by Julie Remington
Ever notice that some dishwashers make a disturbing racket while others quietly hum? Behind that gentle hum is a noise control engineer. Their work is to improve the acoustic environment, usually by reducing the noise made by products ranging from computers to jet engines.
Work settings for noise control engineers include:
- aeronautical companies
- car production facilities
- furnace and air conditioning equipment producers
- air filter and sound muffler manufacturers
- appliance manufacturers
- personal electronic and audio-visual equipment producers
Noise control is also important in the design and maintenance of entertainment facilities and other venues where high-quality musical acoustics are needed.
Meet Kay Hatlestad, a Board-Certified Noise Control Engineer based in Minneapolis
Kay had an early affinity for math and science. Following the footsteps of two older siblings, she entered college planning to major in engineering. At the same time, as a musician, she was fascinated by the sound differences among instruments made from different materials and wanted to explore what was behind it. Because of this, she added classes in acoustics to her Bachelor of Science in engineering mechanics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She found that many engineering students were also musicians. “I think music and engineering both involve looking for patterns,” says Kay. “They use the same part of the brain.”
She then went on to earn a Master of Science in acoustics from Pennsylvania State University, and followed up with Board Certification in Noise Control Engineering. While the certification is not required, it does provide recognition and credibility for potential employers.
On the Job
Noise control engineers need to be able to recognize how components interact in a system, and to understand how people respond to noise. Kay also says that communication skills and the ability to learn new software quickly are essential. And, because of the engineering and physics foundation for acoustical work, strong science and math interests are needed.
Her favorite part of the job is the variety—specifically the range of products, problems, and settings in her work. In an ideal world, Kay would like to see all K-12 school buildings retrofitted for maximum noise control in the classroom to support students’ learning ability.
Still, Kay noted that she is usually the only woman in her workplace. While she has been treated respectfully and collaboratively, she did admit that she gets “tired of being the odd one out.” To encourage more women to enter engineering in general, Kay speaks to high school and college groups. She says it’s important for young women to realize that engineering is a career that improves conditions for people. Much of engineering’s focus is “about trying to make the world a better place.”
For more information on education and occupations in acoustics, visit the Acoustical Society of America.
For information on related occupations, see these career profiles on ISEEK:
Julie Remington, ISEEK Outreach Specialist, has worked for 15 years in the career development and employment field. In addition to work with online tools, she has focused on staff development, process improvement, and system change. She has a B.A. in Philosophy and International Studies from Macalester College, and an M.A. in Educational and Counseling Psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia.