what is an estimator?

An estimator determines the costs involved in undertaking a project before its inception. For instance, in a large construction project, an estimator uses the drawings and specifications to determine the total expenses for the building. When bidding for a contract, a cost planner estimates the expenses for the project and the best quote.

As an estimator, you will collaborate with engineers, architects and suppliers to arrive at estimates. When coming up with a project's cost analysis, a cost planner involves all the aspects relevant to the business, including overheads, contractor's fees and timelines.

what does an estimator do?

After coming up with a budget, you need to provide recommendations for reducing the costs and ensuring timely completion of the project. Sometimes, you are in charge of bidding and finding the best materials at pocket-friendly prices. When a project commences, you keep track of the actual costs and compare them with the estimates.

Estimators often work in construction and manufacturing industries, but they can also work in various engineering firms and other business sectors. To succeed in the profession, you need exceptional analytical skills, financial acumen and maths aptitude. These skills help you avoid errors and provide accurate estimates for a project.

Would working as an estimator suit your analytical and maths skills? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in an estimator role.

estimator jobs

average estimator salary

According to our salary guide, as an estimator, your starting salary can vary greatly depending on your location. Starting salaries can range from around $50,000, to an average of $70,000. An experienced estimator can even earn up to $95,000 per year.

Toronto and Calgary are the two most dynamic markets for estimators in Canada. The opportunities offered by these two cities are largely due to the success of the manufacturing and oil and gas industries.

what factors affect your salary as an estimator?

As an estimator, various factors influence your compensation packages. The internal factors that affect your pay include your academic qualifications and work experience. When you acquire additional transferable skills, you can boost your earnings. Certifications show your competency, which translates to better pay. Work experience also improves your prospects and salary due to the skillset you bring to the table.

External factors like location and company impact your pay scale. For instance, a company's size determines the available resources and how much they are willing to spend on salaries. A large organization with an unlimited budget can pay more than a smaller business. Urban locations and cities like Toronto also pay more due to the high cost of living compared to smaller towns.

download our salary guide

types of estimators

Cost planners are classified based on the employers. Some of the types of estimators include:

  • client's estimator: as an estimator for a client, you assist them in making an investment decision for a project. You evaluate the costs at the conceptual stage and help them negotiate the contracts, and introduce cost control measures.
  • contractor's cost estimator: when you work for a contractor, you approximate project costs and provide the information needed for a bid. That means you should understand the project's labour, equipment and materials before estimating costs. You can use the contractor's database to determine the suppliers they need for a project and the discount prices available.
  • engineer's estimator: when you work for an engineer, you create a budget for a project, and the engineer presents it to the client. Sometimes, you have to evaluate alternative construction methods that are budget-friendly.
woman and man working together
woman and man working together

working as an estimator

Want to find out what the daily life of an estimator looks like? Read on for details on the day-to-day tasks and the work environment.


estimator skills and education

To become an estimator in Canada, you typically need a combination of education and practical experience. The specific educational requirements may vary depending on the employer and the type of estimator role, but here are the general educational pathways to become an estimator in Canada:

  • post-secondary education: many estimators in Canada hold a post-secondary degree or diploma in a related field. the most common educational backgrounds for estimators include:
    • civil engineering: a degree or diploma in civil engineering can be highly relevant for construction estimators. It provides a strong foundation in engineering principles and construction methods.
    • construction management: a degree or diploma in construction management often includes coursework related to cost estimation, project management, and construction processes.
    • quantity surveying: quantity surveying programs focus on cost estimation, measurement of quantities, and procurement. This specialized field is particularly relevant for estimators in construction and engineering.
    • architectural technology: some estimators may have a background in architectural technology, which provides knowledge of building design and construction techniques.
    • mathematics or business: in some cases, individuals with degrees in mathematics, business, or related fields may also become estimators, especially if they acquire additional relevant skills and experience.
  • apprenticeship: in addition to formal education, some individuals become estimators through apprenticeships or on-the-job training. This is more common in industries like manufacturing or small-scale contracting, where practical experience is highly valued.
  • certifications: while not always mandatory, obtaining certifications can enhance your qualifications as an estimator. For example, you may consider pursuing certifications from professional organizations like the Canadian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (CIQS) or the American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE). These certifications demonstrate your expertise and commitment to the field.

skills and competencies

Aside from academic qualifications, you need these soft skills:

  • mathematical prowess: since your job is to estimate costs, you spend most of the time doing complex calculations. An aptitude for maths will help you calculate price discrepancies when the project begins. You also need strong maths skills to estimate the costs of labour and materials and find affordable alternatives.
  • time management: as an estimator, you are in charge of determining the timeframe of a project. Hence, you need to ensure the project's milestones are met on time. Effective time management also prevents additional costs.
  • attention to details: as an estimator, you should pay attention to minor details in blueprints and reports that can affect the project costs. For instance, groundwork may seem insignificant during planning, but it increases expenses. Being detail-oriented also ensures you don't leave out any materials or equipment that impact the project cost.
  • communication skills: estimators work with various professionals, from architects to contractors and factory managers. Communication skills help you communicate clearly with the stakeholders. During bidding for contracts or negotiating with suppliers, you need negotiation skills to get the best deals.

FAQs about working as an estimator

FAQs about working as an estimator


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