How to become a construction estimator in Australia

Construction estimators play a vital role in the construction industry by providing accurate cost estimates for projects. They analyse construction plans, materials, labour, and other factors to determine the overall project cost. If you have a keen eye for detail, strong analytical skills, and a passion for construction, becoming a construction estimator in Australia can be a rewarding career choice. This blog post aims to provide a comprehensive guide on how to become a construction estimator in Australia, outlining the necessary skills, education, experience, and professional development opportunities to excel in this field.


The role of a construction estimator


Construction estimators are responsible for assessing project requirements, analysing construction plans and specifications, and preparing accurate cost estimates. They collaborate with architects, engineers, and contractors to ensure that the estimates align with project goals and budgets. Successful construction estimators possess several essential skills and traits, including:


  • Analytical Skills: The ability to analyse complex construction documents, understand project requirements, and accurately estimate costs.


  • Attention to Detail: A keen eye for detail is crucial in reviewing construction plans and identifying potential cost implications.


  • Technical Proficiency: Familiarity with construction materials, methods, and industry-specific software used for estimating and project management.


  • Communication and Negotiation: Effective communication skills to liaise with project stakeholders, negotiate contracts, and present cost estimates.



Education and Qualifications


The first and perhaps most important step to becoming a construction estimator in Australia is to undertake the construction induction training course. Construction induction training is also referred to as white card training: a legal requirement that is obligatory to be fulfilled by all in the construction industry. 


The content of the course is relatively straightforward. The construction induction training course primarily focuses on the common safety requirements for construction sites across Victoria. A few of the learning objectives you will encounter include but are not limited to:


  • The process for identifying hazards
  • The process for reporting safety concerns seen on worksites
  • The steps of action required to mitigate risks and potential hazards which can cause accidents or injuries
  • The proper methods to responding to incidents on construction worksites related to worker health and safety

Upon completion of the course, you will be issued a construction induction training card, also known as a  white card. A white card essentially allows you to enter and perform works on construction sites. Without a white card, you cannot legally enter a construction site. 


Additionally, you will need to undertake courses in building and construction and gain certified qualifications. This involves completing courses with a relevant registered training organisation (RTO). RTO’s have the task of providing vocational education and training services. RTO’s are quite different to your typical organisations. RTO’s are legally recognised by the appropriate regulators which allows them to offer training and qualifications to aspiring students. WorkSafe Victoria, a statutory authority of the Victorian Government and the primary body for managing and enforcing workplace safety, outlines every registered training organisation that you can complete a white card training course with on their website. 


The important thing to note about studying courses in building and construction is that there is a distinct hierarchy. Australia follows the Australian Qualifications Framework, which specifies the standards for education in Australia. The framework includes 10 levels, and they are: 


Certificate I

Certificate II

Certificate III

Certificate IV


Advanced Diploma, Associate Degree

Bachelor’s Degree

Bachelor Honours Degree, Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma

Masters Degree

Doctoral Degree


Most people do not go through the entire framework in the construction industry as this is not necessary. The sweet spot for most professionals including builders is completing the Certificate IV and Diploma levels. 


The Certificate IV level is the one that distinguishes itself from the previous 3 levels. It prepares students for the complexities of construction, whilst providing greater scope for exploring different areas of the industry. Many who wish to begin working in construction and eventually become builders begin from this point, because it allows you to gain the necessary qualifications for building and construction, whilst avoiding completing a Certificate I, II or III. Since it offers these benefits, it can be considered a broad qualification in the sense that there are many areas of specialisation, which will teach students how to apply what they have learnt in a wide context. A course commonly sought after is the Certificate IV in Building and Construction. What this course aims to do is enable you with skills in planning projects, applying codes and regulations, and managing resources effectively. It also aims to enhance your knowledge in building and construction to an advanced level, which drastically increases chances of landing job opportunities. You could realistically get your builder’s licence by completing this course, but it is considered the bare minimum, which you should consider when building your career and looking for employment opportunities. 


