Cost Estimator

Construction, Installation, Maintenance, and Repair

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    Required Education, Credentials, and Licenses

    • Bachelor’s degree or 3-5 years of work experience


    • Interpreting technical project documents
    • Detail-oriented
    • Math
    • Analytical
    • Organization
    • Time-management
    • Written communication
    • Computer literate


    Cost estimators are responsible for all aspects of project estimation. They assess the amount and value of labor, materials, and time needed to complete renovation and new construction projects. Within the HVAC/R field, they produce estimates for the installation, maintenance, repair, and replacement of complete HVAC/R systems or certain components.

    Cost estimators review and interpret project proposals, specifications, blueprints, and drawings, and they use those documents to estimate the quantity of materials and supplies that will be used in the project, the duration of the project, and the amount of labor needed (including costs associated with subcontractors). These factors will vary depending on the type of HVAC/R system, so cost estimators need to understand the differences between fossil fuel-based systems and more energy efficient technologies, such as variable refrigerant flow systems and air or ground source heat pumps. They need to be detail-oriented and have strong math skills to accurately price the project resources and calculate the cost estimates. Analytical skills are important, as they need to make cost-effective decisions.

    Cost estimators need to be organized and able to manage their time well to effectively juggle multiple tasks and meet deadlines. They use word processing, spreadsheet, and estimating software programs to complete their job duties, so cost estimators should be comfortable using computers. Effective writing skills are critical to prepare quality estimation and other types of reports. Interpersonal skills are important for maintaining positive relationships with clients, vendors (of equipment and supplies), contractors, engineers, and other workers who may collaborate on a project.

    Cost estimators typically work in offices but sometimes need to visit worksites. Most work on a full-time basis during standard business hours.

    Job Outlook

    According to the New York State Department of Labor, there are approximately 10,800 cost estimators in New York State, and opportunities for employment are expected to be favorable through 2030 – the Department projects this occupation to grow by 1,730 jobs between 2020 and 2030.

    Entering the Field

    A bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience in an industry-related field is usually needed to become a cost estimator. Some of the necessary skills are acquired through on-the-job training within the first year. In the HVAC field, workers without a bachelor’s degree need to have three to five years of experience in HVAC technology to qualify for the job. A bachelor’s degree is often required when job responsibilities involve providing estimates for commercial HVAC or refrigeration projects.


    In New York State, the median wage for cost estimators is approximately $78,200. Entry-level workers earn about $49,400 and experienced workers earn about $102,300.

    Annual Wage (Q1 2023 dollars, rounded to 100s) – Statewide and by Labor Market Region

    New York State$49,400 $78,200 $102,300
    Capital Region$41,200 $67,100 $91,300
    Central New York$46,800 $68,900 $89,200
    Finger Lakes$38,100 $62,600 $81,000
    Hudson Valley$50,500 $78,300 $103,900
    Long Island$51,600 $79,500 $104,200
    Mohawk Valley$42,400 $64,800 $82,200
    New York City$55,500 $83,700 $113,100
    North Country$41,900 $62,100 $80,300
    Southern Tier$45,200 $66,400 $85,000
    Western New York$47,100 $67,600 $91,700

    Source:  New York State Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Survey, SOC Code 13-1051 (Cost Estimators)


    The most common employers of cost estimators are contractors for building equipment systems (including HVAC/R) and construction firms that build non-residential or residential structures. Job openings across New York State in 2022 for cost estimators in the HVAC/R field were advertised online with various job titles that almost always included “estimator.” Sample job titles include project estimator, estimator, construction estimator, and mechanical estimator. Cost engineer is an alternative job title sometimes used for these positions. Use those job titles and keywords such as “HVAC,” “HVAC/R,” or “mechanical” when searching job advertisements online to help identify opportunities for employment. 

    Labor Unions

    Check with local union chapters active in the HVAC/R field to see if their members include cost estimators, or check with companies that employ cost estimators for HVAC/R projects to see if those positions are represented by a union contract. Cost estimators who work for government agencies may be represented by public sector unions.

