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Number crunchers—people who like to work with numbers and mathematics—can aim for a variety of jobs under the general heading of mathematics technician or mathematics support personnel. For such jobs, technicians use math formulas, principles, and methods, as well as simple arithmetic.

All jobs in mathematics require the technician to gather data, analyze it, and apply it to a specific problem. The technician might prepare flow charts, graphs, statistics, profit-and-loss statements, or sales reports. One of the best-paid positions for math lovers is that of cost estimator.

Cost estimators compile data on all the factors that influence the cost of a construction, remodeling, retooling or production job, both materials and labor. The figures they come up with help determine whether or not the job will be profitable. Most cost estimators work for the construction industry or for companies that have major contracts with the government. The estimator-technician, along with the cost engineer, gathers information on the possible prices for utilities, insurance, tools, software development, and a hundred other things that make up the total cost of the project. Executives then analyze the data and decide whether or not to proceed with the project.

In the case of a construction project, the first step is a visit to the site where the new building will be constructed. Are electricity and water easily available? Will there be special problems in digging the basement? Is the ground spongy or is there a rock layer in the way that will require blasting?

Next, the cost-estimating team examines the architect's drawings. What kinds of material are to be used? A granite face will require more work and cost than aluminum siding. How many windows and doors? What kind of roof?

As they sort through the hundreds of details, plugging them into the computer, cost estimators come up with a schedule for completion of the project, factoring in weather delays, of course. They also determine the number of workers needed, both general construction and specialized tradespeople. Using this information, they can calculate the standard labor hours necessary for the job. Standard labor hours are then converted to dollar values. Still to come are the costs of materials (allowing for inflation and substitution).

Attention to detail and a willingness to recheck work are important to cost estimating. So, too, is the ability to handle stress. Everyone wants a job done on time and under budget. That rarely happens.


The outlook for this field is very good for those number-lovers who are also computer-skilled. Before any structure is built or remodeled, the project needs a thorough cost analysis.

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