A career in acoustic and sound engineering can offer many great opportunities and involve a lot of interesting work in both the public and private sectors. This could involve anything from working towards reducing noise levels in public places to designing recording studios. Acoustic and sound engineering draws on a number of disciplines from electronics, structural engineering, physics and material testing.
In order to become a qualified acoustic and sound engineer you must have an extensive education in physics and maths. This involves studying at A-level and then degree level before becoming a member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineering (IMechE). To qualify for acceptance onto an acoustic engineering course you should hold at least five GCSEs graded A*-C including maths and science, at least three A-levels, including maths and physics, with one of these being at an A grade. Equivalent qualifications such as Higher National Certificates may also be accepted.
Due to the demanding nature of the work there are a number of skills you will require in order to progress within the subject. As well as a natural aptitude for science and maths you should have excellent hearing as this will be your most valuable tool when differentiating between sounds. It would also be advantageous to have a background in music or have a good sense of rhythm and pitch as well as an interest in a variety of different kinds of music. A prior knowledge of recording equipment and the recording process will also help along with a strong interest in technology. As a lot of work in recording studios is done late at night you must also be comfortable with unsociable hours and being able to concentrate for long periods of time.
Having prior experience in recording studios and in the mechanics of music would help greatly before you start your degree. However, during your course you will be given extensive training in recognising different sounds and the technical aspect of audio engineering. While studying you may gain extra experience by working as a sound engineer at live performances or by recording bands you meet at university.
Gaining a degree in acoustic and sound engineering at an accredited institution gives you the title of Chartered Engineer (CEng) and enables you to become a member of the IMechE, which will open up a much broader range of employment opportunities that offer much higher salaries. In order to gain this qualification you must work as a professional acoustic engineer for a period of professional development before applying to the IMechE for an assessment. If you have studied a bachelor degree (BEng) you may qualify to become a corporate member of the IMechE whereas completing a masters degree allows you to become a chartered member.
Depending in which sector you work a recent graduate can expect to earn between £15,000 and £25,000 a year. Once you have become a corporate member of the IMechE a typical salary rises to around £35,000 whereas a chartered member could make more than £50,000 a year.