What Does An Acoustic Engineer Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

Stan T.Career, Overview

Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Acoustic Engineers

Acoustic Engineers specialize in helping to control noise or vibration in different settings. The work of an Acoustic Engineer helps increase the safety and comfort of everything from homes to lawn mowers and appliances.

Bachelor's degree

Soundproofing solutions are often used to limit noise from construction equipment, traffic, and other sources of unwanted sounds. Noise pollution is especially a concern near areas where residents live.

So, who’s responsible for blocking loud noises from disrupting your sleep? Acoustic Engineers are the professionals who analyze noise and vibration to reduce disruptions.

Along with blocking sounds, Acoustic Engineers can help improve the sound in specific settings, such as auditoriums and other public venues.

If you are interested in how acoustics work and their impact on public health, you may want to explore a career in acoustical engineering.

What they do

Acoustic Engineers specialize in helping to control noise or vibration in different settings. The work of an Acoustic Engineer helps increase the safety and comfort of everything from homes to lawn mowers and appliances.

Analyze the Acoustic Properties of Products and Environments

Depending on the job, an Acoustic Engineer may perform tests to analyze the acoustic properties of various products and environments.

For example, manufacturers may use Acoustic Engineers to analyze the noise levels produced by the machinery in a manufacturing facility. A company that produces loud equipment, such as lawn mowers and vacuums, may work with an Acoustic Engineer to analyze the noise produced by the products.

Acoustic Engineers may also suggest methods for altering the acoustic properties of a product. For example, they may help a company produce quieter lawn mowers or speaker enclosures with better acoustics.

Complete Noise Impact Studies

Acoustic Engineers that work in the construction industry or for nonprofits may complete noise impact studies to assess the impact of noise on different environments. For example, construction companies may need a noise impact study before starting work on a new subdivision or commercial property.

The noise impact study helps determine what measures are needed to avoid disturbing the surrounding environment, including nearby residential areas and animal habitats. Noise impact studies also allow companies to determine if extra steps are needed to protect workers from excessive noise.

Acoustic Engineers provide recommendations after completing the noise impact study. However, they are not typically involved in the implementation of the suggestions.

Increase the Quality of Soundproofing to Block Sound

Acoustic Engineers may help increase the soundproofing properties of a room or product. Acoustics is an important consideration for a wide range of products, including automobiles, motorcycles, trains, planes, and appliances.

For example, Acoustic Engineers are responsible for minimizing the noise that you hear from the road as you drive. They find ways to reflect and absorb sound coming from the road.

Improve Acoustic Performance and Sound Quality

Along with reducing sound, Acoustic Engineers may attempt to enhance or control it. They may help improve acoustic performance in conference rooms, theaters, and public venues. Improving the acoustics may involve altering the layout of a room or installing fixtures to redirect the sound.

What is the job like

Felipe Vernaza, P.Eng.
A large multi-disciplinary firm, in large infrastructure, resources and energy projects

I am an acoustics, noise, and vibration control engineer with 10 years of experience. My job involves looking at all acoustics, noise, and vibration aspects of any infrastructure, land development, energy, and resources projects.

Monitoring noise and vibration on a construction site

Acoustics deals with designing indoor spaces and appropriate speaker systems to ensure good speech intelligibility and loudness. An example of this is designing the Public Announcement (PA) system for a transit station. This involves developing a 3D acoustic model of the station to aid the selection of speaker types, quantities, and location, as well as identifying appropriate acoustic treatments if needed (e.g. acoustic panelling). Having a good PA system is important during emergency situations, to ensure patrons can clearly hear instructions.

