex industry with a wide variety of opportunities. If you put in the work your skills should always be in demand.

Take our Personality Quiz to discover which of the many jobs in the construction industry is right for you

Qualifications & Training

England & Wales

There are no set academic entry requirements to train as an estimator, but GCSEs (A*-C) in science, technology, English and maths are useful or their equivalent such as the Welsh Baccalaureate. An IT qualification is also good to have. Many people take on this role after first working in construction as a craft person, assistant technician or administrator.

You could also study for a BTEC HNC, HND or degree before looking for construction careers. Good subject areas are structural engineering, civil engineering or construction. Courses at this level include units that teach you contract tendering, estimating and buying. You can search for courses at the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website: www.ucas.com

An excellent way to start a career is by looking for construction apprenticeships with a building or construction engineering firm, then working up. To find an apprenticeship visit the Government's website here, or Careers Wales in Wales.

Your employer might want you to take more on-the-job qualifications. These could include an NVQ in Project Control Levels 3 and 4, NVQ in Construction Contracting Operations levels 3 and 4, and Certificate and Diploma in Site Management Level 4. They cover risk analysis, estimating, preparing cost budgets, organising resources, and contract and legal work.

With a Level 3 NVQ and several years’ experience, you can apply for membership of the Association of Cost Engineers. For further information see the website: www.acoste.org.uk

Scotland

You gain chartered status after working in construction for several years and following one of the routes approved by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Studying for construction qualifications such as a degree accredited by RICS followed by a period of supervised practical training (Assessment of Professional Competence).

If your degree is not RICS-accredited, you can do an accredited postgraduate qualification.

You can enter a job with some subjects at Standard grade or National 5 and Highers and then study part-time for a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND). This is accompanied by a period of supervised, structured, on-the-job training (Assessment of Technical Competence) as an Associate member of the RICS (AssocRICS).

Entry requirements for an HND are two Highers, and for a degree, four Highers. English and maths are preferred.

You usually need a driving licence and staff on construction sites must hold a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card or equivalent. You will need to pass a health and safety test to qualify for this scheme.

Please visit the surveyor general practice page of My World of Work for further information.

Want to find out more?

Try our Matching Service for work experience opportunities in your local area, with new opportunities being added on a regular basis. 

Looking for a vacancy?

Here are some construction vacancy websites you may find useful: 

Indeed 
Total Jobs
Reed

The number of jobs vacancies related to your preferred job role may vary daily, as these are external websites. Check regularly to see new opportunities as they are posted.

Career trends and forecasts

16,240 additional staff needed

The UK construction industry will need an additional 16,240 other construction professionals and technical staff (which includes estimators) to meet demand between 2017 - 2021, according to the latest Construction Skills Network research (LMI). The majority of the demand for these construction jobs will be in Scotland.

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