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How Do I Become a Construction Estimator?

I get that question a lot because construction estimating is viewed as a very well paying job in the construction industry and it has a certain sense of security to it.  It would seem that estimating could be a possible natural career progression for someone who has worked in the trades (carpenter, electrician, etc.) and is now getting to the stage of life where the tools are a bit heavier and the ladders several rungs taller.

The interesting thing about the construction estimating profession is that there are no set qualifications.  It would be nice if you had an engineering degree but I know many very successful estimators with little more than a high school education.  It would be nice if you had 10 years of field experience but I know very successful estimators with none.

A lot of what you need to do to become an estimator will depend on what you want to estimate.  If you are looking for a job estimating carpentry or concrete work the requirements will be less demanding than if you want to estimate the cost of $100 million high rise towers or nuclear power plants.

Employers interviewing estimators will look for three (3) specific areas of credentials to satisfy: Education, Experience, and how you present yourself.

Education:  If you have a degree in construction engineering, civil engineering or architecture then you have a big advantage to start with.  If you don't have a construction related degree then try to complete a Certificate Program in Construction Estimating.  

The graphics to the right of this article represents the the courses that make up the Certificate in Construction Estimating.  You can achieve this certificate at SDSU, Bucks County CC, American Society of Professional Estimators and CIWDC.  See registration options for more info.

Experience:  Either you have it or you don't.  Field experience doing the type of work you will be estimating is very good to have.  Experience producing successful estimates is the gold standard.  If you don't have experience then make darn sure you satisfy the other two requirements listed here (Education and Presentation).

How you Present Yourself is important on several levels.  The personality traits of good estimators are considered by some to be at least as important as education.  Estimators must have an eye for detail, they must understand the value of money, they must be competitive and they must have an aptitude for mathematics.  They must be analytical, adaptable, and technically oriented.  Estimators often meet with clients and company management so they need people skills too.

I hope this brief article helps to answer the question  you have posed about the path to becoming a professional construction estimator.

Visit the Bureau of Labor Statistic for more information about the estimating profession at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/cost-estimators.htm 

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