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Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service


The Work

As an estimator or cost engineer, your job would be to work out how much it costs to supply products or services to a client. You would normally work for a manufacturing, engineering or construction company.

Part of your job would be to research and assess information from a variety of sources in order to prepare accurate estimates. Other duties include:

  • finding out what the client wants
  • researching materials, equipment and labour costs
  • collecting quotes from materials suppliers and sub-contractors
  • planning job timescales
  • 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.

In a larger company, you might work as part of a team and have responsibility for one area such as labour or materials. You would work closely with other professionals including construction managers, engineers and buyers.

Hours and Environment

You would work between 37 and 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Overtime may be necessary to meet deadlines.

Your job would be mainly office-based, with some travel to meet clients on engineering or construction sites. You would normally wear protective safety clothing when on site.

Skills and Interests

  • excellent maths and IT skills
  • good problem-solving skills
  • the ability to pay close attention to detail
  • excellent communication and presentation skills
  • project management skills
  • business awareness
  • an understanding of the importance of data confidentiality
  • the ability to work on your own and as part of a team
  • an organised approach to work and the ability to meet deadlines
  • an awareness of external factors such as regulations, price trends and exchange rates.

You may also need an understanding of engineering or architectural drawings and principles, as well as a detailed knowledge of manufacturing or construction processes and costs.


You would normally move into estimating work after gaining some experience within the same industry as an administrator, craftsperson, technician or surveying assistant.

You could also study for a BTEC HNC, HND or degree before looking for work, in a subject area like structural engineering, civil engineering or construction. Courses at this level include units covering contract tendering, estimating and buying. To search for courses, visit the UCAS website.

You may be able to start your career on an Apprenticeship scheme with a building or engineering firm and work your way up. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. For more information on Apprenticeships, visit

Contact SEMTA or Construction Skills for information about estimating in engineering or construction.


Once you start working, you would normally receive on-the-job training. Your employer may encourage you to take one or more of the following qualifications:

  • NVQ in Project Control levels 3 and 4
  • NVQ in Construction Contracting Operations levels 3 and 4
  • Certificate and Diploma in Site Management Level 4.

The awards include units covering risk analysis, estimating, preparing cost budgets, organising resources, and contract and legal work.

The Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) has details of the Project Control qualification on its website.

With a level 3 NVQ and several years experience, you could apply for membership of the Association of Cost Engineers (ACostE). You can find membership information on the AcostE website, as well as details of private training providers that offer various professional development courses.


You would find most opportunities in industries like light and heavy engineering, processing, power, transport and construction.

With experience, you could be promoted to project team leader then estimating department manager. Promotion may also be possible to more senior roles, such as incorporated or chartered cost engineer. In a larger firm, you may have the option to work on overseas contracts.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading: (links open in new window)

Engineering Jobs
Construction Jobs Network

We do not accept responsibility for the content of external sites.

Annual Income

  • Starting salaries can be between 18,000 and 22,000 a year.
  • With experience and qualifications, this can rise to between 25,000 and 40,000.
  • Estimators with managerial responsibilities can earn up to 65,000 a year.

Salary packages could include a company car and performance-related benefits.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.


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