Food Scientists and Technologists Overview

A bachelors degree is sufficient for acquiring most jobs in product development, while a research position generally requires a masters or Ph.D. degree. Food science is expected to grow faster than average and opportunities are expected to be good as new products are developed using biotechnology.

Nature of the Work for Food Scientists and Technologists

Food Scientists and Technologists

Food scientists and technologists help to maintain the Nation’s food supply by ensuring food safety. They create and improve food products and often work universities, the food processing industry or the Federal government. They rely on knowledge of a variety of sciences, such as physics, chemistry, microbiology, biotechnology, and engineering to develop innovative ways of preserving, packaging, storing and delivering foods.

Actual job responsibilities of a food scientist and technologists depend on the area that they are employed. A food scientist that conducts basic research is analyzing food content to determine levels of fat, vitamins, protein or sugar; searching for substitute for harmful or undesirable additives, such as nitrates; or discovering new foods. Others are involved in applied research, which involved discovering ways to remove harmful additives or improve the content of food. Some others conduct research on traditional cooking methods such as baking, blanching, drying, canning, pasteurization and evaporation. Other food scientists inspect food processing areas, enforcing industry and government regulations, and ensuring that sanitation, quality, safety and waste management standards are met. Those who do not work in research apply the findings from the food science research to improve the preservation, processing, selection, packaging and distribution of food.

Food scientists and technologists’ work environment varies according to the type of employer and specialty. For example, in the private industry they may investigate new processing techniques while working in a test kitchen.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Food Scientists and Technologists

A bachelors degree is usually sufficient for gaining an entry-level position as a food scientist or technologist, while a masters degree or Ph.D. may be required for applied research positions. Students interested in a career as a food scientist should take courses in food analysis, food chemistry, food microbiology, food processing operations and food engineering.

Employers of food scientists and technologists look for applicants who demonstrate the ability to work independently or as part of a team. Clear, concise oral and written communication is another necessary trait. A basic understanding of business principals, the ability to use computers to analyze data, the ability to apply statistical techniques and to control chemical and biological processing is required.

Top 10 Most Popular Food Science Schools

1. University of Florida (Gainesville, Florida)
2. University of Illinois, Urbana, Champaign (Champaign, Illinois)
3. University of California, Davis (Davis, California)
4. Purdue University, Main Campus (West Lafayette, Indiana)
5. Kansas State University (Manhattan, Kansas)
6. Mississippi State University (Mississippi State, Mississippi)
7. Ohio State University, Columbus (Columbus, Ohio)
8. Michigan State University (East Lansing, Michigan)
9. North Carolina State University at Raleigh (Raleigh, North Carolina)
10. Pennsylvania State University, Main Campus (University Park, Pennsylvania)

See All Food Science Schools

Online School: Kansas State University - Online School

Employment and Job Outlook for Food Scientists and Technologists

Number of People in Profession

10,790

Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow faster than average (increase 14 - 19%).

Food scientists and technologists hold about 13,400 jobs. A large number of these people also hold faculty positions in colleges and universities. Manufacturing companies hold about 20 percent of the total number of food scientists and technologist, working mainly in food and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Another 15 percent work in educational institutions. About 7 percent work in the Federal Government, mostly in the US Department of Agriculture. Still other food scientists and technologists work in wholesale distributors and research and development laboratories.

Employment of food scientists and technologists is projected to grow 16 percent in the next decade, which is faster than average for all occupations. The desire to increase the quality and quantity of food produced for a growing population will spur job growth for food scientists and technologists. Research will also be done to examine the effects of food production on the environment and the health effects of certain foods.

The demand food scientists and technologists will stem from the need food safety measures and new food products. The recent increase in public awareness in regards to health, diet, food safety and biosecurity is also expected to spur a growth in the food science and technology industry. As biotechnology and nanotechnology continue to advance, so will the demand for food scientists and technologists, as they apply these technologies to monitoring and testing food safety.

All fields of food science and technology should expect good opportunities. Very good opportunities are expected for students with a bachelors degree in this major. Although positions teaching at colleges and in basic research are limited, those with a masters or Ph.D. degree in food science or technology will experience good opportunities

During periods of economic recession, employment of food scientists and technologists is relatively stable. Because food is a staple item for humans, layoffs are less likely among food scientists than in some other occupation.

Earnings and Salary for Food Scientists and Technologists

The median annual wages of food scientists and technologists is $59,630. The highest 10 percent earn more than $103,160, while the lowest 10 percent earns less than $34,530. The middle 50 percent earn between $44,190 and $79,920.

Annual Salary for Food Scientists and Technologists

On average, Food Scientists and Technologists earn $59,630 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $34,530/yr $44,190/yr $79,920/yr $103,160/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook