As a Food Scientist (or Food Science Researcher), you can use your skills in the scientific fields of chemistry, physical science and biology to study and improve taste, safety and nutritional value of the food we eat. If you are interested in learning more about the ongoing research in the field of Food Science check out the International Union of Food Science and Technology’s online publication The World of Food Science. Food Scientists often split their time between research in the field and laboratory and writing reports in their office.
Jobs within the field of food sciences cover a large variety and your responsibilities can include:
- Evaluating and analyzing the quality and nutritional value of finished food products as well as raw food ingredients
- Developing and refining methods of food processing and preservation
- Researching and improving food packaging
- Testing for food contaminants including, but not limited to, molds, yeasts and harmful bacteria
- Reviewing and enforcing compliance with food sanitation, quality and safety policies in the food manufacturing process
- Creating new cost effective wholesale food production methods and food products
- Researching and experimenting with the chemical and biological processes that cause crops and livestock to grow
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the typical salary you can expect to earn as a Food Scientist is between $40,570 and $75,250 per year, with the median pay falling at $58,610 per year or $28.18 per hour. In spite of our unstable economy, the Food Science industry is expected to retain a steady growth rate of 8% over the next few years.
Food Sciences is one of the few fields in which you can become a scientist with only a four year degree. The most applicable degree for this field is Agricultural Sciences, but a degree in a related science field such as chemistry, physics, biology or food/chemical engineering specialties can also qualify you. Coursework in food analysis, biochemistry, nutrition, microbiology, food engineering, food chemistry, food law, and/or food processing and packaging will prepare and qualify you for a job within the field. Professional certifications and continuing education that will set you apart from competition are available from professional organizations such as the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists, the Soil Science Society of America and the Institute of Food Technologists.
A Food Scientist needs to be able to work as part of a team of researchers and conduct self directed independent research. You need strong communication skills and data-analysis skills and observational skills to be a competitive candidate for a Food Science position. Most food scientists work for federal government agencies, academic institutions or private food processing companies. Internships and job shadowing can give you an advantage in your job search. To learn more about Food Science job opportunities and training check out the Institute of Food Technologist’s Career Resources.