Acoustic Engineer

Add elements that reduce noise or enhance sounds in buildings.

What does an Acoustic Engineer do?

The job of an Acoustic Engineer, or Acoustical Engineer, is to understand the science of sound. Employed by architecture and engineering firms, Acoustic Engineers are paid to help design buildings and facilities that either minimize sound or enhance it, depending on the type of structure.

In other words, when it comes to architectural design, most people ask themselves, “What does it look like?” Acoustic Engineers, however, also ask themselves, “What does it sound like?”

In the case of an office building that’s located near the airport or the highway, for instance — or the highways and airports themselves, noise from which can disturb surrounding residential areas — your job as an Acoustic Engineer is noise control. In the case of an opera house, conference center, or recording studio, meanwhile, it’s sound amplification.

In the case of noise control, you review architectural designs and blueprints, and use ultrasound and sonar equipment to determine sources of unwanted noise. Then you develop a plan to deal with them by building noise-canceling walls, sound barriers, sound absorbers, silencers, and buffer zones. In the case of sound amplification, meanwhile, you choose room shapes and materials — angled walls, for instance, and materials like glass, textiles, and polyurethane foam — that are designed to improve acoustics in places where audiences are listening to performances or presentations.

Part of a design team that includes Architects and Engineers, and sometimes even Urban Planners, you trade in sound wave behaviors such as absorption, reverberation, diffraction, and refraction. And that means you’ve always got your ear to the ground — sometimes literally!