What Is a Food Technician?

Explore the career requirements for food technicians. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, employment outlook and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Art of Cooking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Food Technician?

Food technicians assist food scientists in testing the safety and quality of food products and conducting research that can lead to improvements in the food industry. Depending on the kind of lab they work in, they may conduct analytical experiments that detect harmful food products before they are released to the general public, aid in food formulations development or increase food manufacturing efficiency. After a study is complete, they may be responsible for preparing reports to share with the public, government agencies or the scientific community.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Associate's or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Biology, animal science
Training Required On-the-job training in production methods & sanitation protocols is typical
Key Tasks Collect, test & analyze samples; compile data results; maintain lab equipment & lab environment
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 5% (for all agricultural and food science technicians)*
Average Salary (2015) $39,000 (for all agricultural and food science technicians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Are the Job Duties of a Food Technician?

As a food technician, you assist food scientists with research by testing and examining food products. Your job is to ensure food is compliant with the Food and Drug Administration and help improve the food products on the market. Other opportunities may be to create ways to grow agricultural products using more efficient methods. You may also work to develop better methods to package foods and help discover ways to process foods that preserve the nutrient levels.

In addition to improving food quality, you need to ensure that the laboratory is stocked and equipment is ready for use. Job duties may include cleaning equipment, ordering supplies and keeping records. Under supervision of a food scientist, you may have to conduct tests to determine the coloring, nutrients, moisture levels, and other factors within a food item. Additional responsibilities include analyzing test results and compiling presentations on the material.

What Education or Training Do I Need?

A bachelor's degree in an agricultural science-related area is usually the minimum requirement for a food technician. Some employers, such as university research departments, may require a master's degree or higher.

You may also consider a degree in food science, which provides education in food engineering, food product categories, quality control methods, preservation processes, food industry regulations, and the science of growing food products. Courses may focus on specific foods and cover topics involving brewing beer and processing dairy products. In the program, you also learn about toxic foods, growing conditions, the development process of nutrients in foods and manufacturing processes.

What Is the Job Outlook and Salary For This Career?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2015 that agricultural and food science technicians earned an average yearly salary of $39,000 and held about 20,260 jobs (www.bls.gov). Of those jobs, food manufacturing companies employed about 19% of workers and educational institutions about 17% in 2014. The BLS also reported job growth of about 5% for agricultural and food science technicians during the 2014-2024 decade.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are looking for an entry-level lab job related to human health, you might want to consider becoming a medical laboratory technologist or technician. These workers test biological specimens like tissues and blood samples, generating reports that can be used for patient diagnosis or medical research. Technicians need an associate's degree, while technologists must usually hold a bachelor's degree. Alternatively, if would prefer a job that is more directly related to the food industry, you could consider becoming a food service manager. In this position, you would be responsible for overseeing the operations of a food service establishment, like a restaurant or catering company. This would include making sure that all safety and sanitation protocols are strictly followed. Although a high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement for this position, it can help to have completed a postsecondary training program.

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