The role of an Estimator

Researching and costing a building or service to win a contract

Known in the industry as either an Estimator or Cost Planner, but whichever term is used they work out how much it costs to supply a building or services to a client.

They become involved in a project in its early stages, often whilst in competition with other companies. They can be the difference between a company winning and losing a project.

What does an Estimator do?

  • Finding out what the client wants.
  • Researching materials, equipment and labour costs.
  • Gathering quotes from sub contractors and suppliers.
  • Assessing the levels of risk on a project.
  • Analysing company data, exchange rates and prices using software packages.
  • Preparing and submitting quotations for work.
  • Helping with bids for new contracts and supporting buying activities.
  • Monitoring the stages of a project to make sure that costs are kept in line with forecasts.

What makes a good Estimator?

Estimators must be self starters, good forward planners and are often required to make judgements/assessments in relation to budget costs from limited information. As an estimator you would work closely with other professionals including construction managers, planners and design teams, so team working skills are essential.

How do I become an Estimator?

To become an estimator, you need a minimum of:

  • 5 GCSEs (A-C Grade) or equivalent including maths (it’s also useful if you’ve taken subjects such as science, law, geography, information technology or design technology).
  • A BTEC in Building Studies, Building Engineering or Building Management or a HNC / HND / Degree in Quantity Surveying / Construction Management / Civil Engineering (including an industrial placement). Courses at this level include units covering contract tendering, estimating and buying.
  • A minimum of three years' experience of managing elements of construction projects.

You would normally move into estimating work after gaining some industry experience as an estimating or surveying assistant.

To search for colleges and universities offering these courses please see the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Many universities in the UK run courses in Quantity Surveying.

The first year often contains a number of elements shared with other construction related courses such as construction management, building studies, building engineering, engineering management and building technology. Within the course you will learn all about the management and the practicalities of it, whilst studying the intricacies of economics, cost accounting and computer systems.

Information technology is increasing with managers working on site and in the office so building up skills in this area is vital.

To develop your management skills, you will be expected to take on project work in small groups and get a feel for working in teams and communicating clearly and effectively.

Students often find out more about the role of a manager by doing some industrial experience as a part of the course. Industrial placements are a compulsory component linked to a subject option or piece of coursework.