What Does a Cost Engineer Do?

Cost engineers use practical skills, knowledge and experience to determine project costs. Read this article to learn more about how to become a cost engineer. Schools offering Civil Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Before a group of investors, companies, or individuals starts a project, they work with a cost engineer to make sure their project can be completed within budget. Material, labor, and other costs are considered by the management and production teams before bids are even entertained. A cost engineer may have the skill to build or create a machine, but uses engineering principles to control costs.

Important Facts About Cost Engineers

On-the-Job Training Determined by prior experience; may last a few weeks to several months
Professional Certification Voluntary; provided by the American Society of Professional Estimators, the Association for the Advancement of Cost Estimating International, and the International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association
Key Skills Strong mathematical background, critical thinking, good judgment and decision making, problem solving, reading comprehension, time management
Similar Occupations Budget analysts, construction managers, financial managers, financial analysts, industrial production managers, accountants and auditors
Median Salary (2018)* $64,040 (cost estimators)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 11% (cost estimators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Duties and Responsibilities

Cost engineers use their skill and experience to determine the amount of time, money, and resources projects will require. The Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (www.aacei.org) reports that these professionals use engineering experience and judgment to apply science to business planning, management, and scheduling. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reports that information gathering, estimation, and problem solving encompass a cost engineer's duties.

Education Required

There are no formal programs devoted solely to cost engineering, though some universities include it as part of their civil engineering degree programs. A Bachelor of Science in Engineering with a concentration in a specific area, such as construction or civil engineering, may help prepare anyone interested in the field.

Not all cost engineers have an engineering background, and some start their careers with knowledge of engineering principles in construction trades. A mathematics or statistics degree or specialized courses can qualify applicants for cost engineering positions.

Work Environment

About 18% of cost estimators work in the construction industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while another 12% work in manufacturing. Cost estimators are closely related to cost engineers. Many cost engineers receive training from their employers due to the lack of formal degree programs. Working with an experienced cost engineer on the job provides the additional training.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

While the BLS doesn't provide information specifically for cost engineers, it does provide data pertaining to cost estimators, a closely related discipline. According to the BLS, the median annual salary earned by cost estimators was $64,040 in 2018. The employment of such estimators is expected to grow by 11% between 2016 and 2026, per the BLS, which is faster than average compared to all career fields. On the other hand, overall employment for engineers is supposed to increase 8% from 2016-2026, which is on par with average growth in all other occupations.

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