The Diploma represents another drastic increase in difficulty. This is evidenced by the fact that it can lead to university courses in a specialised field. Theory and practical learning objectives are heavily expanded upon, as difficulty increases. People who reach this level can apply their knowledge in management or supervisory positions, and potentially grow a high level of expertise in a particular area. A course usually undertaken at this level is the Diploma of Building and Construction, which continues on from the Certificate IV course mentioned in the previous level. As this is an advanced course, it is generally aimed at tradespeople and other employed people in the construction industry who are looking to advance their skills in management and development of residential/low-rise construction. Thus, as an aspiring builder looking to obtain a builder’s licence this course would be the perfect opportunity to hone your knowledge and become more of a well-rounded candidate for employment.



Gain Practical Experience


Seek internships or entry-level positions with construction companies, consulting firms, or quantity surveying companies to gain practical experience in estimating and project management.

Consider volunteering or undertaking part-time work in construction-related roles to enhance your industry knowledge and build a network of contacts. You may also consider Professional Development and Certifications such as:


  • Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (AIQS): Join AIQS as a student member to access resources, networking opportunities, and industry events. Transition to graduate membership upon completing your degree.
  • Certified Professional Estimator (CPE) Certification: The CPE certification offered by the Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (AIQS) demonstrates your expertise and competence as a construction estimator. It requires a combination of education, experience, and passing the AIQS assessment.


become a construction estimator



Building Industry Experience 


Education and studies is not the only component of developing knowledge as an aspiring builder. You need to have experience to look back to in order to be a complete professional. The common form of this is completing a construction apprenticeship. In an apprenticeship, you can take part in real world projects where you can put your knowledge to the test in a practical manner. Apprenticeships seek to significantly boost your skills to make you a more well-rounded individual. 


Start your career as an assistant estimator or junior quantity surveyor to gain hands-on experience in construction estimating. Work closely with experienced estimators and learn to use industry-specific software and tools for estimating and project management.


Consider specialising in a particular sector or industry, such as residential, commercial, or civil construction. Specialisation can enhance your expertise and open doors to specific job opportunities.


Stay updated with the latest industry trends, construction methods, and cost estimation techniques through continuing education programs, workshops, and conferences.

Develop proficiency in industry-standard software such as CostX, BuildSoft, or WinQS to improve your efficiency and accuracy in estimating.



Career Advancement


Professional Networking is an important facet of advancing your career. Join industry associations and attend construction-related events to expand your professional network and stay informed about job opportunities and industry advancements. Organisations such as the Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (AIQS) and the Master Builders Association (MBA) offer networking opportunities and resources for construction professionals.


You may also look at pursuing advanced certifications or postgraduate studies to enhance your knowledge and skills in construction estimating. This can include courses in advanced estimating techniques, project management, or construction law.


Stay up to date with changes in building codes, regulations, and industry standards to ensure your estimates comply with the latest requirements.


Look to also develop your leadership and management skills to progress into senior roles, such as senior estimator, estimating manager, or project manager.

Take on additional responsibilities and demonstrate your ability to oversee and coordinate construction projects.


Lastly, consider applying for professional designations such as Registered Professional Quantity Surveyor (RPQS) through AIQS. These designations demonstrate your expertise and enhance your professional credibility.


Becoming a construction estimator in Australia requires a combination of education, practical experience, and continuous professional development. By obtaining a relevant degree or diploma, gaining practical experience in the construction industry, and pursuing certifications from professional bodies such as the AIQS, you can build a successful career as a construction estimator. Additionally, continuous learning, networking, and staying updated with industry advancements are vital for career advancement and ensuring your estimates align with the latest construction practices and regulations. Embrace opportunities for specialisation, develop strong analytical and communication skills, and strive for excellence in your estimating practices. With dedication and a passion for construction, you can thrive in the challenging and rewarding role of a construction estimator in Australia.


If you’re looking for a career that offers competitive pay, job satisfaction, and opportunities for growth, then a building and construction career might be perfect for you. With the high demand for skilled workers in the industry, there will always be opportunities for growth and advancement.


If you are interested in a construction course: enquire now