    Education and Training Programs

    Bachelor’s degrees in business or engineering (including mechanical and construction engineering) can prepare workers for a job as a cost estimator. Some of the largest programs in New York (based on the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded) are listed in the table below.

    Cost estimators who are new to the HVAC/R field or need to expand their knowledge to include clean energy technologies (such as variable refrigerant flow systems or heat pumps) can enroll in coursework offered by manufacturers or distributors of HVAC/R equipment, or providers of continuing education units. For example, Fujitsu’s HVAC/R Professional Training Program and Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US offer coursework that covers a range of HVAC/R technologies, and Steven Winter Associates, Inc. offers an Electrification Training Series. Additional training may be offered through other manufacturers and distributors in the industry, some of which partner with NYSERDA through Clean Heat Connect.

    Educational InstitutionDepartmentCertificateAssociateBachelorMasterPhD
    Capital Region
    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)Lally School of ManagementNoNoYesYesYes
    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)School of EngineeringNoNoYesYesYes
    SUNY at AlbanySchool of BusinessNoNoYesYesNo
    SUNY Empire State CollegeSchool of BusinessNoYesYesYesNo
    Central New York
    SUNY College at OswegoSchool of BusinessNoNoYesYesNo
    Syracuse UniversityCollege of Engineering and Computer ScienceNoNoYesYesYes
    Syracuse UniversityWhitman School of ManagementNoNoYesYesYes
    Finger Lakes
    Rochester Institute of TechnologyKate Gleason College of EngineeringNoNoYesYesYes
    Rochester Institute of TechnologySaunders College of BusinessNoNoYesYesNo
    SUNY College at BrockportSchool of Business & ManagementNoNoYesYesNo
    SUNY College at GeneseoSchool of BusinessNoNoYesNoNo
    Hudson Valley
    Marist CollegeSchool of ManagementNoNoYesYesNo
    Mercy CollegeSchool of BusinessNoNoYesYesNo
    SUNY New PaltzSchool of BusinessNoNoYesYesNo
    SUNY New PaltzScience & EngineeringNoNoYesNoNo
    Long Island
    Farmingdale State CollegeSchool of BusinessYesNoYesNoNo
    Farmingdale State CollegeArchitecture & Construction ManagementNoNoYesYesNo
    Long Island UniversitySchool of BusinessNoNoYesYesNo
    Stony Brook UniversityCollege of BusinessNoNoYesYesNo
    Stony Brook UniversityCollege of Engineering and Applied SciencesNoNoYesYesYes
    Mohawk Valley
    SUNY College of Agriculture and Technology at CobleskillBusiness AdministrationNoYesYesNoNo
    SUNY Polytechnic InstituteBusiness Administration & MBA Technology ManagementNoNoYesYesNo
    SUNY Polytechnic InstituteMechanical EngineeringNoNoYesNoNo
    Utica UniversityBusiness and EconomicsNoNoYesYesNo
    New York City
    CUNY Brooklyn CollegeBusiness ManagementNoNoYesYesNo
    New York UniversityStern School of BusinessNoNoYesYesYes
    New York UniversityTandon School of EngineeringNoNoYesYesYes
    The City College of New York (CUNY)Colin Powell School for Civic and Global LeadershipNoNoYesNoNo
    The City College of New York (CUNY)The Grove School of EngineeringNoNoYesYesYes
    North Country
    Clarkson UniversityCoulter School of EngineeringNoNoYesYesYes
    SUNY College at PlattsburghSchool of Business & EconomicsNoNoYesNoNo
    SUNY College at PotsdamBusiness AdministrationNoNoYesYesNo
    Southern Tier
    Binghamton UniversitySchool of ManagementNoNoYesYesYes
    Binghamton UniversityThomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied ScienceNoNoYesYesYes
    Cornell UniversitySibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace EngineeringNoNoYesYesYes
    Ithaca CollegeSchool of BusinessNoNoYesNoNo
    Western New York
    Buffalo State CollegeBusinessNoNoYesYesNo
    SUNY at FredoniaSchool of BusinessNoNoYesNoNo
    University at BuffaloSchool of Engineering and Applied SciencesNoNoYesYesYes
    University at BuffaloSchool of ManagementNoNoYesYesYes

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