Estimator

The Job and What's Involved

Estimators work out the final estimated cost of supplying a product or service. They make sure that the price charged is competitive and covers all costs.

Normally working for a manufacturing, engineering or construction company, they could produce estimates for a wide range of products or services, for instance:

Mass-Produced Goods - such as DVD's or trainers.

Building Projects - such as houses, shopping malls, factories or bridges.

Public Services - such as underground transport or motorways.

Estimators need an in-depth knowledge of the area they work in to ensure that they are aware of all known costs.

Their calculations are based on information sources such as:

  • Internal records, for the time and cost (including labour charges) of production line activities.
  • Internal stock figures and quotations from suppliers, for the cost of raw materials.
  • Transport companies, for hired transport or carriage charges (or internal records if own vehicles are to be used).
  • Inflation figures and exchange rates from government statistics and banks.

Estimators may be specialists in one field, such as time, labour or transport. On major projects, a team of estimators may be involved.

In large companies, estimators may be engineering technicians, incorporated engineers or chartered engineers. They may liaise with engineers in different disciplines, quantity, surveyors, architects, cost engineers, construction managers, production controllers, planners, buyers and marketing staff. They may also work with cost accountants.

In smaller companies in some industries, estimators may come from a craft background.

Estimators normally work 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. In order to meet deadlines, late nights and occasional weekend working may be required.

They are normally based in an office, working at a desk with a computer terminal and telephones. Travel to visit customers' premises may be required.

If the job is in manufacturing or construction, estimators may spend time on the shop floor, construction site or processing plant. On these occasions, they would usually wear protective clothing, such as a hard hat, and other safety equipment.

For some employers, estimators may need a clean current driving licence.

An assistant estimator can expect to earn between £17,000 and £19,500 a year. Qualified senior estimators may earn up to £28,000, potentially reaching around £33,000.

Architect estimators earn on average £30,000 a year.

Chartered engineer estimators and department managers, with at least five to ten years' experience, can earn £40,000 or more.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Employment prospects for estimators are good, as jobs exist in many different industries and companies throughout the UK, including:

- Light and heavy engineering
- Manufacturing
- Process industries, such as oil and chemicals
- Public utilities, such as gas, water and electricity
- Transport
- Construction

Small companies in some industries may recruit people with practical experience in manufacturing, installation, selling or accounts, to train specifically for estimating jobs.

Most estimators move into this area of work after gaining some industrial experience as an administrator, technician or surveying assistant.

Specialist recruitment companies exist across all areas of the sector and job vacancies are also likely to appear in specialist engineering, civil engineering, manufacturing and construction publications. They may also feature on website's such as www.engineeringjobs.co.uk, www.justengineers.net and the Construction Jobs Network: www.constructionjobsnet.co.uk.

Education and Training

There are no set academic entry requirements to train as an estimator, although GCSE's (A*-C) in subjects like science, technology, and particularly maths will be helpful for measurements and estimations.

Most entrants train first in an aspect of construction or building, to ensure full understanding of methods and processes and how a whole project will fit together. Many enter the career as an assistant technician before progressing into a full estimator role. It may be possible to learn the skills required to become an estimator through an Apprenticeship scheme with a building or engineering firm.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

Another route would be to study for a relevant qualification prior to entry. BTEC HNC/HND's, foundation degrees and degrees are available in subjects such as structural engineering, civil engineering or construction. These courses will often have modules covering contract tendering, estimating and buying.

The Diploma in construction and the built environment may be relevant to this area of work.

Some estimators may have reached incorporated or chartered engineering status. See the Chartered Surveyor job guide for details.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most estimators train on the job, supported by studying for work-based qualifications, such as:

  • Level 2 NVQ in project control support (Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB))
  • Level 3 and 4 NVQ in project control (ECITB)
  • Level 3 and 4 NVQ in construction contracting operations (Construction Skills (CSkills))
  • Level 4 Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) Certificate and Diploma in Site Management.

These awards include units covering risk analysis, estimating, preparing cost budgets, organising resources, and contract and legal work. As well as workplace assessments, candidates may study at a local college or training centre by day or block release.

Those undertaking an NVQ can join the Association of Cost Engineers (ACostE). The actual membership status awarded will depend on the level of qualification achieved. Completing a Level 2 NVQ leads to student membership, Level 3 graduate member and Level 4 full member.

ACostE also operates a Certified Cost Engineers (CEE) programme for those with several years' practical experience that attain a Level 4 NVQ. This is recognised internationally.

Continuing professional development (CPD) is encouraged throughout the sector and ACostE runs a CPD programme for members, with points awarded for different activities.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An estimator should have:

  • Excellent numeracy skills for calculations.
  • Strong analytical and research skills.
  • Good communication and presentation skills.
  • Computer and computer-aided design skills.
  • An understanding of engineering or architectural drawings and principles.
  • Detailed knowledge of manufacturing or construction processes and costs.
  • The ability to articulate and present ideas in written reports.
  • A logical, methodical approach to problems.
  • Good commercial understanding and economic awareness.
  • Awareness of data confidentiality rules.
  • Self motivation, as well as good team skills.
  • Awareness of sector specific legislative changes.

Your Long Term Prospects

Large companies and organisations have estimating departments. Here, promotion from junior to senior positions to project leader, section manager and estimating department manager may be possible. Changing employer to secure promotion may be required.

Engineering is a field where it is possible to work through the system from apprentice level to chartered engineer. This combination of work experience and qualifications may lead to more senior roles, such as incorporated or chartered cost engineer.

Larger firms may provide opportunities to work on contracts overseas.

Get Further Information

The Association of Cost Engineers (ACostE),
Lea House, 5 Middlewich Road,
Sandbach, Cheshire CW11 1XL
Tel: 01270 764798
Website: www.acoste.org.uk

Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB),
Englemere, Kings Ride, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7TB
Tel: 01344 630700
Website: www.ciob.org.uk

Construction Skills (CSkills),
Bircham Newton, Kings Lynn,
Norfolk PE31 6RH
Tel: 01485 577577
Website: www.cskills.org and www.bconstructive.co.uk

Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB),
Blue Court, Church Lane, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire WD4 8JP
Tel: 01923 260000
Website: www.ecitb.org.uk

SEMTA, 14 Upton Road, Watford,
Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 0845 643 9001
Website: www.semta.co.uk

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