A cost engineer determines how much money, resources, and time a project will require prior to its launch. The job has nothing to do with traditional engineering positions where tangible objects and tools are designed and created. A cost control engineer utilizes engineering principles and judgment to project, assess, and control costs and plan, schedule, and manage projects.
Before companies, individuals or investor groups begin a project, a meeting is usually held with a cost engineer to discuss the budget and budget projections. The cost engineer is given the projected costs for labor, materials, and related expenses. After reviewing the numbers, he or she confers with the principals on the budget details. The project is then put out to bid.
The duties of a cost engineer vary from project to project; some projects are immediately ready to go to bid, while others require major retooling to meet budget requirements. The cost engineer's job is to accurately analyze the estimates for labor and materials for each project phase and recommend solutions for problem areas that are over budget. This often requires meetings with project managers, subcontractors, and investors.
On a regular basis, a cost control engineer provides counsel to cost management teams on cost reporting and forecasting, and monitors their projections for accuracy. The job also entails working with construction, engineering, and cost analyst personnel on variance reporting, projections, cost tracking, commitment reporting, change control, and cash flow. A cost control engineer works closely with accounting to guarantee accurate cost coding and review and accruals.
The required education and experience for a cost control engineer varies for each industry. Since there are no formal degree programs for cost engineering, it is sometimes touched upon in curricula for engineering or civil engineering degrees. Various online educational programs are devoted to the principals of cost engineering. Professional organizations sometimes offer classes and seminars in this field.
Some cost engineers begin their careers in construction trades. They take math and statistics courses and apply their experience and education to qualify for a job as a cost engineer. Voluntary certification can be obtained from various cost engineering professional organizations. If a company is large enough to employ more than one cost engineer, opportunities to work with one of them as an intern, either paid or unpaid, can provide invaluable experience to those aspiring to the position.
The construction industry is the largest employer of cost control engineers; over half of all cost engineers work in this field. The manufacturing sector employs 15% of cost engineers. The remaining jobs in cost engineering are widely distributed over various industries.