Cost Estimator Job Descriptions, Average Salary, Interview Questions

What Does a Cost Estimator Do?

Cost estimators analyze and predict labor, material, and other costs to determine the cost of a project, product, or service. To create accurate and comprehensive cost projections, they use their knowledge of construction techniques, production processes, and materials pricing. A cost estimator’s main purpose is to help their clients determine whether a project is feasible and profitable.

They are responsible for the planning and budgeting of construction projects, product development, and other types of ventures, helping to ensure that resources are allocated efficiently and effectively.

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National Average Salary

Cost estimator salaries vary by experience, industry, organization size, and geography. To explore salary ranges by local market, please visit our sister site

The average U.S. salary for a Cost Estimator is:


Cost Estimator Job Descriptions

When it comes to recruiting a cost estimator, having the right job description can make a big difference. Here are some real world job descriptions you can use as templates for your next opening.

Example 1

We’re seeking a professional cost estimator to work full-time at [Your Company Name]. Here at [Your Company Name], we value the highest level of productivity, communication, and efficiency. The cost estimator will be required to assess the production value of consumer goods. This position will be mostly in-office, although occasional travel to a production line or factory assembly line may be required. A bachelor’s degree will be required for this position, and previous experience in the field or similar fields is a plus. [Your Company Name] is looking for someone who is able to successfully estimate costs at a high level while taking into consideration multiple factors and processes. Communication skills are also a must, and presentation to superiors is to be expected. If this position sounds of interest, please apply!

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Collect and analyze data
  • Prepare estimates for buildings, roads, bridges, and other construction projects
  • Read blueprints and construction documents
  • Suggest ways to save money
  • Meet with clients, architects, and engineers
  • Maintain records of estimated and actual costs

Education and experience

Cost estimators need to earn a high school diploma or equivalent. Employers prefer to hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree, ideally in a field such as construction management or engineering. Companies usually provide on-the-job training in industry-specific software, such as building information modeling (BIM) and computer-aided design (CAD). 

Required skills and qualifications

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Time-management skills and the ability to meet deadlines
  • Strong math and analytical skills to collect and interpret data
  • Ability to understand blueprints and contracts
  • Outstanding decision-making skills
  • Calm, professional demeanor
  • Keen attention to detail

Preferred qualifications

  • Four year degree in a related field
  • 2-3 years of experience in the estimating field or in a related area
  • Proficiency in computer skills including Microsoft Office suite
  • Proficient in utilizing estimating tools
  • Effective oral and written communication skills
  • Ability to work in a collaborative team environment

Example 2

Duties and responsibilities

  • Import plans from customers using company software, RFMS Measure
  • Take off plans in Measure
  • Analyze plan sets for quantities required to bid jobs
  • Compile bid quantities to Excel
  • Communicate with sales team and/or customers regarding pricing and material specifications
  • Generate Change Order requests if necessary before project begins
  • Gather pricing when needed
  • Follow-up on submitted bids
  • Review material usage on jobs
  • Log all job bids; create folders and sub-folders for all jobs
  • Research Materials Data Specification Sheets and installation information

Knowledge, skills, and abilities

  • Must have Microsoft Excel spreadsheet knowledge. Can create and maintain spreadsheets.
  • Ability to calculate figures associated with the industry, use measurement tools, ability to apply concepts such as fractions, percentages, ratios, and proportions to practical situations. Ability to read, analyze, and interpret general business periodicals, professional journals, technical procedures, or governmental regulations
  • Ability to effectively present information and respond to questions from groups of managers, clients, customers, and the general public
  • Must be able to handle multiple projects simultaneously
  • Ability to work with vendors, customers, and other employees
  • Must excel at working in a team environment
  • This position requires that the person be an organized individual, who is self-motivated, and can work independently
  • Must be able to manage multiple tasks and or priorities and easily adapt to changing situations

Example 3

Specific duties

  • Work with the Insurance industry to manage smooth claim handling, small to large, complex projects in the Property Restoration industry focusing on water, fire, and wind damage
  • Estimators serve as client-facing leaders, overseeing the day-to-day project relationships with Insurance companies
  • Provide accurate and timely estimates and bids to clients
  • Ensure payment information to the customer is presented in a timely fashion
  • Update notes daily on every project you have running in our job management program
  • Coordinate with the Project Manager’s initial project schedules and regularly maintain project schedules for submitting payment schedules
  • Keep track of all projects and bids that are under your guidance
  • Support Business Development activities (provide relevant input at a prospective client meeting, assist in project cost and schedule estimating, etc.)

