Learn how to become a construction estimator, how much estimators make, what it takes to be an estimator, and more.
If you’re interested in how to become a construction estimator, or if you’re wondering -“how much do estimators make?” or “do I need a degree to estimate?” you’re not alone. It’s a pretty popular profession, and for good reason.
So here’s the deal…
We’re going to try and point you in the right direction and give you some help to get started.
Sound good? Read on…
Oh, and if you’re eager to begin learning, we have a course on the basics of construction estimating- click here.
First thing’s first…why would you want to become a construction estimator?
And seriously, with the invention of all this new estimating software for construction, along with all the estimating apps available for download, is this position even needed anymore?
Definitely. And here’s why you’d want to consider this position…
First, it can come with a pretty good salary. We’ll talk about this more below, but yeah – you can make pretty good money.
Second, there’s an increased need for construction professionals. If you haven’t heard yet, the industry has a pretty big shortage of professionals, and good men and women are hard to come by. Here’s some industry trends to watch in the coming year or two. And if you really like numbers (after all, you do want to be an estimator right?) you can view these current employment statistics put out by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Finally, you don’t need higher education. Know what that means? If you work hard, apply yourself, and really pour yourself into it- you can be an estimator. No college debt required! We love that, and I’m guessing you do too 🙂 It’ll require some good ol’ fashioned hard work, maybe starting out in a lower position at a company that’s willing to train you (like an apprenticeship), but you can do it. Seriously.
Convinced this job is for you? OK- then how do you become an estimator?
How to become a construction estimator: 3 ways. (And how to be the right person for the job).
Here you go, neat and listed out just for you:
#1) Apply directly for the position, out the gate.
It might seem obvious, or too good to be true, but it’s not. There’s a number of commercial roofing companies, commercial construction companies, and more that are willing to train the right person.
Know what that means?
It’s more important to be the “right person” than it is to have education, but be the wrong person.
When we say that companies are willing to hire, train, and develop the right person to become a construction estimator- we mean someone who is bright (not necessarily book smart, but able to learn), a hard worker, honest, and a go-getter. We’re talking about the kind of person who goes home from work, and studies more on their own to learn faster. The kind of person who learns online from pros so they can better their skills or knowledge.
If you’re going to go the direct, no experience route, here’s some pointers:
- Be persistent. You’re going to get turned down, not every company wants someone who’s willing to learn. And you know what? That’s good. You don’t want to work somewhere that doesn’t value you enough to educate you and help you grow if you’re new to the trades. Keep looking, don’t give up, there are companies out there willing to teach the right person.
- Highlight your strengths: to get hired, you need to be honest, hard working, show up on time, and have an ability to learn new skills. If that’s you, don’t be shy- tell the company and make it clear in your interview.
- Show an aptitude to learn. Be hungry to learn. Ask questions, but if no one answers them (or until they can pay attention to you) seek out the answers yourself. There’s this thing called the Internet, you’re using it right now to read this article, and it can teach you almost everything you need to know if you know the right questions to ask and have persistence.
If you’re out of high school, or left another job to become a construction estimator, and you don’t have any experience, then you need to treat this like a huge challenge, and really go after it. If you’re going to be passive, make excuses, wait for people to come around answer your questions, and not seek out the answers you need to grow, don’t waste the employer’s time.
#2) Get an apprenticeship or learn from someone you know.
Does this sound like #1? Well, it kind of is.
Here’s the difference:
Rather than cold-calling and applying to companies you don’t know, this involves reaching out to your immediate network of friends, families, and connections and seeing if any of them are willing to take you in for a time.
Know a landscaper? Buy them coffee and ask how they estimate lawns. Know a general contractor? Ask them what it takes to be a construction estimator. Ask questions, listen, and learn, and maybe an opportunity will develop.
#3) Take a course or get educated.
This one is tricky, because there’s a number of courses out there, each offering different things.
Keep in mind- just because you earn a “certificate” in estimating, doesn’t make you a pro, and certainly doesn’t guarantee you a job. But it can help you learn a great base layer of how estimating works and you’ll get off the ground much faster.
At Construct-Ed, we’re obviously pretty big on education. We especially believe in learning from real pros in the industry, not necessarily for college credit or a piece of paper, but to gain real knowledge that you use in real life. You can view some of our popular courses here, or do some Google searches and see if your local community colleges or any other websites offer formal estimating programs.
If you have a degree in engineering, architecture or design, you probably have a leg up on the competition out there. If you don’t, don’t despair! There’s still great opportunities for you.
“But I’ve got experience! Where can I go to find a job?”