I am also involved in noise assessments. These assessments look at any potential noise impacts at “sensitive receivers” both within and outside the project. Let’s look at different types of “sensitive receivers” to understand different types of noise assessments. A sensitive receiver could be:

  • An office or workstation: we model noise propagation through the building from sources such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment or other equipment, to determine whether noise levels are acceptable. Solutions to loud rooms could include silencers, duct lining, enclosures, and treating the room with absorptive materials. In extreme cases, where workstations are located close to very loud equipment (this can occur in mines, factories, refineries, etc), we would also recommend hearing protection.
  • A residential home: we build outdoor noise propagation models, to predict a project’s noise emission onto the environment. For example, a rail transit project will increase noise levels at any residences in the vicinity. High noise levels have been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, stress, and sleep disturbances. In some cases, high noise levels have been found to impact children who live near major highways, airports, or very busy train lines. These impacts include memory impairment, attention deficit, and lower reading levels. Mitigation measures include selection of quiet trains, continuous welded rail, noise berms, noise barriers, upgraded windows and walls, amongst others.
  • Wildlife areas: sensitive receivers can also include wildlife that is impacted by noise. For example, we are working on the construction of a bridge being built on the west coast. This bridge crosses a river of significant ecological importance. Fish and marine mammals are commonly found in this river. To build this bridge, impact pile driving is required. Unfortunately, impact pile driving sends large pressure waves underwater that could potentially kill or injure nearby marine wildlife. To mitigate these impacts, we have modelled underwater noise propagation and developed an air bubble curtain that will surround the pile underwater. This project is challenging because the river is deep and fast, so we had to account for the river’s current dispersing the bubbles as they rise along the water column.

By no means, this is an exhaustive list of what a noise sensitive receiver could be. A sensitive noise receiver can include hotels, classrooms, places of worship, institutional uses, etc.

Finally, we also deal with vibration. Typically, the most common major sources of vibration are train lines and construction. Similar to noise, a vibration “sensitive receiver” could be:

  • A residential home: if a train line or subway line is built near a residence, vibration could propagate through the ground, from the rail line to the residence. The vibration could in turn propagate through the residence’s structural system, and could cause light partitions (e.g. windows, plaster walls) to vibrate. This creates a rattling noise that can be quite annoying. This is referred to as ground-borne noise. Vibration from trains can be mitigated by using ballasted track, high resilience fasteners, ballast mats, or floating slabs. If the rail track is existing, an existing building could be upgraded to isolate it from the ground, but this can be quite costly.
  • Any structure: If vibration is sufficiently high, structural damage could occur. These higher vibration levels are usually caused by construction or demolition, especially if explosives are involved. We check for any structures that could be damaged and provide recommendations. These typically involve a revision of construction methods.

As an engineer, technical work (modelling, calculations, measurements) takes a big chunk of my time. However, report preparation is equally important as this is where we state our modelling or measurement results and provide recommendations. So even though I am an engineer, I spend a lot of time writing!

Typically, 1/3 to 1/2 of the day are meetings. During these meetings, I coordinate with other disciplines, which can be architects, mechanical engineers, structural engineers, mining engineers, biologists, transportation planners, etc. Coordinating means ensuring our models are based on the latest design and communicating our recommendations to the appropriate people to ensure they are reflected in the latest design. For example, prior to modelling, we will ask the architect for the latest architectural drawings. Based on these latest drawings, we will undertake our modelling, and then tell the architect that they need an acoustic ceiling for a certain room (for example). We want to make sure that our report recommendations and architectural drawings are ‘coordinated’.

Meeting time also includes time with Clients, typically discussing potential challenges or solutions for their project.

Providing direction to Junior Engineers or EITs also forms part of my typical responsibilities. This includes mentoring, delegating tasks, answering questions, and reviewing their work. For example, after meeting with the Client and interdisciplinary project team, I will summarize what we need to do to our junior staff, assign work, discuss expectations (budget and schedule), and then respond to questions junior staff may have. After the tasks are completed, I review the work and request updates as required.

Other responsibilities include noise and vibration measurements and monitoring. These are undertaken to calibrate the models or to show compliance with project or regulatory limits. We also take measurements to characterize noise sources. Sometimes I go on interesting site visits to measure noise/vibration levels. Locations include airports, refineries, subway systems, construction sites, mines, both within Canada or abroad.

