Acoustic Engineer: Job Description & Career Requirements

Learn about a career as an acoustic engineer. Read the job description, duties, education requirements, salary and employment outlook to decide if this is the right career for you.

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Job Description

According to the Acoustical Society of America, the term 'acoustics' refers to the science of sound, the behavior of sound waves in different environments and the ways that sound energy can be transformed into electrical energy.

The field of acoustic engineering may lead to a number of different positions related to the transmission and recording of sound. Acoustic engineers may consult with construction engineers and architects on the design and sound quality of facilities like performance spaces and recording studios. They may also ensure that buildings comply with local noise ordinances and standards, or they may work to minimize the noise caused by highway and air traffic. Some acoustic engineers work in audio engineering, designing sound systems. Others work in bioengineering to develop medical devices, such as hearing aids.

Educational Requirements

Although very few U.S. schools offer engineering programs with an emphasis on acoustic engineering, degrees in related fields are required of those interested in pursuing a career as an acoustic engineer. Employers typically require acoustic engineers to have at least a 4-year degree in electrical engineering or a similar field. Some engineering programs allow students to focus on specific areas of acoustic engineering, such as sound system engineering or vibrations. Students in these programs take core engineering classes, such as electrical circuits, fluid mechanics, statics, thermodynamics and heat transfer. Acoustics-related coursework may cover such topics as architectural acoustics, sound reinforcement, noise control, vibrations and environmental acoustics. Some jobs in acoustic engineering require a master's degree. The master's-level curriculum may include coursework in underwater acoustics, medical ultrasonic, wave propagation, signal processing, optics, electromechanical transducers and nonlinear acoustics. Depending on the program, students may have to complete a thesis or study project.

Licensing Requirements

Acoustic engineers who work with the general public need licensure in every state, as well as the District of Columbia. Licensure requirements include a bachelor's degree accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and at least four years of experience in the field. Candidates for licensure must pass a state exam.

Required Skills

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that acoustic engineers have the following traits:

  • Technical and mechanical knowledge in the field, especially as it relates to electrical engineering, physics, music, audiology and architecture
  • Ability to work well with a team
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Manual dexterity
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Excellent hearing

Employment and Salary Outlook

According to the BLS, broadcast and sound engineering technician jobs were projected to grow 10% from 2010-2020, while sound engineering technician jobs would only increase 1% over the same period. The BLS also stated that the median annual salary of sound engineering technicians was $46,310 in May 2012.

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