We hear you. And hey, even if you don’t have experience, where do you look?
Here’s a few places you might consider looking for an estimating position:
- LinkedIn. If you don’t use it, learn how to. You should create a profile, fill it out as much as you can with your education (even if it’s only high school, that’s fine!), skills, and qualities. Subscribe to a 30 day free trial of LinkedIn to upgrade your account and job hunt.
- Google and call method. If you’ve determined what trade you want to estimate in (roofing, concrete, building, etc.) then do a few simple Google searches and call. It goes like this… [types into Google]…”commercial roofing companies Orlando Florida.” Bam. 1,000,000,000,000,000 results. Start on page 1, and call those companies. Say something like this- “Hi! My name is ____, I wanted to reach out and see if you have a need for a construction estimator?” And take it from there. Be honest about your lack of experience, but don’t shy away from telling them that you work hard, learn fast, and will give it 120% to learn the job if they’re willing to train you.
- Ask friends in the industry. Does your Dad’s buddy run a construction company? Call him. Your neighbor drive a truck with a general contractor name on the side? Walk over and talk to him.
OK- so you’ve landed an interview, or at least a conversation with someone who’s willing to talk about estimating. But you still have no experience? Then…
Wait! Before you go walking in to apply, make sure you’re making a good impression.
If you’re familiar with the professional world (that’s the nice way of saying, “if you’ve had a job before”) you’ll probably be able to skip this.
But if you’re a trade student, high school student, or college student looking to become a construction estimator, and you’ve never worked in the construction industry before, here’s some helpful tips to making a good impression or getting off to a good start:
So what do you have to do to be a good estimator? Let’s take a look at the job description:
Construction estimating involves these basic skills and job requirements:
- Basic to advanced math skills. (If you’re weak on math, learn what you need here for free). Exactly how advanced your math skills need to be will depend on the type of estimating, but overall, it’s not rocket science. Many companies will have you inputting data and measurements into apps or software anyway, but it’s important to know the numbers and how they give you the number at the end you need. This goes hand in hand with learning about money. Numbers and measurements are one thing, but knowing how to convert them into dollars and sense, and explain that to your customer is another.
- Problem solving. You’ll have education, and training on the job, but no situation is exactly the same. Not every roof will measure the same, some will have obstructions. Not every building will measure the same. You’re going to have to think hard, keep at it, and be a problem solver.
- Experience. Ah yes, that tricky situation: you need experience to get hired, but no one will hire you (so you can gain experience) without experience. Make sense? Sound like where you’re at? It’s OK- that’s why we mentioned above that you’ll need persistence. Keep connecting with industry pros, contractors, business owners, etc. until someone gives you a job, is willing to start you at a low pay to train you, or gives you an apprenticeship. It can and does happen, and seriously, there really is a big shortage on skilled labor. If the business owner sees potential in you, they’ll hire you. Companies can almost always train someone for entry level positions. What they can’t train is honesty, hard work ethic, aptitude to learn, and God-giftedness. Show them that.
- Sales. You might see this as a separate job, and in some companies it might be, but know that some commercial companies lump in the role of a construction estimator and salesman together. It’s the construction estimator who goes out, takes measurements, then spits out a bid, and calls or meets with the customer to try and sell them on it.
- People skills. If you want to become a construction estimator, this goes hand in hand with sales, but even if you’re not selling, you need to know how to talk to people. You can’t very well show up at a job-site or building and expect to walk around, take measurements, and leave. Be friendly, be people-focused, be professional and polite. Remember that you represent the company who sent you.
How much does an estimator make? Let’s take a look at a construction estimator salary:
The BLS reports that an average salary for construction estimators is $60,390 per year or $29.03 per hour.
The exact amount you’ll get paid will likely depend on a few things:
- Where you live (certain regions make more than others, but the cost of living is often higher there, so keep that in mind!)
- What industry you’re in. Roofing estimators might make one rate, building estimators another, so check out different trades.
- How much experience you have. If you’re fresh out of high school, you’ll start lower and work your way up. If you have 20 years under your belt, and you’re good at what you do, you can negotiate for much more. It takes time to become a good construction estimator, so if you don’t have it – set a goal to work towards it.
- The company. Listen, it can be that even if you have all your ducks in a row: experience, hard work ethic, etc., that company still can’t pay you what you need or what you’re looking for. If that’s the case, move on. It’s one thing if the company is willing to invest in you, grow you, and promote you eventually. But if the company just isn’t doing well, is poorly run, or the existing employees are over-worked and underpaid, then move on, it’s not worth it.