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Cost Estimator

What does a Cost Estimator do?

Cost estimators collect and analyse data in order to estimate the time, money, materials and labor required to manufacture a product, construct a building or provide a service. The objective is to minimise expenses and maximise profits for both parties. Once these issues have been determined, a cost estimator presents a financial summary and proposal for the development. They generally specialise in a particular industry or type of product.

A cost estimator’s other duties include:

  • collaborating with engineers, architects, clients and contractors
  • reading blueprints and technical documents
  • analysing company data, exchange rates and prices, using computer software packages
  • collecting quotes from materials suppliers and subcontractors
  • preparing and submitting quotations for work
  • evaluating the project’s cost-effectiveness or profitability
  • working with sales teams to prepare estimates and bids for clients
  • monitoring the stages of a project to make sure that costs are kept in line with forecasts.

What qualifications do I need?

Although some people can get jobs as cost estimators based on previous work experience, most employers prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree or diploma, with a strong background in mathematics. Construction cost estimators generally need a qualification in construction management, building science or engineering. Those interested in estimating manufacturing costs typically need to study engineering, physical sciences, mathematics or statistics. Newly-hired cost estimators may receive on-the-job training, based on their prior experience. Joining a professional body may boost your career prospects, as well as offering opportunities for professional development and networking.

What subjects do I need?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Mathematics
• Physical Sciences


Where can I study?

ELPAVO Cost Engineering
Certified Cost Technician and Cost Engineer Courses

The Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE)
Various Courses

University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Science: Engineering; Bachelor Degree: Construction Management; Bachelor of Architectural Studies

University of Cape Town
Bachelor of Science: Engineering; Bachelor Degree: Construction Management; Bachelor of Science: Quantity Surveying

North-West University
Bachelor of Engineering

University of Johannesburg
National Diploma: Engineering; Bachelor of Technology: Quantity Surveying

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
National Diploma: Engineering; Short Courses: Building; Bachelor of Technology: Architectural Technology; Bachelor of Technology: Quantity Surveying

Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma: Engineering; Bachelor of Technology: Architectural Technology

Where can I get more info?

Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS) – www.asaqs.co.za


Interview with a Cost Estimator

Tsholofelo Meno | ASSISTANT ESTIMATOR | ABE Contracting Services (Pty) Ltd

Tsholofelo Meno | ASSISTANT ESTIMATOR | ABE Contracting Services (Pty) Ltd

Why did you choose this profession?
Interestingly, I decided in high school that I did not want to study anything typical and ‘girly’; I wanted to be different. Pursuing a career in construction was my first choice as I knew that whatever construction project I was involved in would exist for years, and that whenever I saw it I would be reminded of the amount of work I had put in and I’d feel proud.

What training did you undergo?
I studied building sciences at the University of Johannesburg, which is a three-year programme that includes six months of in-service training in the second year. I then specialised by completing a Bachelor of Technology degree in Quantity Surveying in the fourth year.

Is there a type of personality best suited to this work?
This type of work needs a versatile character; you need to be able to function well in an office environment as well as on-site, where there will be a number of other professionals that you work closely with.

Is experience as important as formal training?
Yes, definitely. The construction industry is very practical; the ability to visualise your work is also an important factor.

What do you like the most about your job?
Building, renovating and refurbishing buildings is very rewarding. An enormous amount of effort goes into it, but you can be sure that your efforts will be evident at the end of the project.

Which aspects are you least enthusiastic about?
It’s tough to think of anything that I don’t feel enthusiastic about, but if pushed I would say the dust on-site. I could not have chosen a more interesting career to pursue.

What have been the highlights of your career to date?
When our company is awarded a project and the project is successfully completed, that is always a highlight for me.

What are your goals for the future?
I intend to register as a candidate quantity surveyor in order to become a certified professional quantity surveyor in future. I would like to establish my own consulting firm eventually.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your career?
Develop skills such as attention to detail. This is the most important skill in quantity surveying; if this is present, everything falls into place.

Describe your job in three words
Rewarding • Fulfilling • Exciting