The role of a cost estimator is critical to the financial success of a company. An estimator should be knowledgeable about all processes required to complete a project. He should also be current on potential costs of materials and equipment rental rates.
An estimator is responsible for determining how much a project would cost, how long the project would take to complete and how much revenue the project should generate. The estimator takes into account factors such as labor costs, material costs, equipment rental, manufacturing locations, facility costs and required permits and licensing. The estimator works closely with the project supervisor to make sure the project meets all financial and regulatory guidelines.
Two primary industries--construction and manufacturing--employ estimators. A construction estimator analyzes job plans, visits the job site, interviews the job supervisor and then presents a bid based on the data she has acquired. In manufacturing, a cost estimator is responsible for taking the ideas behind a new product and determining what the potential cost of the product would be based on the company's manufacturing costs. The company uses this information to establish wholesale and retail pricing for the product.
An estimator takes historical data into account when compiling his data. To get an idea of labor costs and equipment rentals that may be needed, a construction estimator may refer to previously completed projects that are similar to his current project. A manufacturing estimator is constantly referring to real labor costs and material costs for completed products to help him create an estimate for a product that has yet to be made.
The estimator is responsible for maintaining relationships with suppliers and equipment vendors. These relationships are used to keep track of current pricing and to negotiate better rates for long-term or large-scale projects. A construction estimator is responsible for maintaining the current union labor rates for the areas in which she works so her estimates always include current labor numbers.
Estimators remain involved in a project to help maintain the profit margin and to handle any changes in the original estimates. For example, if a construction estimator uses a rate that is incorrect for a rented piece of equipment, then it is the job of the estimator to determine where the error happened and to try to negotiate a better rate. The estimator is also responsible for creating cost-monitoring processes that allow the company to track profit or loss for each project.
Employers prefer that an estimator have a college degree in mathematics, architecture or engineering. An estimator should also be proficient in the use of a computer, as a range of computer software is used in the profession. Practical job experience as a laborer or labor supervisor in the industry would also be helpful to an estimator.
The salary range of construction estimators is $30,000 to $90,000 per year, depending on experience. Manufacturing estimators average between $33,000 to $94,000 per year, based on experience. On average, a cost estimator in any industry will reach the top income levels after about 20 years of working in the field.