What Is the Best Degree Path to Becoming a Cost Estimator?

If you have a tendency to pay close attention to details and want a career that allows you to flex your analytical and technical skills, consider working as a cost estimator. This career pays well above the median salary for all professions, is growing rapidly and could be yours. You just need the right education.

The Role of a Cost Estimator

Whether a company manufactures goods, constructs buildings or provides professional services, keeping abreast of costs – and decreasing them wherever practical – is a constant concern. Cost estimators are business professionals with the skills to accurately predict the financial, time, materials and labor cost of a project. Though cost estimators can work in a variety of industries, most work in construction in some fashion, including in the construction of buildings, building equipment and foundation construction. Another industry that employs a large percentage of cost estimators is manufacturing.

A Range of Undergraduate Degree Options

A bachelor’s degree is your key to a satisfying career as a cost estimator, but you will have to make some major decisions about what to study. Employers in the construction industries often prefer degrees like engineering, building science or construction management. For manufacturing companies, a degree in mathematics, statistics or physical sciences might be a better choice. Other number-focused fields, like business, accounting and finance, can also prepare you for a career in cost estimation in a wide variety of industries. The specific major listed on your degree matters less than the skills you developed during your academic career, especially your mathematics skills.

In addition to a college degree, you will need to attain real-world work experience. Often, this comes in the form of on-the-job training once an employer hires you. You will need to learn how that specific company operates and what cost-estimating software it uses, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. If you already have work experience in your field, such as experience as an electrician or plumber for the construction industry, this experience can give you an advantage in your job search. If you don’t have experience yet, you can take advantage of internships and cooperative education programs during your studies to gain that experience.

There are plenty of benefits to a career in estimating business costs. Cost estimators earn a median salary of $58,860 per year, well above the $34,750 median annual wage for all occupations, according to the BLS. They also enjoy a highly positive job outlook, with the BLS predicting opportunities for cost estimators to increase 26 percent over just a decade.  These and other benefits, like a low unemployment rate of just 1.9 percent, led U.S. News & World Report to rank the career 23rd on its 100 Best Jobs list, number-one among construction jobs and 11th among the best science, mathematics, engineering and technology (STEM) jobs. If you have the interest and the ambition to get the right education, this sought-after job could be yours.

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