Become a Food Process Engineer: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a food process engineer. Research the education requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in food process engineering.

Should I Become a Food Process Engineer?

Food process engineers help develop and refine food products, packaging and processing equipment. They might work in a quiet, climate-controlled development laboratory or office creating designs. Alternately, they might work on-site in a noisy packaging or processing facility, assessing the need for a new process or piece of equipment or observing equipment to see if it is working properly. This variety in work environments means these engineers might get to travel regularly. Additionally, they might also get to work on outdoor projects, although this could mean working long hours to take advantage of favorable weather conditions.

Career Requirements

A bachelor's degree is typically required in order to enter the food process engineering field, though some of these workers hold graduate degrees. The following table contains the main requirements for food process engineers:

Degree Level Bachelor's degree required*
Degree Field Food process engineering, biology, food science or a related field***
Experience None for entry-level positions; some employers require at least three years of experience***
Key Skills Data analysis skills, observational and communication skills, ability to think critically and solve problems*
Computer Skills Spreadsheets, computer-aided design (CAD) software, photo imaging software**
Salary $74,000 (Median annual salary for agricultural engineers); $61,480 (Median annual salary for food scientists and technologists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine, *** listings in January 2013.

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

A January 2013 search of food process engineer positions on indicated that at least a bachelor's degree is required in order to work in this field. Bachelor's degrees are available in food process engineering and similar fields, such as food science and technology. The curriculum of a food process engineering program may include coursework in biotechnology, organic chemistry, biological engineering, reaction engineering and food process design.

Step 2: Earn a Graduate Degree

While a graduate degree is not mandatory for entry into a food process engineering career, it may be useful for those who wish to advance in their profession or pursue academic careers. A few schools offer graduate programs in food process engineering and food technology. In addition, some biological engineering programs have specializations in food engineering.

Step 3: Find Employment

After finishing college, individuals can find food process engineering positions in a variety of industries. Many work in the food production industry, but they can also work in the chemical or biochemical industries, for government agencies, for pharmaceutical manufacturers or at academic institutions. The BLS notes that the greatest area of growth for this profession may be in private industry, so engineers seeking employment may want to start in that sector.

Step 4: Seek Career Advancement

Students can further immerse themselves in food process engineering education by joining an organization, like the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). The IFT offers student memberships to those endorsed by a faculty member.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that students in food process engineering programs often complete internships. Students can gain hands-on experience in product formulation, food manufacturing processes and food process equipment.

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