Should I Become a Flavor Scientist?
Flavor scientists are a type of food scientist who conduct experiments to improve food quality, make food more nutritious, extend the shelf life of food and upgrade food production processes. Flavor scientists specialize in improving, changing and creating food flavors. Some also develop flavors for medicinal products. Even though most of their work takes place in an office, usually in a food industry setting, it's possible that food scientists could conduct some field work, in such places as food production plants, where working conditions can be noisy and temperature levels are intense.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree; graduate degrees sometimes preferred|
|Degree Fields||Food science, food engineering, or food chemistry|
|Experience||2-5 years of experience with consumer product development, flavor technologies, project management, or flavor report documentation|
|Key Skills||Possess high levels of creativity for designing new flavors, able to communicate with team members, strong attention to detail, capable of meeting deadlines, comfortable working without supervision, able to prioritize duties, familiarity with Microsoft Office software programs and food flavor technologies, understanding of how flavors interact with one another, knowledge of consumer flavor preferences, strong sense of smell and taste|
|Salary||$61,480 (2015 median for food scientists)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerBuilder.com job postings (August 2015).
Aspiring food scientists should have a bachelor's degree in food science, food engineering or food chemistry, and some employers prefer graduate degrees. Two to five years of experience with consumer product development, flavor technologies, project management or flavor report documentation is typically needed. Interested individuals should possess high levels of creativity for designing new flavors, be able to communicate with team members, have strong attention to detail, be capable of meeting deadlines, comfortable working without supervision, and able to prioritize duties. Familiarity with Microsoft Office software programs and food flavor technologies, as well as an understanding of how flavors interact with one another, a knowledge of consumer flavor preferences, and a strong sense of smell and taste are needed. According to 2015 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food scientists earned a median wage of $61,480 per year.
Steps to Become a Food Scientist
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Most bachelor's degree programs in food science train students how to navigate the steps involved in this field, including food production, preparation, chemical analysis, packaging, design, processing and preservation methods. Because the field is broad, it's not uncommon for students to specialize in an area such as product development, quality assurance or nutrition.
At the bachelor's degree level, students might not have the option to specialize in flavor technology, but they can usually learn basic principles in this area. Common coursework in a food science major includes food chemistry, processing, chemical analysis, safety, law, fermentation, engineering, product development, nutrition and quality control.
Work experience can also be helpful. In fact, many employers prefer candidates with 1-2 years' experience. Completing one or more internships in food science or food business administration during undergraduate studies could make it easier to find employment upon graduation.
Step 2: Work as a Flavor Scientist
Flavor scientists often work in research and development positions with universities, government labs or private businesses. Some specialize in particular types of foods, such as beverages, frozen foods, vegetarian meals, diet recipes or snack foods. Flavor scientists might also find employment with companies that produce dental hygiene products, such as toothpaste or mouthwash, or with non-human food distributors, like pet food companies.
Employers typically expect flavor scientists to be aware of industry trends in flavor technology, as well as consumer flavor preferences. To meet these expectations, scientists can read trade magazines, review market research, conduct consumer taste tests and attend industry-related seminars.
Step 3: Consider Earning a Graduate Degree
Some graduate degree programs allow students to specialize in food chemistry, the main field associated with careers in food flavor technologies. Subjects taught in these programs often include research and development, food toxicology, flavor compounds, chemical structures and flavor isolation.
Flavor scientists need a bachelor's degree in food science, food engineering or food chemistry, and a master's degree might be preferred by employers. As of 2015, food scientists earned a median wage of $61,480 per year.