Acousticians study the physics of sound, using their knowledge to develop the management of sound in areas such as science, industry, medicine and the environment. They work on improving sound, controlling noise levels and developing technology such as telecommunications systems, sound and medical ultrasound equipment.
Also known as
- Physicist, Acoustics
- Sound Physicist
- Acoustic Engineer
- Acoustics Physicist
Video: - Mike: Acoustics Physicist
As an Acoustician, you will help to measure and control noise levels in the workplace, working to strict regulations and legislation. You'll predict and measure noise levels, for example, in heavy industry and construction work. You will also be able to identify areas where noise levels must be reduced, and recommend ways of doing this.
You will use equipment such as sound-level meters to take decibel measurements from the source of noise. You are then able to build computer models to analyse the strength of noise from the source, and the distance between the source and the receiver of the noise.
Apart from heavy industrial machinery, things like heating, air conditioning and the external environment all contribute to noise levels in commercial buildings. You'll work with companies to investigate the cause of noise and recommend solutions, such as soundproof insulation, or to identify and remove noise sources.
You might also advise companies and individuals on legal issues, such as compensation for hearing loss caused by high workplace noise levels.
Acousticians are often involved in building design. In this area, you will advise Planners and Builders on measures at an early stage to make new buildings as soundproof as possible, taking into account the health and privacy of people in neighbouring buildings.
You'll work with Architects to improve sound quality in the entertainment industry, in places like theatres, stadiums and recording studios.
In environmental noise control, you'll predict and measure traffic, rail and aircraft noise, using your findings to advise local authorities, rail companies and airports, for example. You'll also predict noise levels from events such as music concerts, helping local authorities to consider whether the noise level will be a nuisance or damaging to local people.
You might be an expert on the human auditory system, including deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss caused by noise.
You will use your knowledge to research and develop ear defenders, and to help medical professionals in diagnosis and treatment. Acousticians have helped to develop medical ultrasound testing.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become an Acoustician, you'll need:
- a strong interest in, and curiosity about, the physics of sound
- to be accurate and methodical
- analytical and problem-solving skills
- strong maths skills
- the ability to use a wide variety of technical equipment
- good communication skills to explain your findings
- writing skills to produce reports and make recommendations
- good teamwork skills
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £21,500 - £23,000
- With experience: £23,500 - £27,000
- Senior Acousticians earn £28,500 - £31,000
Hours of work
As an Acoustician, you can expect to work around 35-40 hours, Monday to Friday. However, you might have early starts, late finishes and some weekend work, especially as deadlines approach.
Where could I work?
Employers throughout the UK are firms in:
- chemical, water, marine and offshore industries
- government departments
You could work as Independent Consultants or in partnership with other specialists in professional practice.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised on the website of the Institute of Acoustics (IOA), in science magazines such as New Scientist (including the online version), on specialist job boards and in national newspapers.
Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on recruitment and employers' websites, and on Find a Job (www.gov.uk/jobsearch).
Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.
Take a look at our General Information Article
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Entry Routes and Training
Entry routes and training
You need a relevant degree to become an Acoustician. Most entrants have degrees in applied physics with significant acoustics content, or a relevant engineering degree. You should check college/university websites carefully to make sure the course is appropriate.
Some people enter after completing degrees in music technology. You should check prospectuses to see whether courses include enough acoustics content.
A small number of specialist courses are available. The University of Salford has a BEng degree in audio acoustics, and both BSc (Hons) and MPhys (Hons) degrees in physics with acoustics.
The University of Southampton offers BEng and MEng courses in acoustical engineering, and a BSc (Hons) degree in acoustics with music. The University also runs an extra foundation year for students who don't have A level maths and physics.
Some universities also offer science and engineering degree courses with a foundation year. This is an extra year for students who don't have the specified science A levels for entry.
Postgraduate MSc and diploma courses are available, with titles such as environmental acoustics, and acoustics and noise control.
The Institute of Acoustics offers a one-year, part-time, postgraduate diploma in acoustics and noise control. Several UK universities run the diploma, and it's also available as a partly distance learning course. You can find a list of course providers on the Institute's website.
The usual entry requirement is a first (undergraduate) degree in a science, engineering or construction-related subject, or an acceptable professional qualification.
The Institute also offers short courses leading to certificates of competence in specialist areas, such as environmental noise measurement.
A small number of universities offer integrated science degrees (ISciences), aiming to give graduates interdisciplinary skills and knowledge through a problem-based approach.
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article '
As an experienced Acoustician, you can set up your own businesses as a Consultant, for example, giving advice to local authorities, construction companies and industry.
Previous experience in sound engineering or acoustics technical work would be really useful for this career.
For entry to a degree in physics with acoustics, acoustics or acoustical engineering, the usual minimum requirement is:
- 2/3 A levels, including maths and physics
- GCSEs at grade C/4 and above in your A level subjects
- a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 and above
Alternatives to A levels include:
- BTEC or City & Guilds level 3 qualifications
- the International Baccalaureate Diploma
However, course requirements vary, so please check college/university websites very carefully.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Some entrants have gained skills and knowledge in sound engineering or acoustics technical work.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter a degree course, you might be able to start one after completing an Access course, for example, Access to Science. You don't usually need any qualifications to enter an Access course, although you should check this with the course provider.
A foundation year before the start of a science degree or HND is available at some universities and higher education colleges for students who don't have the science A levels usually needed for entry to the course.
The Institute of Acoustics offers a one-year, part-time postgraduate Diploma in Acoustics and Noise Control, which is also available partly through distance learning.
The University of Salford offers part-time postgraduate degrees in Environmental Acoustics and also Audio Acoustics, both by distance learning. These courses are accredited by the Institute of Acoustics.
The University of Derby offers an MSc in Applied Acoustics, through a flexible blend of online and classroom learning.
Financial support for postgraduate study and research is available, through universities, from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
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University of Derby
Address: Kedleston Road, Derby DE22 1GB
Tel: 01332 590500
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1ET
Tel: 01793 444000
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1SZ
Tel: 01793 442000
Institute of Acoustics (IOA)
Address: 3rd Floor St Peter's House, 45-49 Victoria Street, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL1 3WZ
Tel: 01727 848195