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How to Become an Electrical Estimator

by Chris Lee | May 17th, 2016
The role of an electrical estimator is one that is highly specialized and technical in nature. It is also one of the most rewarding. According to CNN Money, electrical estimators in the US took home a median pay of $68, 800 with a top industry pay of $106, 000. It is also a career path with very bright future prospects, expecting to see a growth of 36.4% over the next decade. Over 185,000 jobs will be available in this sector over the same period of time.

What do electrical estimators do?

The electrical estimators generally work alongside other estimating experts to provide an accurate estimate of the electrical aspect of a project. They need to be highly skilled in cost estimation, blueprint reading, studying specifications, project estimation, contract negotiations, project bidding, tendering and other related roles. Their work also involves quoting of contract estimates, carrying out analysis of quotes from the subcontractors as well as suppliers so as to obtain the right qualification information and bid pricing that will enable them decide on the best and most cost-effective bids. They are generally in charge of the bidding process for the electrical component of major construction projects and will perform tasks such as bid evaluation and pinpointing any deficiencies with particular bids from the suppliers and sub-contractors. There is an important project management aspect to this job. Apart from determining the amount of work that will be carried as well as the costing, they must also create a plan of action, schedules and the human resources that will be required in order to complete the electrical project successfully. It is a high-demand position and in many cases, electrical estimators generally work on multiple projects simultaneously. Because the jobs go hand in hand with general construction projects, many electrical estimators are also qualified quantity surveyors.

What do you need to become an Electrical Estimator?

There is no standalone degree in electrical estimating, so anyone interested in pursuing this career path can follow various routes in order to achieve their dream. You can take an associate’s or bachelors degrees in electrical engineering, electrical technology or construction management where the topic is generally covered. If you have already undertaken these degrees, you can enroll in a certificate in cost estimating that can lean more towards construction management cost estimating or electrical cost estimating depending on your preferences. If you are undertaking an electrical engineering degree, look for a program that will offer you a more hands-on training in electrical cost estimating. You can take the initiative, further, by enrolling in specific internships or placement programs where you can immerse yourself in hands-on projects.

An Associate Degree in Electrical Technology

This is one of best routes that you can take in order to become a qualified electrical estimator. An associate degree is also relatively shorter and can be completed in under two years.  In this program, you will learn about the fundamentals on installing, testing and also maintaining electrical equipment, electronic circuitry, reading electrical drawings, programmable logic devices amongst others. Popular programs include the following:-

Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering

The degree program can be completed in four years. In most electrical engineering degrees, there will be a requirement for capstone projects for successful completion. Some of the best colleges for electrical engineering degrees include the following:-

Bachelors Degree in Construction Management

If you are not taking the electrical engineering route to a cost estimating career, you can also take the construction management route. Here, you will cover many aspects of construction projects including cost estimation. Before you graduate, you may be required to carry out a research project. You can take a construction management bachelors degree in institutions such as the following:-

What Does a Certificate in Electrical Cost Estimating Entail?

If you already hold a relevant degree, a certificate in electrical cost estimating can be a prudent option to plump up your credentials as a cost estimator. The certificate courses are generally shorter and can be completed in a single semester or in two semesters but they give you some really good gravitas that can help you differentiate yourself in the job marketplace. You can learn about various areas of this job such estimation, plan reading, blueprint reading, design and cost management amongst other core skills that you can apply in a real-world environment.

Familiarity with the National Electrical Code (NEC) and other Standards

Becoming a professional electrical estimator requires very good theoretical grounding as well as other aforementioned skills but you must also know your way around the National Electrical Code and familiarize yourself with various other standards such as ISA, UL and NFPA. You must be familiar with the classification requirements of the areas in which you are working with regards to the documentation and design of your projects. You will need to be familiar with all aspects of wiring including color-coding, the various wiring techniques and costing for each technique, classifications for wiring insulation, de-rating and sizing. You also need the skills to accurately read and interpret schematics, wiring diagrams, one-line diagrams as well as P&IDs and optimize them to meet project requirements or specifications while saving money for your clients. Modern electrical estimation requires knowledge and proficiency in the use of electrical estimation software tools that deliver fairly accurate results for your projects. You must also be tech-savvy and good with software tools such as MS Word, Excel and Microsoft Outlook for ease of communications with teams and project owners or directors that you will be working with or under.

Certification and Professional Affiliations

For your professional certifications and affiliation, you may apply with the American Society of Professional Estimators or ASPE which promotes professionalism as well as best practice in the construction industry. You can check out the ASPE website at http://www.aspenational.org/ for information on the requirements for certification. If you are pursuing a career as a professional estimator, getting the ASPE Certification will give you the highest level of professional recognition in your line of work, respected by many employers. As a Certified Professional Estimator or a CPE, you will be recognized for your high level of proficiency as well as ethical standards in carrying out electrical estimating projects. Another certification that you can seek out is the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International certification or the AACE. In order to obtain either of these certifications, you must have been practicing as a cost estimator for a period of not less than 2 years and must have passed a written examination. Employers Prize Experience While the professional qualifications are a requisite requirement for you to practice as an electrical estimator, many employers prize field experience on top of that. So it is important to be deeply engaged in cost estimation projects early on in your career and also the initiative to learn more and expand the scope of your experience. Additionally, this is a job that requires great interpersonal skills as well as good written and verbal communications. In most construction projects, you are going to be working with a team of other estimators and specialists that you must relate and collaborate with in order to give your clients optimal outcomes. Marketing skills are also important, especially if you will be working as a freelance electrical cost estimator. You will need that ability to win projects, deliver value for your clients and make money on a consistent basis.
Chris Lee
Chris Lee has an extensive background in preconstruction management as a former specialty contractor and business owner. As the Chief Estimator at Esticom, he’s helped thousands of specialty contractors digitize their preconstruction process to increase revenue and profitability while decreasing unnecessary overhead.

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