How to Become an Acoustical Engineer


If you want to become an acoustical engineer, you first need to determine if this occupation is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for it:


Those who become acoustical engineers are typically individuals who have a natural aptitude in mathematics and science, as well as a natural interest in the principles of sound and vibration. They are also typically individuals who enjoy using their skills in engineering to identify and solve technical problems.


If you want to enter this profession, you must be comfortable working closely with other professionals, such as design engineers and project managers, and sharing your opinions with them. You must also be willing to work a typical weekday schedule, which may involve work after hours to meet deadlines, and perform other duties as needed.


You must also have the intellectual and emotional capacity needed to complete the rigorous educational requirements.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as an acoustical engineer. We've also included helpful information for this field, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



What is an Acoustical Engineer?

Acoustical engineers apply the scientific knowledge of sound and vibration for a variety of technological purposes. They are typically concerned with the design, analysis and control of sound for such applications as noise reduction and control, as well as positive uses of sound, such as in medicine and music.



Education Needed

You'll need to earn an undergraduate degree in a related field of engineering, although some employers may require a master’s degree.


A degree in acoustical engineering is ideal, although many universities in North America do not currently offer it. Pursuing a degree in electrical, mechanical, or aeronautical engineering, physics, or a related area, with coursework in acoustics, is typically an effective substitute for a degree in acoustical engineering.


Some engineering programs may allow students to focus on specific areas of acoustical engineering, such as sound system engineering or vibrations. Students in these programs typically take core engineering classes, such as electrical circuits, fluid mechanics, statics, thermodynamics and heat transfer. The acoustics-related coursework they may pursue may cover such topics as architectural acoustics, sound reinforcement, noise control, vibrations and environmental acoustics.





Skills and Traits Needed

In order to be effective in this occupation, you need to posses a certain set of skills and personality traits. Theses skills and traits will not only allow you to perform your duties with competence; they will allow you to overcome the challenges of a career in this field.


• A natural interest in the principles of sound and vibration

• A natural aptitude in science and mathematics

• Enjoy analyzing engineering problems and finding solutions

• Able to work with high amounts of focus and patience

• Able to effectively use transducers and other sound measuring instruments

• The ability to visualize three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional drawings

• The ability to work well with other professionals, such as civil engineers

• Enjoy variety in job tasks

• Excellent written and verbal communication skills



Licensing Requirements

Although licensing requirements can vary by region and by employer, acoustical engineers are required to be licensed as professional engineers if they work with the general public; such as those who work on projects related to public infrastructure. Those who become licensed carry the designation of professional engineer (P.Eng.). To be licensed as a professional engineer, you generally need to meet the following requirements:


• A degree from an accredited engineering program

• A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam

• Relevant work experience

• A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam



Who Hires Acoustical Engineers?

Acoustical Engineers are hired by a variety of organizations, ranging from those that develop and sell medical equipment, to construction companies. Typical employers include:


• Colleges and universities

• Construction companies

• Resource and energy companies

• Property development companies

• Engineering consulting firms

• Transportation companies

• Automobile and aerospace companies

• Companies that develop and manufacture noise reduction equipment

• Companies that develop and manufacture sound equipment, such as speakers

• Federal, provincial/state and municipal government departments

• Companies that manufacture medical devices, such as ultrasound equipment

• The armed forces





Putting it all Together: Steps for Becoming an Acoustical Engineer

To sum all of this up, here are the essential steps you’ll need to take to get into this field:


Step 1 - Check if you’re well suited

Ask yourself some questions that will help you determine if this is a good path for you to take: Do you have a natural interest in the principles of sound and vibration? Do you have a natural aptitude in science and mathematics? Are you able to work with high amounts of focus and patience? If your answers started with a “y”, then you’re off to a great start. Off to step 2.


Step 2 - Get an engineering degree

Ideally, you’ll have the chance to pursue a degree in acoustical engineering, but since it is not commonly offered you can substitute it with a degree in electrical, mechanical, or aeronautical engineering, physics, or a related area, with coursework in acoustics.


Step 3 - Get a job

Now that you have a degree, it’s time to find a job that looks interesting to you. Depending on your financial situation, you may or may not want to take the first thing that comes your way.


Step 4 - Get Professional Engineer (P.Eng.) licensing 

Some employers of acoustical engineers may not require it, but earning a P.Eng. license will demonstrate your professional competence, and may help qualify you for a higher level of responsibility or pay.



Career Advancement Potential

Those who become acoustical engineers typically begin by working in entry-level jobs, wherein they spend many months training and learning from senior-level engineers: learning about companies policies and practices, as well as specific acoustical engineering techniques.


As more experience is gained, more responsibility is given. If they prove to be effective and competent in their work, they may eventually qualify for senior-level positions, which come with more responsibility and greater pay. From there, they may advance to supervisory or management positions. Some experienced acoustical engineers may choose to work as consultants, or start their own consulting company.





Details of the Career Itself: Job Description

Acoustical engineers may apply acoustical engineering principles to a variety of different problems, across a variety of different industries. In general, acoustical engineers are responsible applying the principles of acoustical engineering for the purpose of minimizing unwanted sounds, and enhancing desirable ones.


The specific job description of an acoustical engineer can vary greatly; depending on what industry they work in. For example, acoustic engineers may work with construction engineers and architects on the design and sound quality of facilities like performance spaces and recording studios. They may also work to ensure that buildings comply with local noise ordinances and standards, or they may work to minimize the noise caused by highway and air traffic.


Acoustical engineers may also work to develop instrumentation for medical diagnosis, communications, seismic surveying, recording and reproducing speech and music, and other challenging problems.



General Job Duties

The job duties of an acoustical engineer can vary depending on the responsibilities of their job; however, in general, acoustical engineers are responsible for performing the following tasks:


• May work closely with architects, civil engineers, project managers, sound technicians and other professionals

• Use transducers and other sound measuring instruments

• Research and design of sound attenuation enclosures and other acoustic equipment

• Provide on-site technical program management support to laboratories involved in research and development

• Perform task planning, cost estimation, progress reporting and scheduling

• Compose communication for use by management and clients

• Prepare reports regarding project development



How Much Do They Earn?

The salary level of acoustical engineers can vary based on factors such as their level of education, their level of experience, the specific responsibilities of their job, where they work, and many others. Please note; there is no reliable salary data available specifically for Acoustical Engineers, however we can get a good idea of their expected salary level by looking at the salary level of a closely related career: civil engineers:


Salary - Canada (Alberta Figures Only): According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Civil Engineers occupational group earn and average wage of $44.58 per hour.


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of workers in the Civil Engineers occupational group is $77,560 per year. 



Acoustical Engineer Jobs

Our job board below has "Acoustical Engineer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.





Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to 'acoustical engineer', as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Aerodynamics Engineer


Lighting Designer

Mechanical Engineer

Music Specialist



References for this Guide

The following resources were drawn from in the preparation of this career guide:


• “Occupational Profile: Civil Engineer.” (n.d.). Alberta Government - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved August 12, 2016.

• “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Civil Engineers.” (May, 2015). United States Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved August 12, 2016.

• “Acoustics and You (A Career in Acoustics?).” (n.d.). Acoustical Society of America. Retrieved August 12, 2016.



Scholarships for Relevant Academic Majors

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming an Acoustical Engineer can be found on our Physics Scholarships and Industrial Engineering Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Academic Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting into this profession. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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