Making the switch from Civil Engineering to Acoustics

Nicolas Assiotis

Role at Cahill Design Consultants

Acoustic Consultant

Experience working in Acoustics:

4 Years

Top Tip for someone new to the industry:

Raise your hand at every opportunity – do not be scared and keep going. You never know what might come up. If you are starting out and have academic knowledge, hold on to that and take any opportunity to get experience – especially from others. You will get used to the job as your experience grows.

Nicolas’ Acoustic Journey 

I graduated from the University of Cyprus in 2018, achieving a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering with honours. After completing this, I knew that for my Master’s degree, I wanted to focus more on the environmental side, and I also wanted to move to the UK. 

I moved to London in 2019 and enrolled on my Master’s degree, “Built Environment: Environmental Design and Engineering”, at UCL. I did not know what to expect – it was a new world. The course was very different from my Bachelors and the language was a challenge. Early on, I still thought I would aim for a civil engineer position or something in energy. But in my second semester, we were to choose 2 optional courses to take alongside the obligated classes. I attended an event where Professors from different fields of expertise showcased the subjects to help students select their classes. One of them was Acoustics, which I did not know much about. The Professor put speakers on the desk in front of him and started to play and explain about different sounds. It captured my attention, and I thought it was incredible – I must take this class!

It turned into my favourite class. The Professor was passionate and encouraging; my first impressions of Acoustics were positive. This led me to choose Soundscapes as my final dissertation topic. The title was “The Placebo Effect of Verbal and Visual Suggestions in Urban Soundscape Perception”. This was enjoyable as I met more academic acousticians who helped with surveys and measurements. I selected 2 parks in London, one near noisy roads with traffic noise and a quieter park with people and music as the prominent noise sources. I surveyed people in the park, some of whom I spoke to first, putting ideas in their heads about the parks’ quiet and tranquil character to see if it changed the answers compared to those I did not speak with.

After University

Reality struck after finishing my Master’s degree – I had to decide what to do. A civil engineering job in an environmental field or pursue Acoustics. I had only taken the optional class in Acoustics, but this had captured my attention more, and I did not enjoy civil engineering as much anymore. It was a frustrating job hunt; I almost gave up and considered returning to Cyprus to continue as a civil engineer.

Eventually, I decided to go back to Cyprus and called home to tell my family. Just an hour after this, I received a call from a recruiter telling me about a position at CDC. I met Ben and told him I did not have much experience but wanted to become an acoustician. I got the job, and Ben took me under his wing and was very willing to help and enable me to build up my knowledge and experience.

Starting from almost zero, everyone helped so much. I was in awe of how sound affects us, and now I was learning more about it and how to do the work all in one. Gradually, work built up, and I started to write reports and perform testing and surveys. At first, I watched other people, then carried them out under supervision. The first time I carried out a test on my own, a sound insulation test at a University in London, I was terrified! But it went well and helped my confidence. Now, I am growing further and taking on more, including taking the IOA diploma this year.

It has been an excellent and challenging few years, and I have learned so much. I enjoy the mix of site and office work. Getting to travel and see different places is a bonus. In the future, I hope to work on some projects that include a theatre or studio – an opera house would be amazing.

Best Experience

Alton Towers put on a 3-day fireworks event around Guy Fawkes night. Every year, we measure sound levels on the Friday night to see if any adjustments are needed for the next 2 nights. I look forward to it every year. 

Considering a career in Acoustics? Check out our careers page

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