The field of acoustics, because it is so diverse, offers many different career opportunities. Acoustics is the interdisciplinary science that deals with the study of all mechanical waves in gases, liquids and solids including topics such as vibration, sound, ultrasound and infrasound.
Acoustics-related coursework may cover such topics as architectural acoustics, sound reinforcement, noise control, vibrations and environmental acoustics. The job of an acoustical engineer is to manipulate and control sounds. Bioacoustics deals with the interaction of sound waves with biological tissues in humans and animals. Much recent research in this area has been concerned with the use of high-frequency ultrasound in medical diagnosis and treatment.
Architectural acoustics deals with sound in and around buildings and nearly everyone is aware of the importance of good acoustical design in concert halls, recording studios, auditoriums and churches. Good acoustics should, and can, be engineered during the design of the building, since changes at a later time are expensive.
Engineering acoustics deals with transducers and sound measuring instruments of all kinds. Engineering acoustics also includes instrumentation for medical diagnosis, communications, seismic surveying, recording and reproducing speech and music. Electro-acoustics is a branch that deals with microphones, loudspeakers and other transducers, as well as the recording and reproduction of sound. Sub-atomic particles, such as protons and even the elusive neutrino, have been detected by sound they make as they travel at high speeds.
Most researchers in the field have advanced degrees in physics or chemistry. Research that seeks to understand how human beings produce and perceive speech is leading to the development of methods for improved communication between man and machine and more effective training, technical aids for those with disorders of communication.
Underwater vessels such as submarines are guided through the depths of the ocean by their acoustic systems. Acoustic signals are used to detect the presence and location of commercially valuable fish, to map the sea floor, determine the safest avenues for supertankers, explore the Earth&’s geological formations or search for oil deposits beneath the ocean floor.
The need for technological advancements will afford many rewarding job opportunities for graduates in acoustics. Large machines must be designed in a way that their operation is smooth and without unwanted vibration. Many disasters, such as the destruction of a building by an earthquake, the toppling of a tall smokestack or the collapse of a suspension bridge in a windstorm, involve vibration, but engineers are continuing to learn new ways of lessening the chances of them taking place.
Some engineering programmes allow students to focus on specific areas of acoustic engineering such as sound system engineering or vibrations. Depending on the programme, students may have to complete a thesis or study project. In India, the options are fairly limited however, the Indian Institute of Technology, Indian Institute of Science and Institute of Acoustics offer courses in technical acoustics.