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Cost Estimators

Cost estimators collect and analyze data to estimate the time, money, resources, and labor required for product manufacturing, construction projects, or services. Some specialize in a particular industry or product type. Show Details

Duties

Cost estimators typically do the following:

  • Consult with industry experts to discuss estimates and resolve issues
  • Identify and quantify cost factors, such as production time and raw material, equipment, and labor expenses
  • Travel to job sites to gather information on materials needed, labor requirements, and other factors 
  • Read blueprints and technical documents to prepare estimates
  • Collaborate with engineers, architects, owners, and contractors on estimates
  • Use sophisticated computer software to calculate estimates 
  • Evaluate a product’s cost effectiveness or profitability
  • Recommend ways to make a product more cost effective or profitable
  • Prepare estimates for clients and other business managers
  • Develop project plans for the duration of the project

Accurately predicting the cost, size, and duration of future construction and manufacturing projects is vital to the survival of any business. Cost estimators' calculations give managers or investors this information.

When making calculations, estimators analyze many inputs to determine how much time, money, and labor a project needs, or how profitable it will be. These estimates have to take many factors into account, including allowances for wasted material, bad weather, shipping delays, and other factors that can increase costs and lower profitability.

Cost estimators use sophisticated computer software, including database, simulation, and complex mathematical programs. Cost estimators often use a computer database with information on the costs of other similar projects.

General contractors usually hire cost estimators for specific parts of a large construction project, such as estimating the electrical work or the excavation phase. In such cases, the estimator calculates the cost of the construction phase for which the contractor is responsible, rather than calculating the cost of the entire project. The general contractor usually also has a cost estimator who calculates the total project cost by analyzing the bids that the subcontractors' cost estimators prepared.

Some estimators are hired by manufacturers to analyze certain products or processes.

The following are the two primary types of cost estimators:

Construction cost estimators estimate construction work. More than half of all cost estimators work in the construction industry. They may, for example, estimate the total cost of building a bridge or a highway. They may identify direct costs, such as raw materials and labor requirements, and set a timeline for the project. Although many work directly for construction firms, some work for contractors, architects, and engineering firms.

Manufacturing cost estimators calculate the costs of developing, producing, or redesigning a company’s goods and services. For example, a cost estimator working for a home appliance manufacturer may determine whether a new type of dishwasher will be profitable to manufacture.

Some manufacturing cost estimators work in software development. Many high-technology products require a considerable amount of computer programming, and the costs of software development are difficult to calculate.  

Two other groups also sometimes do cost estimating in their jobs. Operations research, production control, cost, and price analysts who work for government agencies may do significant amounts of cost estimating in the course of their usual duties. Construction managers also may spend considerable time estimating costs. For more information, see the profiles on operations research analysts and construction managers.

Information Clerks

Information clerks provide administrative and clerical support in a variety of settings. They help maintain records, collect data and information, and respond to customers’ questions or concerns. Show Details

Duties

Information clerks typically do the following:

  • Keep records and information
  • Help colleagues and customers with routine administrative work
  • Prepare and locate records and information that colleagues and customers need
  • Ensure that colleagues and customers follow proper procedures

Information clerks generally manage a particular kind of information or record. Some clerks work in a particular setting.

Correspondence clerks review and respond to inquiries from the public, other businesses, or other departments. They gather information and data so that they can give accurate answers to questions and requests. Correspondence clerks write letters or email in reply to requests for merchandise, damage claims, credit and other information, delinquent accounts, incorrect billings, or unsatisfactory services. They may have to gather data before replying.

Court clerks organize and maintain the records of the court for which they work. They prepare the calendar of cases, also known as a docket, and tell attorneys and witnesses when they need to appear in court. Court clerks put together materials for court proceedings and prepare, file, and forward case files. They also keep records of, and answer inquiries about, court proceedings.

Eligibility interviewers do interviews both in person and over the phone to determine if applicants qualify for government assistance and resources. They answer applicants’ questions about benefits and programs and refer them to other agencies or programs when their own agency cannot help.

File clerks keep companies’ and organizations’ paper or electronic records. They enter data into, organize, and retrieve files. In organizations with electronic filing systems, file clerks scan and upload documents.

Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks provide customer service to guests, often at the facility’s front desk. They check guests in and out, assign rooms, and verify guests’ method of payment. They also keep records about which rooms are occupied and take reservations. These clerks answer guests’ questions and respond to their concerns. For example, they may give guests directions or send housekeeping staff to their room if it is not clean.

Human resources assistants provide administrative support to human resource departments. They keep personnel records, collecting information about employees, such as their addresses, employment history, and performance evaluations. They post information about job openings and review the resumes and applications of candidates for employment to ensure that they are eligible for the positions for which they have applied.

Interviewers do interviews over the phone, in person, through the mail, or electronically. They use the information they get to complete forms, applications, or questionnaires for market research surveys, Census forms, and medical histories. Interviewers are usually given specific instructions about what questions to ask and what information to collect. They compile and record information from their interviews.

License clerks help the public with applications for licenses and permits. They process applications and collect application fees. They determine if applicants are qualified to receive the particular license or permit. They keep records of applications received and licenses issued. License clerks keep applicants informed about the status of their application and notify them if they need to provide additional information.

Municipal clerks provide administrative support to town and city governments. They keep minutes of town and city council meetings and then distribute the minutes to local officials and staff. Municipal clerks help prepare for elections by creating ballots and training election officials. They respond to requests for information from the public, local and state officials, and state and federal legislators. Municipal clerks also maintain town and city records.

Order clerks receive orders from customers and enter the information into their company’s order entry system. They also answer customers’ questions about prices and shipping. Order clerks collect information about customers, such as their address and method of payment, to put into the order entry system.

Reservation and transportation ticket agents and travel clerks take and confirm passengers’ reservations for hotels and transportation. They also sell and issue tickets and answer questions about itineraries, rates, and package tours. These clerks prepare invoices outlining rates and fees and accept payment from passengers. They may check baggage and assign boarding passes to passengers.

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