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What They Do

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Acoustical engineers work with architects and engineers to ensure that a building has good acoustics. That is, they make sure it sounds good.

Their work is especially important in performance spaces such as concert halls. But these engineers work on everything from office buildings to college auditoriums.

They might ensure that factory machinery noise doesn't disturb workers in a nearby office. Or they might design the perfect recording studio.

According to the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), acoustical engineers can work in architectural settings or in musical acoustics. Some work in engineering settings -- some machinery, including medical equipment, uses sound.

Acoustical engineer Kurt Milligan says that there is even a specialized group that deals with highway noise.

"There's the whole other flavor of acoustical engineers that do highway noise barriers. They look at, for instance, the truck traffic on a given road and they look at the number of houses along that road. They figure out where is [the] most economical place to put a barrier on this roadside."

Others work in noise control or in physical acoustics, which deals with the way sound moves through the ground or water.

Acoustical engineers are likely to work for a firm of consulting engineers. They usually work standard workweeks and days, but may occasionally work odd hours.

Dana Hougland says that you may find yourself "taking measurements in the middle of the night. You often have to go out when the background is extremely quiet."

Acoustical engineers can expect to travel often. That's because most large North American firms pursue contracts worldwide.

Acoustical engineers must understand music, architecture, engineering and physics. They also need to be able to work as part of a team. They work closely with architects, construction engineers and others.

At a Glance

Make sure buildings have good sound

  • You can work in noise control or physical acoustics
  • You must understand music, architecture, engineering and physics
  • All engineering jobs require a bachelor's degree


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