Learn about food science degree programs and specialization areas that can prepare you to work in food science and technology. Explore career options, job duties, employment growth and salaries in this field.
Food science and technology examines how food is processed and how those processes affect its health and nutritional value. In this field, your responsibilities include exploring the chemical makeup of food, identifying elements that cause and prevent deterioration, assessing processing principles and developing new foodstuffs. Quality control and transportation methods are also a part of the field. Food science and technology incorporates biochemistry, nutrition, microbiology and chemistry. To work in the food science and technology industry, you should be able to communicate effectively, pay attention to detail, apply statistics and work as a team.
Food science and technology jobs are available in government, corporate or university settings. You might oversee labeling and safety regulations, conduct food quality assurance checks or supervise meat plants. You can also work in agricultural production or with organic foods. A graduate degree usually leads to a career in research. As a food scientist, you might develop methods to produce, process and store food so it stays better, longer. You might also pursue a career with the Food and Drug Administration, enforcing current regulations or developing additional ones to make food healthier for consumers.
Agricultural inspectors have no specific academic requirements, but a background in food science and processing can familiarize you with storage, fertilization and pest control techniques that assure food quality and help you pass certification exams in food safety or agricultural inspection. To pursue a career in food science technology you should have at least a bachelor's degree. Food technologists research, develop and test food products, analyze crops and apply new methods to improve food quality.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that between 2012 and 2022, employment will increase by 9% for food scientists and by 3% for agricultural and food science technicians. According to May 2013 data from the BLS, the median annual salary for agricultural and food science technicians was $34,790, and for food and agricultural scientists, it was $59,630.
Some jobs have no specific educational requirements, but most require a minimum of a bachelor's degree or familiarity with the topics covered at the undergraduate level. You can get your bachelor's degree in food science with optional specializations in areas such as food business, or you can find food science as a specialization option under another degree program. Topics of study include food production, methods of food processing and preservation, food sanitation, food law, nutrition, food chemistry and food analysis.
Through master's degree programs, you can specialize in microbiology, food chemistry, sensory science, dairy science, biochemistry or processing. Doctoral degree programs often have emphasis areas, such as fermentation or food chemistry. Graduate level programs are research-based and might include topics such as the chemistry of flavor, packaging methods, food allergens, toxicology, grains in cereals, brewing beer and international food laws.