Career Development

What Does a Lead Estimator Do?

Find out what a lead estimator does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a lead estimator.

Lead estimators are responsible for estimating the amount of materials, labor, and equipment needed to complete a project. They work closely with contractors, architects, engineers, and other professionals to determine how much material should be purchased, how many workers should be hired, etc. Lead estimators also help ensure that projects stay on schedule by identifying potential problems early on and proposing solutions to keep things moving smoothly.

Lead Estimator Job Duties

A lead estimator typically has a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Reviewing job specifications to determine material requirements and estimating labor hours required to complete the job
  • Calculating materials costs based on bid prices from suppliers or manufacturers and adding any applicable overhead costs such as labor costs, production costs, or shipping costs
  • Identifying subcontractors who can provide specialized labor for specialized tasks
  • Communicating with clients about project status and any potential delays or issues
  • Ensuring that all subcontractors have adequate safety training and equipment for their tasks
  • Reviewing estimates from subcontractors for accuracy and contacting them if any issues arise
  • Consulting with architects, engineers, contractors, or other stakeholders to determine the best methods of construction for a project
  • Preparing detailed cost estimates for projects based on specifications provided by customers such as architects or engineers
  • Creating reports detailing all costs associated with a project such as labor costs, material costs, equipment costs, and any other relevant costs

Lead Estimator Salary & Outlook

Lead estimators’ salaries vary depending on their level of education and experience, the company size and geographic location.

  • Median Annual Salary: $85,000 ($40.87/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $137,000 ($65.87/hour)

The employment of lead estimators is expected to grow slower than average over the next decade.

Demand for construction services depends largely on the level of commercial and residential construction. However, productivity improvements in the construction industry have reduced the demand for workers, limiting employment growth.

Lead Estimator Job Requirements

A lead estimator typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: A lead estimator is typically required to have a bachelor’s degree in construction management, construction engineering, civil engineering or a related field. Some employers may prefer candidates who have a master’s degree in construction management or civil engineering.

Training & Experience: Most lead estimators will receive on-the-job training from their new employer. This training will help the lead estimator learn the company’s specific processes and procedures. The lead estimator will also learn about the company’s computer programs and software.

Certifications & Licenses: Though certifications aren’t required to qualify for most lead estimator positions, they can help you stand out from other candidates and impress potential employers.

Lead Estimator Skills

Lead estimators need the following skills in order to be successful:

Technical skills: Technical skills are the knowledge and expertise you have in a specific field. As an estimator, technical skills are important for understanding the data you collect and the calculations you make. For example, if you’re estimating the cost of a new roof, you need to understand the different types of roofing materials and their associated costs.

Communication skills: Communication skills are essential for lead estimators, as they often work with a variety of people, including other estimators, project managers, engineers and other construction professionals. Effective communication skills can help you collaborate with others, share information and resolve any issues that may arise.

Mathematical skills: Mathematics is the ability to perform calculations and interpret data. As a lead estimator, you may be required to perform complex calculations and interpret data to ensure the accuracy of your estimates. Mathematics can also help you understand the technical aspects of the projects you work on.

Problem-solving skills: Problem-solving skills are essential for a lead estimator. You may encounter challenges when estimating a project, such as a lack of information or a change in the project’s scope. Your ability to identify the problem, research possible solutions and implement a solution that satisfies all parties involved is an important skill for a lead estimator.

Organizational skills: Organizational skills can help you manage the many tasks you may have as a lead estimator. You may need to keep track of multiple projects at once, so having strong organizational skills can help you stay on top of your work. You may also need to keep track of data and information about projects, so having organizational skills can help you keep everything in order.

Lead Estimator Work Environment

The lead estimator is responsible for the accuracy and completeness of the estimate and must ensure that the estimate is submitted on time. The lead estimator also reviews the work of other estimators and provides feedback. The lead estimator typically works in an office environment and works regular business hours. However, the lead estimator may occasionally travel to job sites to observe work in progress and to meet with project managers. The lead estimator may also work overtime to meet deadlines.

