What Is the Job Description of an Acoustic Engineer?
Research what it takes to become an acoustic engineer. Learn about salary potential, job duties and employment options to find out if this is the career for you.
What Does an Acoustic Engineer Do?
Acoustics engineers are electronics engineers who specialize in designing and developing technologies that solve problems related to sound. For instance, they may apply fundamental scientific principles to find ways to monitor and manipulate sound levels or improve sound clarity. Depending on their area of interest within the field, acoustic engineers may specialize in architectural acoustics, noise control, structural acoustics or underwater acoustics. They often work with architects on building designs, but they can also find jobs related to noise reduction in factories and other industrial environments.
The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.
|Degree Required||Master's degree|
|Education Field of Study||Sound or audio engineering; mechanical and electrical engineering|
|Key Responsibilities||Control noise levels; design acoustics in buildings; buffer noisy highways|
|Job Growth (2018-2028)||2%* (electrical and electronics engineers)|
|Median Salary (2018)||$96,980* (engineers, all others)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Is an Acoustic Engineer?
Acoustics is a branch of science that deals with vibration and sound. As an acoustic engineer, you are responsible for monitoring and controlling noise levels. You might also go by the title of audio engineer but specialize in acoustics.
One of your primary job duties as an acoustic engineer is to reduce unwanted sounds in populated areas. For example, you might work to control the level of sound created by airplanes or traffic in a designated area. You might also help to design the architectural acoustics within a building to control the noise level affecting office spaces or museums. Some of your specific duties might include rating noise levels, creating noise barriers, using buffer zones and planning walls around highways or high-traffic areas.
What Educational Programs Are Available?
While there are a few bachelor's degree programs related to acoustics, graduate programs in the subject are more common, such as a Master of Science in Acoustics or Master of Engineering in Acoustics. These programs should provide you with a basic understanding of the theory of sound and vibration. They should also provide you with the practical and technical skills necessary to monitor noise levels and buffer noise. Some schools might offer you access to specialized laboratories and facilities such as an ultrasonics laboratory, a reverberation room and an electroacoustics laboratory.
You might consider studying sound or audio engineering at the undergraduate level, or you might consider enrolling in a multidisciplinary engineering degree program. Such programs allow you to build your own course of study in the engineering field by drawing from subjects such as mechanical and electrical engineering.
Where Might I Find a Job?
As an acoustic engineer, you could find yourself consulting for several different industries, or specializing in a particular field. For example, you might specialize as an architect and focus primarily on designing the interior acoustics for new houses, office buildings and other structures. You could also work to improve the acoustics in arenas, stadiums and concert halls. You might find work helping to improve noise traffic in industrial or heavily populated areas.
What Salary Could I Expect to Make?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report data for acoustic engineers. It did report that in 2018, about 20,630 'all other' engineers worked for architectural and related services; they made a mean annual wage of about $92,130. However, PayScale.com found that the median annual salary of senior researchers in the acoustic engineering field was $114,783 in 2019.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
As an engineer, you can choose from a wide range of specializations within the field. Instead of becoming an acoustic engineer, you might want to get a job as a civil engineer, where you assist with the design and implementation of infrastructure projects, like building bridges, tunnels and dams. Another option is a biomedical engineer, where you would apply principles of biology and chemistry to find create medical devices and computer technologies that can improve healthcare. For any of these engineering jobs, you need at least a bachelor's degree in that engineering discipline to enter the field.