Technical skills

  • Proficient knowledge of web-based software platforms
  • Utilize phone or tablet to upload documentation of loss with photographs and written descriptions
  • Microsoft Excel and Outlook are required
  • Xactimate experience required


  • Must be able to pass a drug test, background check, and have a valid driver’s license
  • Experience in the water and fire restoration industry is a plus, but not required
  • IICRC Certifications Preferred

Example 4


The Cost Estimator will prepare and or validate project cost estimates at the various stages of the project, will facilitate quantitative risk assessments for cost and schedule, and will actively be involved in project execution reviews.

  • Will be shadowing the Sr Estimator
  • Follow procedures and instructions for preparation and maintenance of project estimates, plans and schedules
  • Equipment Cost Estimates
  • Repairs estimates
  • Participate in Contractor’s cost estimate kick-off meetings to establish required deliverables, including formats and cost estimate review schedules
  • Maintain active engagement with Business Unit estimators during the project approval process and provide support during execution reviews and/or requests for supplemental funding
  • Work with Planning/Scheduling and Cost Control in the development of Work Breakdown Structures (WBS)
  • Monitor and review the cost estimate preparation process to ensure that proper methodology is be used
  • Ensure appropriate alignment between cost estimates, project schedules, execution strategies and contracting strategies
  • Facilitate Quantitative Risk Assessments to support the calculation of cost and schedule contingency
  • Estimate escalation cost based on Procurement guidelines and project schedules
  • Provide input to Contract Strategies
  • Facilitate the re-compilation of approved cost estimates to align with project WBSs and Contracting Strategies
  • Assist in the calculation of costs associated with change orders and/or trends
  • Ensure the integrity of and input data to the cost and quantity corporate database
  • Participate in Integrated Reviews during the project stage gate approval process
  • Track the success of all estimates and schedules for budget versus completion accuracy


  • Associate’s degree in Construction Management degree preferred
  • Minimum 5 years cost estimating or related experience
  • Needs to know how to estimate man hours when needed.
  • Computer knowledge (Microsoft programs)
  • Domestically and internationally mobile for business travel
  • Ability to work within a diverse cultural environment
  • Demonstrated interpersonal/teambuilding skills
  • Strong written and oral communication skills

Candidate Certifications to Look For

  • Certified Cost Professional (CCP). The certified cost professional certificate is an expert level certification that trains and assesses the efficiency of a cost estimator to ensure broad principles and total cost management are at the required skill level. This certification is an absolute must for any cost estimator who wants to increase their chance of success at both getting and excelling in a job. This certification is provided by AACE.
  • Certified Cost Estimator/Analyst (CCE/A). The Certified Cost Estimator and Analyst training and test are provided to let professionals and cost estimators certify their level of expertise through a written exam. This certificate is recognized and should be considered by any cost estimator.
  • Certified Construction Manager (CCM). Although the Certified Construction Manager program is not specifically engineered for a cost estimator, this certificate does expand on many of the common practices and methods used by a cost estimator, especially in the construction field and similar.

Sample Interview Questions

  • When is an example of a time you have correctly estimated a cost, and what methods did you use to achieve this estimation?
  • If you were asked to complete a cost estimation in less time than you were able to, what would be your response?
  • What skills do you believe a cost estimator needs to be successful?
  • What techniques do you use in order to ensure that all aspects of a project have been successfully accounted for in your cost estimation?
  • What is the most complex estimate you have created and were you successful in this estimate?
  • Tell me about the last time you had to track actual costs against the estimate on a project.
  • Do you have any experience with estimates reconciliation with clients? How did you resolve this?
  • What experience or certifications do you have that will be relevant to this role?

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