Frequently Asked Questions

What is acoustics?

Acoustics is the science that studies the production, control, transmission, reception, and effects of sound. Direct applications include noise control, SONAR for submarine navigation, ultrasounds for medical imaging, thermoacoustic refrigeration, seismology, bioacoustics, electroacoustic communication, and more. The scope of acoustics is large, and encompasses Earth Sciences, Engineering, Life Sciences, and the Arts.


What do acousticians do?

There are many different kinds of acousticians. A bio-acoustician might research bird populations to determine whether or not human-made noise disrupts them. An audiologist can diagnose hearing impairments and research how to improve hearing loss. An acoustical architect could design an opera house so that people in the audience can enjoy the music to the fullest. A scientist specializing in noise could do work to reduce noise caused by airplanes, cars and trains. An underwater acoustician might design sophisticated sonar hardware to explore the ocean floor while an acoustician interested in ultrasound could develop medical equipment to destroy kidney stones. This is just a small subset of what some acousticians do! Acousticians generate valuable information which can be used in many fields to examine and apply the science of sound. Above the B.S. level, the range of possibilities become quite broad, and students tend to specialize in one area of acoustics


What careers are available to an acoustician?

The field is VERY interdisciplinary and provides many options. Acoustics offers diverse career opportunities dependent on your interests and expertise. Studying acoustics can lead to job opportunities in three main categories: academia, industry, and laboratory positions.

With a graduate degree in acoustics, one can teach in a university department such as physics, engineering, mathematics, computer science, speech pathology, audiology, biomedicine, music, or even linguistics.

Large companies will often have an acoustician analyze the acoustics and vibrations of the systems/products that the company develops, maintains, or studies.

Acousticians find careers doing research in laboratory research topics, often government or national laboratories.

Most people who practice acoustics beyond acoustical consulting usually have graduate degrees.  


Does the ASA offer recommendations for individuals for colleges?

The ASA does not provide recommendations for individuals, however the ASA graduate program directory http://asa.aip.org/asagrad/gpdir.cm.html can be used to leverage an admissions applications.


Which schools offer classes in acoustics?

Often schools that have graduate programs in acoustics will have undergraduate offerings


What should I study during my undergraduate degree in order to prepare for a career in acoustics?

There is no single path to a career in acoustics, and it is dependent on what field in acoustics you wish to enter, and how far you plan on taking your education. For example, if a B.A or B.S is your terminal degree, a degree in Mechanical Engineering (M.E.), Electrical Engineering (E.E.), or Physics will be best for job placement. Many employers will favor an M.E. or E.E. undergraduate degree over a Physics degree, and will seek to fill entry level positions with engineers. However if one plans on graduate level training, the job opportunities depend on the work done during the thesis or dissertation.

If you plan on pursuing a degree in M.E. or E.E., try to find a program that offers some acoustics and vibrations undergraduate courses, as not all programs offer them. It may be useful to find an M.E. or E.E. program at a school that has graduate programs in acoustics, as there may be professors who are willing to take on undergraduate researchers ā€“ this is an excellent way to gain early exposure and experience in acoustics.

If you are interested in acoustical consulting (noise and vibration control, acoustical design of buildings), then an undergraduate degree in architectural or civil engineering might be the best route to find a job in that field


Are there any schools that offer undergraduate degrees in acoustics?

Yes, however most are oriented toward audio-production and recording arts and science. These programs usually result in a B.A. rather than a B.S. This trend is driven by the amount of professions available with the status of modern media.

Most B.S.-level acoustics jobs are given to students from an engineering program (often civil, architectural, mechanical, and electrical). There are far more graduate students studying acoustics than there are undergraduates.


Iā€™m interested in speech and hearing related acoustics jobs ā€“ what should I study in undergraduate?

For these fields in acoustics, an undergraduate degree in psychology, audiology, communications sciences, etc., are much more common than engineering


How hard is the math?

At the graduate level, students coming from Physics B.S., M.E., or E.E. programs tend to have an easier time with the mathematics than students who majored in something else. For this reason, it is recommended that a student study Physics, M.E., or E.E. if they intend on going to grad school, unless acoustical consulting is the end goal. This is to ensure than the student is prepared for graduate level study.  


How can I get involved in acoustics?

Visit http://asachapters.org/asa-chapter-locations/ in order to find your local ASA chapter.


Are there learning initiatives in the ASA?

Yes ā€“ visit http://asaedcom.org/ or http://exploresound.org/additional-resources/ to explore


Specific questions about the industry

A good resource to learn about the industry is the National Council of Acoustical Consultants (ncac.com/).