Each year we have students enrol on BEng (Hons) Acoustical and Audio Engineering. This course has been popular with our students studying maths, physics and music technology at A-level.

Dave Cotton, Physics Teacher, @Newmanphysics

If you’re sure you want to focus on Acoustics and Audio, then there are specialist degree courses you can take, like the one mentioned by Dave Cotton. But you need to be careful to choose the right sort of course for you – see “scientist or artist” below.

If you’re interested in acoustics and audio but want to keep your options open, then studying a more general degree like physics, mechanical engineering or mathematics might be a better choice. You can specialise later by taking a master’s degree in acoustics or doing further training in industry.

Scientist or artist?

If you search UCAS for a degree in ‘acoustic engineering’ you’ll get over a hundred courses listed, which are vary varied. Degree courses labelled “acoustics” and “audio” come in two broad categories:

  1. STEM courses trying to train you to be an engineer or scientist who can get a job designing products, programming audio software, carrying out scientific explorations, etc. You need to study science and mathematics at A-Level (or equivalent) to get on these type of degrees. And at university, modules will have significant science and mathematics content.
  2. Practitioner courses trying to produce intelligent users of audio technologies, such as sound engineers who run the desk at live venues, in recording studios and for TV companies. You will spend more time studying the artistic and creative use of sound.
    • If you study this sort of course you won’t immediately have the technical skills to go into, say working for a headphone manufacturer to create new products.
    • At Salford this type of course is Sound Engineering & Production.

Which type of course you choose ultimately depends on what most interests you. People do switch between being a Practitioner and a STEM engineer after a first degree, but that requires significant retraining (e.g. studying a Masters).

Most people who study Acoustical and Audio Engineering are musicians. Some people keep performing as a hobby (studying a STEM course type 1), others make it central to their job (practitioner course type 2). On average, there are more, better paid jobs available for those who study the first type of STEM course, and they’ll find jobs quicker [1], because there is a shortage of people with STEM training going into engineering and science jobs [2]. Some businesses like Google want polymaths who bring science and arts together, and tech firms need acoustical and audio engineers [3].


[1] http://careers.guardian.co.uk/careers-blog/engineering-sector-jobs-graduates

[2] http://careers.guardian.co.uk/work-blog/stem-skills-shortage

[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/aug/26/eric-schmidt-chairman-google-education

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