Whatever your philosophy on money is, most of us want and need it. And most of us want to make sure we’re getting what we’re worth for the work we do.
What should my salary be as an estimator? How much do preconstruction jobs pay a year?
These are questions a lot of precon folks ask. Though it is not illegal to discuss what we make with our coworkers, our country has a work culture of salary secrecy. So, it can really be difficult to figure out if you are being compensated fairly or if you are being underpaid.
If you are a manager that can influence a direct report's salary, keep reading! This information is good for leaders, too.
Compensation varies wildly in the U.S. across industries, skills, education, experience, and location and comparing that isn’t apples to apples; however, there is a national average salary of $59,428 a year. With the national average of $71,874 a year for a junior level estimator, our industry is already paying above the average.
With that being said, though, the lowest reported junior level estimator is making $53,000 a year.
When we look at senior level preconstruction roles—managers, directors, and other executives—salaries vary widely—anywhere from $130,000 to $210,000—and that’s just in Texas!
If you want to know how much you should be getting paid, start researching your market value! Our friends at Niche Specialist Staffing Partners, a recruiting and staffing agency focused on preconstruction, have up-to-date detailed reports per state on how much money junior estimators, estimators, senior estimators, precon managers, senior preconstruction mangers, and directors of precon are making. The reports include the average paid time off, bonuses, and flex time.
You can download the reports for free and it should be your first step in finding out if you are getting paid fairly.
Glassdoor also has a salary calculator where you can get a quick average salary for a specific position and location.
Though not as exact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022) lists the mean wage of a non-residential building cost estimator is $89,150.
Take note of the numbers you find…you’ll need them later…keep reading to find out why.
Am I Getting Paid Enough?
Your next step is to look at your current compensation package. Include your base salary, benefits, paid time off, and flex time and compare that with the report you downloaded.
Next, look at your last few years at your company with a critical eye. There might be subtle signs you missed that indicate you aren’t getting paid enough:
Your responsibilities have increased but you weren’t offered more money.
You have been at your company for at least a year, and you haven’t received even a cost-of-living raise or adjustment.
You and your manager haven't discussed a performance review.
Entry-level and less-experienced positions are listed beginning salary higher than yours.
Your role has changed (unofficially), for example you train and support other team members but aren’t a manager or you’ve taken on the responsibilities of a senior who has left the company, and you weren’t given a salary increase.
If your salary doesn’t fall under any of the averages you found, and/or you’ve noticed a few of the red flags noted above, it might be time to ask for a raise.
How to Ask for a Raise
Everyone in precon is working their tails off. Not one of our clients have told us they have time to spare to sit and twiddle their thumbs or watch Tik-Tok all day. Everyone is backlogged, fighting to keep up, and have more projects pouring in.
So, we hate to tell ya this, but you can’t storm into the boss’s office and emphasize, “I’m overworked. I need a raise,” because they are going to tell you, “Join the club, bud. Now go back to work.”
You need to go in with a plan and that requires prep.
1. Toot your own horn.
Take note of your greatest accomplishments while you’ve been at your company and attach those accomplishments to an ROI. For example, did you create a new, more efficient workflow? How much time has that workflow saved the team? What was the team able to accomplish with that saved time? “Last year, I saved the team two hours when I introduced a new takeoff workflow. With that time, we were able to value-engineer projects, which has brought in three repeat jobs.”
To add that extra umph, don’t only highlight your past accomplishments, but tell your boss what you are currently working on and your predicted outcomes of future projects that will contribute to the success of the company.
2. Know your numbers.
You know how we said at the beginning how you will want to take note of the salary research you did? These numbers will be your hardest-hitting ammo when you go to ask the boss for a raise. The boss might not have any clue you aren’t getting paid fair market value. Pointing that out to them will hopefully make them an advocate for you and put in a request for a raise.
If they aren’t worried about losing an amazing employee such as yourself after you’ve presented these two things, then start exploring other opportunities that value your skillsets.
3. Go with a specific number in mind.
Ambiguity leads to disappointment. If you don’t know what number you want your company to give you, you open yourself up to getting far less than what you desire. Depending on your specific situation, and the results of your research, anywhere from a 3% to 20% raise is reasonable.
4. Know When to Hold ‘Em
It is extremely rare to ask for a raise and have the boss immediately say yes to your highest number. The boss usually answers to a bigger boss, and that bigger boss to the biggest boss…so these requests must go through the channels. So, you’ll have to be patient. But, before leaving the meeting with your boss, set a follow-up meeting so your raise request doesn’t fall off the radar or your placated by “sure, we’ll see.”
When your answer comes back, it might not be the one you want. Company policy could be that there are freezes on raises and bonuses, so you are going to have to be willing to negotiate. Instead of monetary compensation, ask if the company is willing to provide you with more paid time off (PTO), flex time, more work from home days, or other benefits your company offers.
If you can’t reach an agreement that satisfies you, then it might be time to fold ‘em.
“If You Want to Improve Your Self-Worth, Stop Giving Other People the Calculator.” — Tim Fargo
In 2021, when a record number of Americans quit their jobs, 63% reported the reason was because of low pay. And in 2022, Flexjobs, a recruiting website, found that 59% of workers who left their job said it was because they weren’t paid enough. Almost half reported other salary-related reasons.
So, if you think you aren’t being paid enough, you aren’t alone.
People who are happy at their jobs (and happiness includes feeling like you are compensated fairly) are more productive. And companies with happy employees retain and attract the best talent, build a better reputation, and can increase profitability by 23%.
Preconstruction and estimating is a rewarding, challenging, and fun job that’s in demand. For preconstruction recruiting resources, click here.