How do I Become an Acoustical Engineer?

D. Jeffress

Acoustical engineers work with architects and civil engineering experts to design structures that minimize unwanted noise while enhancing desirable sounds. Many experts aid in the construction of noise-canceling walls, highway barriers, airports, and commercial buildings. Others offer consultation for designers of concert halls, opera houses, and similar facilities. A person who wants to become an acoustical engineer usually needs to obtain an advanced degree and spend several years as an apprentice or assistant. A professional who gains experience and passes a requisite certification exam can become an acoustical engineer with a construction company, government organization, or private consulting business.

An acoustical engineer should receive hands-on experience working with blueprints.
An acoustical engineer should receive hands-on experience working with blueprints.

Most future acoustical engineers choose to enroll in four-year bachelor's degree programs in engineering, mathematics, architecture, or physics. As an undergraduate, an individual has the opportunity to learn about the principles of sound: how waves are generated, dispersed, and controlled. Architecture and engineering courses provide a student with hands-on experience working with blueprints, computer-aided drafting software, and simulators. Near the end of a bachelor's degree program, a student can begin applying to accredited graduate schools.

Many acoustic engineers offer consulting services at materials engineering plants.
Many acoustic engineers offer consulting services at materials engineering plants.

Relatively few schools offer master's degrees explicitly in acoustical engineering. If a person who wants to become an acoustical engineer cannot find such a program, he or she may still be able to specialize in the subject within a larger mechanical engineering degree plan. An engineering graduate student often has the chance to participate in real-world projects with knowledgeable instructors and industry professionals. Upon graduation, he or she can take a written or computerized regional licensing exam.

An acoustical engineer may work on site, overseeing the building of a concert hall or other structure.
An acoustical engineer may work on site, overseeing the building of a concert hall or other structure.

After passing the exam, an individual can begin applying for entry-level junior engineer positions at municipal government offices, consulting firms, and construction companies. New engineers typically spend many months in training, learning about company policies and technical procedures firsthand from experienced acoustical engineers. A skilled trainee is generally rewarded with the opportunity to join a team of junior engineers and work on important, large-scale projects.

An acoustical engineer may consult on both the design and implementation of a project.
An acoustical engineer may consult on both the design and implementation of a project.

The requirements to officially become an acoustical engineer can vary, but professionals in most countries need to gain about four years of experience and pass a second licensing exam. With the appropriate credentials, an individual earns more responsibilities and has the chance to become an acoustical engineer supervisor, overseeing other workers and conducting independent research. A skilled acoustical engineer usually has many opportunities for advancement and career changes. Many experts offer consultation services at materials engineering plants or return to academia to become part- or full-time professors.

Architecture courses may provide an acoustical engineer students with hands-on experience working with blueprints.
Architecture courses may provide an acoustical engineer students with hands-on experience working with blueprints.

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Discussion Comments

whiteplane

I live in Kansas City and we just built a huge new performing arts center in the downtown. Everyone is really excited about it. It is a huge and very ambitious looking building that has dedicated spaces for all of the fine arts.

As you would expect they have a massive concert hall. I was there for the inaugural performance and it sounds incredible. You could hear every note, bright and clear, from every seat in the hall. They must have worked with a skilled audio engineer to achieve this effect. Dazzling acoustics like that don't appear out of nowhere.

Ivan83

There is really not a huge demand for acoustical engineers. Even though their services are used around the world, they are used so infrequently that there is really not a lot of work to be performed by an army on engineers.

So, as you can imagine, the work that as available is very competitive. If you want to stand out in the crowd you need to get as much schooling and experience as you can. There are schools that are better than others and internships that are particularly prized. If you prepare well for your coming career you have a much greater chance of success.

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