Lead Estimator Trends

Here are three trends influencing how lead estimators work. Lead estimators will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Technical Talent

The need for more technical talent is a trend that is being felt across all industries, as businesses are increasingly looking for employees with specific skills and experience. This is especially true in the construction industry, where lead estimators play an important role in estimating the cost of projects.

As the demand for more technical talent increases, lead estimators will need to be able to not only understand the latest technologies, but also how to use them to their advantage. This includes learning how to use software tools such as CAD and BIM, which are becoming increasingly common in the construction industry.

More Focus on Quality Control

Lead estimators are increasingly being asked to focus on quality control in order to ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget.

This trend is leading to an increased demand for professionals who have experience in quality control procedures. As lead estimators are responsible for ensuring that projects are completed according to specifications, they will need to be familiar with quality control methods in order to ensure that projects meet the standards set by their clients.

Greater Use of Technology

The use of technology in the workplace is increasing at a rapid pace, and this is having a significant impact on the role of the lead estimator.

As technology becomes more prevalent, lead estimators will need to learn how to use it effectively in order to stay competitive. This includes learning how to use software programs to track project costs, manage schedules, and communicate with team members.

How to Become a Lead Estimator

A lead estimator career path can be a great way to get started in the construction industry. As a lead estimator, you’ll be responsible for managing the entire estimating process from start to finish. This includes creating an estimate request, gathering and analyzing information, developing a cost estimate, and presenting the final results to clients.

To become a lead estimator, you’ll need to have a strong understanding of construction methods and materials, as well as experience working with contractors and subcontractors. You should also be able to work effectively under pressure and meet deadlines.

Advancement Prospects

The lead estimator position is the highest level in the estimating department and is responsible for all aspects of the estimating process. The lead estimator position is a management position and requires excellent communication and interpersonal skills. The lead estimator position is responsible for training and mentoring new estimators and for ensuring that all estimates are accurate and complete. The lead estimator position reports directly to the vice president of operations.

Lead Estimator Job Description Example

As the lead estimator, you will be responsible for the development and maintenance of the estimating department for [CompanyX]. This will include the management of a team of estimators, development and implementation of estimating processes and procedures, and training and mentoring of new estimators. In addition, you will be responsible for the accuracy and completeness of estimates for all projects, as well as the timely submission of estimates to clients. The ideal candidate will have a minimum of 5 years of experience in construction estimating, as well as experience leading and managing a team.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Understand the project requirements and develop an estimating plan to meet the needs of the customer and company
  • Review construction documents and drawings to prepare time, cost, materials, and labor estimates
  • Research and analyze data such as vendor quotes, historical data, material costs, etc. to create accurate estimates
  • Utilize software programs to calculate total cost of projects including overhead and profit margins
  • Work with other departments within the company to get input for the estimate (e.g. engineering, purchasing, accounting)
  • Prepare detailed reports outlining estimated costs and present to customers, clients, and upper management
  • Negotiate pricing with vendors and suppliers to get the best possible price for materials and services
  • Update and maintain records of all estimates throughout the duration of the project
  • Monitor actual costs versus estimated costs and make adjustments as necessary
  • Assist in the development of bids and proposals
  • Attend job site visits and meetings with clients as needed
  • Perform post-project analysis to determine areas of improvement for future projects

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in construction management, engineering, or related field
  • 10+ years experience as an estimator for commercial construction projects
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office, with aptitude to learn new software and systems
  • Solid understanding of construction methods, materials, and codes
  • Ability to read and interpret construction drawings and specifications
  • Excellent mathematical skills
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving abilities

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in construction management, engineering, or related field
  • 15+ years experience as an estimator for commercial construction projects
  • Experience with computerized estimating systems, such as On-Screen Takeoff or Bluebeam Revu
  • LEED AP certification
  • CCE designation from the American Society of Professional Estimators


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