Career Profile: Acoustical Engineer
Sometimes it can be very hard to understand what people are saying in a large room. The construction of a room can have a large impact on how much people can hear. Acoustical engineers work with all kinds of rooms and equipment to help make it easier for people to understand each other and to produce clear and full sounds.
Have you ever listened to the different quality of sounds in rooms? If you play an instrument or sing, you might already know that your music sounds very different in your living room than it does in a large auditorium. At concerts, plays and other events, audience members have to be able to hear well, no matter where they are sitting. The acoustics (sound quality) have to be good for the functions of the space.
Acoustics are important in any type of building. Factories with loud machines should have enough sound barriers to keep the noise from disturbing other workers. Offices need to have the right construction to prevent echoes and to keep the noise of photocopiers and other machines from drowning out all other sounds. Acoustical engineers can help.
Working as an acoustical engineer usually requires at least a bachelor’s degree in the field. Students learn the principles of architecture, engineering, and physics so that they know how different types of construction affect the way that sound waves travel through the air. They need to understand something about how the sounds of music and speech differ from each other and know the needs of each one.
Besides acoustics, vibrations and outside noise can affect the people in a room. A concert hall might have very good acoustics, but if people can hear the noise or feel the vibrations from every truck passing on the road outside the building, they will find it hard to listen to anything inside the room. Acoustical engineers need to work with keeping outside noise from coming inside without cutting people off from what is happening around them.
Acoustical engineers often work with the plans of buildings before construction begins, but they might also sometimes advise people on how to improve the sound in a room. They work with concert halls or theatres, but they also work with recording studios, school auditoriums, and sports arenas. Some acoustical engineers might work mainly onsite to ensure that the sound quality is good and that recording equipment works well. Others might work mainly in offices to produce plans for building construction.
Depending on where they work, acoustical engineers might earn between $50,000 and $100,000 per year. They work in many of the same areas as structural engineers, with an average salary of about $66,000 per year. Experience can have a small effect on salary, but the difference is not always very large.
After working in this field for ten or twenty years, many people switch jobs. However, some stay for their entire careers. Do you like to work with space and sound? The job of acoustical engineer might be right for you.