What Does an Acoustic Engineer Do? (Plus Skills and FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 14 December 2022

Published 4 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Acoustic engineers are highly skilled professionals who use their skills and knowledge to solve problems relating to sound and vibration. There are many specialisations within the acoustics field, such as architectural acoustics, traffic and noise pollution and environmental acoustics. If you're considering a career as an acoustic engineer, you may be interested in finding out precisely what an acoustic engineer does. In this article, we answer the question, 'what does an acoustic engineer do,' explain the skills and qualifications required for the role and answer some frequently asked questions about working as an acoustical engineer.

Related: The 8 Main Types of Engineering Industries (With Roles)

What does an acoustic engineer do?

Acoustics is a branch of science that concentrates on sound and vibrations. Acoustic engineers work across many different industries and sectors to provide advice on sound-related problems. One of the primary duties of an acoustic engineer is to monitor and control noise levels in various settings. For example, this might include advising on reducing sound from traffic, aeroplanes and other noise pollution in populated areas.

They may also work in architecture, designing homes, offices and other structures to reduce unwanted sound. These tasks might involve choosing and sourcing suitable materials, introducing sound buffers or planning the layout of a building to block the sound of noisy roadways. If you work as an acoustic engineer, the tasks you perform might include:

Managing noise and vibration control

Acoustic engineers might work on projects where noise could disrupt the local environment, such as building new highways, airports or industrial zones. The job of the acoustic engineer is to ensure these noises comply with local laws by advising on the materials and structures used to prevent noise from escaping. In the construction and industrial sectors, acoustic engineers also play an essential role in ensuring that employees' noise conditions are safe.

In addition to solving noise-related problems, acoustic engineers also work on matters involving vibration. They might use specialist materials to prevent vibrations from mechanical rooms from transmitting to other rooms. Acoustic engineers might put measures in place to avoid vibrations produced in gyms, sports halls or transport such as trains from affecting the homes, businesses and other buildings around them. For residential buildings, preventing vibrations caused by footsteps from disturbing other residents is an integral part of an acoustic engineer's role.

Related: What Does an Audio Engineer Do and How Do They Succeed?

Helping design interiors

Acoustic engineers also help to design the interior of new buildings such as office and residential housing. The engineer's job is to consult on architectural plans, layouts and materials to ensure that noise travels as little as possible, such as between apartments or offices. Acoustic engineers may also work in the entertainment industry. They might help design recording studios and other structures where the quality of sound is essential.

Related: What Is an Architectural Designer? (With Skills & Education)

Consulting on equipment and products

In the manufacturing industry, producers of products such as cars, trains, lawnmowers and other appliances often consult with acoustic engineers to help them reduce the noise output of their products. They might work with other engineers to reduce the noise created by the machine or advise on materials and techniques for soundproofing. In some cases, this may also include manipulating the sound a product makes to produce a particular feeling or perception, such as creating a satisfying noise when a car door is closed.

Acoustic engineers might be employed in the entertainment sector to work on projects where sound quality is essential, such as stadiums and concert venues. They work to enhance the sound quality on the inside by advising on room geometry, materials and the location of specific equipment to control sound absorption, reflection and diffusion.

What skills does an acoustic engineer need?

Acoustic engineers are highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals who usually hold at least an undergraduate degree in engineering or a related field. Here are some of the most important skills needed to become an acoustic engineer:

  • Technical and mechanical skills: Acoustic engineers use various technical skills to safely use specialised tools and equipment effectively.

  • Written and verbal communication skills: Writing reports or explaining complex issues to clients in simple terms is a key part of an acoustic engineer's job, so they may effectively communicate to perform their role well.

  • Teamwork: Acoustic engineers usually work on teams with lots of people with different responsibilities, so the ability to collaborate with them effectively is crucial.

  • Problem-solving and critical thinking skills: Acoustic engineering often involves finding solutions to complex problems involving sound or vibration. The ability to apply your experience and knowledge and think critically to solve problems is a key part of being an acoustic engineer.

  • Excellent hearing and manual dexterity: Acoustic engineers often have a strong sense of hearing. They are typically good with their hands so that they can use the various tools and equipment.

Related: 12 Key Engineer Skills for Your Resume

How to become an acoustic engineer

If you feel that acoustic engineering may be the field for you, you can follow these steps to become an acoustic engineer.

  1. Complete an undergraduate degree. Many acoustic engineers hold a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering. You could also consider a related subject, such as electrical engineering or environmental engineering, as a pathway into acoustic engineering.

  2. Complete postgraduate study. Most acoustic engineers choose to specialise in acoustic engineering only after obtaining their undergraduate degrees. There are postgraduate degrees available in acoustic and audio engineering, which may allow you to hone your skills in working with sound and vibrations.

  3. Gain relevant experience. You may gain experience through entry-level positions or internships while you're still studying, perhaps over the summer.

  4. Get your first job after graduating. Consider looking for an entry-level job that can allow you to learn from experienced acoustic engineers after you graduate. You can search for acoustic engineer jobs using the Indeed job search and filter your results by salary, location and company to find the best job for you.

  5. Consider joining professional bodies. Membership of professional bodies such as the Association of Australasian Acoustical Consultants (AAAC) may help you secure jobs and provide opportunities for training and further developing your skills.

Acoustic engineer FAQs

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about working as an acoustic engineer.

What salary can I earn as an acoustic engineer?

According to data from Payscale, the average salary for an acoustic engineer is $66,129 per year. You may be able to earn more than this depending on your level of experience, qualifications and location. For example, an acoustic engineer with a master's degree may earn a higher salary than an entry-level employee.

How can I specialise as an acoustic engineer?

You could choose to specialise in a particular type of acoustic engineering and build your skills in that area. For example, you might specialise in designing residential, commercial or other buildings. Alternatively, you might choose to focus on consulting for sports stadiums, concert halls and other venues. You may also find work with public and private-sector organisations to reduce noise pollution in cities and populated areas.

What is an acoustic engineer's work environment like?

Working as an acoustic engineer might involve inspecting or working on noisy sites such as construction zones, factories or other industrial sites. Acoustic engineers may work outdoors in different weather conditions and the work may include standing for long periods. Many acoustic engineers work full-time, completing 38 hours per week. Part-time employees may work less.

What industries and sectors can acoustic engineers work in?

Acoustic engineers work across many different sectors and industries, including:

  • commercial

  • residential

  • transport

  • construction

  • energy

  • oil and gas

  • mining and resources

  • entertainment and leisure

  • education

  • community facilities

  • places of worship

  • medical

  • defence

  • government.

What is the difference between an acoustic engineer and an audio engineer?

Acoustic engineers and audio engineers are both professionals who manage sound from an engineering perspective. That's why questions like, "What does an acoustic engineer do that an audio engineer does not do already?' are commonly asked. Although there is some crossover in skills and both types of engineers have a solid understanding of sound, their roles are quite different.

Acoustic engineers work to resolve or prevent noise pollution and vibration, often through structural changes to the design of a building or structure. An audio engineer's job, however, is to work within the entertainment and media industries, managing sound technical and artistic requirements during a recording or a live performance.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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