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Skilled estimators can 'eat an elephant'

Jean Sorensen
Skilled estimators can 'eat an elephant'
COURTESY OF BCIT — BCIT offers Canada's first accredited CIQS program for estimators and a path to a skilled career that can yield $100,000 or more in earnings.

Senior skilled estimators can ‘eat an elephant’ and that is a major factor behind the $100,000 they can command working for a major construction firm, said Michael Currie, associate dean of the BC Institute of Technology’s (BCIT) school of construction.

BCIT offers Canada’s first program to be fully-accredited by the Canadian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (CIQS) meeting the academic requirements for the Institute’s construction estimator certified (CEC) designation.

By ‘eating an elephant’, Currie means such skilled individuals have the knowledge to take proposed large-scale and complex projects like airports or hospitals, break them into parts and determine the costs to gain an over-all cost estimate. No small task on large projects as estimators are also called the construction industry’s accountants, he said, as they crunch the numbers right down to how many doors and windows are needed. They can be assisted by market software programs, but Currie points out that it still takes the skill and experience of a senior estimator to confirm the accuracy of the numbers.  

“It is a fairly new program,” said Currie of the BCIT certificate program which attempts to provide entrants with the ability to enter the industry as a junior estimator. It is a part-time evening classroom or on-line course requiring 15 credits (each course component is three credits) and can be completed in a year. The course curriculum is approved by the CIQS. Students for each of the courses in certificate program complete projects as well as write a final exam.

CIQS is a national professional organization which terms itself the “gatekeeper” of the ethics and standards for the economics around building and infrastructure construction. It comprises 2,000 cost professional in and outside Canada. It owns and manages two professional designations: professional quantity surveyor (PQS) and construction estimator certified (CEC), which can only be used by certified members of the Institute.

Estimators, Currie said, exist in almost every facet of the construction industry ranging from the ground up in areas such as roadbuilding and through to roofing and there is a continued demand. 

B.C. statistics indicate that approximately 1,000 estimators are needed over the next 10 years, Currie said, adding that BCIT’s estimating courses are attempting to fill the 100 positions a year that become vacant. The starting wage for a junior estimator is approximately $40,000, with an average wage of $64,000. As more experience is gained on the jobsite, individuals can earn more or step into new areas such as construction management.

Currie said BCIT’s program was created to meet the growing and continued long-term demand for estimators who wanted to access the training, on a part-time basis, and that focused wholly on estimating. The BCIT program is offered through on-line learning and evening classes.  Construction estimating is also offered through two full-time, programs: architectural and building technology (  and  the construction management degree (

Currie said the majority of individuals taking the course have some kind of construction experience. The course offers several pathways for new entrants as it can provide a job for those individuals with construction experience who may no longer want to or be able to work outside. At the same time, it can provide a job option for injured construction workers who have no longer able to do rigorous construction work. 

The course also draws in foreign trained professionals, he said. “They can work while they try to get certified in the province,” he said, such as an engineer.

Currie said that estimators face a particularly challenging environment today with supply chain and inflation impacting quotes given to contractors. Often quotes are only good for a few weeks today, he said.

It is a situation that make estimating more of a critical skill for companies as a quote on a job that is too low, will lose the company money and a quote that is too high, can lose the company the contract, he said.

 “A good estimator is aiming for the sweet spot somewhere in the middle,” he said.

Recent Comments (1 comments)

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KF Image KF

I think if you were to ask a lot of estimators they would say that the quality of drawings is a (the most?) significant challenge!


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