What Does a Food Scientist Do?

Food scientists study, research, create or improve food and food processes to ensure the safety of the public. Read on to learn what a food scientist does and how to enter this field. Schools offering Art of Cooking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Food Scientist Specializations

Food scientists work in research and development, regulatory, processing and quality assurance areas. Choosing one of these areas usually guides your career path. You might work in one area for a while and then move onto another specialization. It is possible that there is some career overlap too, allowing you to work in multiple areas at the same time.

Important Facts About Food Scientists

Work EnvironmentLaboratory, office setting, food production facility
On-the-Job TrainingInternship recommended
Similar OccupationsConservation scientist, environmental scientist, zoologist
Key SkillsData analysis, math, observation, critical thinking

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Responsibilities

Your job responsibilities will depend upon your food science specialization. For example, if you work in quality assurance, then your job is to monitor food production and ensure that food-making processes are working correctly. You'll also analyze the food to determine the amount of nutrients, sugars, vitamins and fats in them so manufacturers can properly label the food.

If you're working in research, then you'll discover and experiment with different food storage methods and food additives, depending on your assignment. If research isn't interesting to you, then you can work in development and focus on making and improving existing food products.

As a processing food scientist, you'll work on techniques like canning, drying, evaporation, blanching, baking and pasteurization. Finally, as a regulatory food scientist, you'll go around enforcing food regulations for the government or making sure that your food industry employer is following regulations.

Education and Training

In the food processing industry, you'll need a bachelor's degree in food science, agricultural science or a similar major. Entry-level research positions usually require a master's degree, while senior research positions need a doctorate. Appropriate coursework includes classes on food processing operations, food laws and regulations, food microbiology, food analysis, food chemistry and food engineering.

You won't need a state-issued license to work as a food scientist. If you job is centered at a farm in growing crops, you may want to seek voluntary certification from the American Society of Agronomy. Certifications offered include certified crop adviser, certified professional agronomist and certified professional soil scientist. Requirements for these certifications vary, but all include a minimum of a bachelor's degree in the appropriate subject and some work experience. Passing an examination and maintaining continuing education credits are normal requirements as well.

Salary and Job Outlook

Your salary as a food scientist will likely depend on the industry you decide to go into. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that food scientists in all industries had a mean annual wage of $66,870 in May 2014. Food scientists who were in the top ten percent of wage estimates had yearly incomes of $107,810 or more. The BLS reported in 2014 that the top-paying industry for food scientists was the federal government; the hourly mean wage for food scientists working in this industry is $44.45, which amounted to a yearly mean salary of $92,460. Other high-paying industries included wholesale electronic markets, management of companies and enterprises, and scientific research and development services.

The BLS noted that the employment of food scientists and technologists was expected to see 11% growth from 2012 to 2022. Given a growing concern and awareness of food production and health effects of foods, the BLS predicted that job opportunities for food scientists would be good. A growing population is another cause for job growth in this field.

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