Train vibration measurements


  • Very interesting and challenging projects, always get to learn something new. Projects include major airports and rail transit lines, large infrastructure projects including bridges and highways, amongst the largest mines in the world, huge refineries and factories, and unique projects involving wildlife.
  • Get to play with interesting equipment (sound level meters, digital acquisition systems) and go to very cool places very few people can access (e.g. remote airport in Iqaluit, Canada!)
  • Get to learn a lot about other disciplines. I get to work with transportation engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, civil engineers, mining engineers, planners, architects, structural engineers (and others!). So throughout my career, I’ve had exposure to many disciplines which has helped me grow professionally.


  • Difficult to manage emails and high workload
  • Working with different time zones can be a challenge. We have offices and projects around the globe. For example, working with our Australian counterparts can be challenging, as they are sleeping when we are working! So meetings tend to be either very early in the morning or late at night!


You Get to Work in a Variety of Settings

Acoustic Engineers do not work entirely out of an office, as they get to meet with clients at different locations and examine the acoustics of different environments.

You Can Help Protect People Against Loud Noise and Vibrations

Acoustic Engineers help protect workers and animals from dangerous noise levels and vibrations that may occur during construction activities.

The Work Is Rarely Repetitive

Acoustic Engineers often work on a wide range of projects throughout their careers, which keeps the job from becoming repetitive.

You May Get to Improve the Quality of Products

Making a lawn mower quieter or helping improve the acoustics of a set of speakers can help make this job rewarding, as you get to help consumers receive more enjoyment out of these products.


People May Assume That You Work in the Music Industry

Acquaintances may struggle to understand your profession, as they are likely to confuse Acoustic Engineering with Sound Engineering and related jobs.

You May Need to Travel Long Distances to Job Sites

Acoustic Engineers may need to travel to distant locations to complete noise impact studies and other acoustical assessments.

Where they work

Construction and Manufacturing
Architectural Industry
Entertainment Industry
Environmental Industry

Acoustic Engineers work in the construction and manufacturing industries to help limit noise and vibration generated by machines. Acoustic Engineers may work in the architectural industry to improve acoustic comfort and soundproofing in new buildings.

Acoustic Engineers are also used in the entertainment industry to improve the acoustics in performance venues. Acoustic Engineers may find work in the environmental industry where they complete noise impact studies to detect the impact of noise on nearby environments.

How to become one

Step 1: Study Math and Science in High School

High school students should excel at math and science, as Acoustic Engineers need to use math and science to study the acoustical properties of products and equipment.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

A Bachelor’s Degree is the minimum educational requirement for Acoustic Engineers. Not many schools offer Acoustical Engineering Bachelor’s Degrees. Most Acoustic Engineers earn Bachelor’s Degrees in Engineering and take courses related to Acoustical Engineering. Students should only choose Engineering programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Step 3: Consider Earning a Master’s Degree

A Master’s Degree can lead to greater employability, as some employers prefer to hire candidates with postgraduate degrees for entry-level jobs. Acoustical Engineering is more commonly available in Master’s Programs compared to Bachelor’s Programs. Students may also have the chance to choose a specialization within this field, such as Architectural Acoustics, Environmental Acoustics, or Underwater Acoustics.

Step 4: Take the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam

The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is the first step to becoming a Professional Engineer (PE), which is helpful in this career. The FE exam includes 110 questions.

Step 5: Apply for Acoustic Engineer Positions

After passing the FE exam, start applying for entry-level positions. Many Acoustic Engineers work in the construction and manufacturing industries.  

Step 6: Obtain a Professional Engineer License

After gaining several years of work experience and passing the FE exam, Acoustic Engineers can take the Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam and earn a Professional Engineer (PE) license. A PE license demonstrates a commitment to this profession, which may lead to greater job opportunities.

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Thinker

People with this personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.

You can read more about these career personality types here.

Acoustic Engineers need to be analytical, as their jobs require them to analyze soundwaves, vibrations, and many other variables. Successful Acoustic Engineers are often driven, self-motivated individuals, as pursuing this career requires dedication due to limited demand. Acoustic Engineers are also often good communicators, due to the need to explain their findings and recommendations to others. Curiosity is also a useful trait for this career, as Acoustic Engineers may need to find creative solutions to problems.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.


Don’t know which career to pursue?

Take the career quiz to find careers that match your personality type.

Take The Career Quiz