Food Sciences

Food science explores the interaction of chemical, biological and physical properties of food components. Read on to learn about career opportunities, academic requirements, employment outlook and salary info for this field.

Is Food Science for Me?

Career Summary

In the food science field, you can study the various properties of food to ensure the safety, nutritional value and abundance of food supplies. If you become a food scientist, you might analyze and solve problems related to food processing, storing and distribution. You could develop ways to enhance the flavor and nutritional value of food, while ensuring its safety. Your job might also involve creating new food products or determining cost strategies related to food production and management.

Regardless of your specialty, you need a solid background in biology and chemistry paired with good business sense. Food safety certification might be necessary depending on your occupation and the state in which you work.

Employment Options

You can find careers within food processing and product development industries, academia and the federal government, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As a food scientist, you can work in the areas of food inspection and food production management. Graduate programs can prepare you to become a technical food science expert and research team leader. Sample job titles can include food technologist, food engineer, nutrition scientist or food chemist.

An advanced degree could help you conduct food-related research in private and academic institutions. Alternatively, you may choose self-employment as a consultant to provide expertise to those in the food processing and manufacturing industries, or to ensure businesses are in compliance with food safety regulations.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), agricultural and food scientist employment was expected to grow by 9%, which was as fast as the national average, for the decade 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). The need to produce more food of higher quality to meet the demands of a growing population is driving much of this growth. As of May 2012, the median annual salary for food scientists and technologists was $58,070, the BLS reported.

How Can I Work in Food Science?

Undergraduate Education

To work in this field, you can earn a Bachelor of Science in Food Science. Courses in a 4-year program emphasize food safety, chemistry, food analysis, nutrition, microbiology and engineering. Many schools offer different tracks within food science programs to better suit your career goals, such as food management or food science research tracks. These programs could also include internships or a practicum to help you gain personal experience in the field.

Graduate Studies

If you're interested in a research or academic career related to food science, you'll need to earn a Master of Science or Doctor of Philosophy in Food Science. Master's degree programs typically take two years to complete and offer thesis and non-thesis tracks, while doctoral programs could require oral presentations, a qualifying exam and a dissertation. Online food science programs are also available to distance learners at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Certificates

Many university food science departments offer certificate programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels as well, including food safety, local food systems and organic agriculture. The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Higher Education Review Board approves undergraduate food science degree programs that meet education standards.

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