Should I Become a Food Science Technician?
Food science technicians help food scientists and technologists conduct research in the areas of quality control and production. They conduct tests to determine whether ingredients, additives, finished products and packaging meet all standards and regulations. Technicians also analyze foods to determine their chemical composition and properties and may be involved in processes that transform raw food products into table-ready food and beverages.
Food science technicians may work at food production and processing plants or laboratories. In some jobs, technicians might be exposed to noisy machines and strong chemicals. Travel might also be required.
|Degree Level||Associate's degree usually required; some positions require a bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field||Food science, animal science or a related field||Training||On-the-job training commonly provided|
|Key Skills||Critical thinking, communication, analytical and interpersonal skills; physical stamina|
|Salary||$35,140 per year (2014 median salary for all agricultural and food science technicians)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine
Step 1: Earn a College Degree
The level of education required of a food science technician depends on the employer. An associate's degree is the standard qualification. Some employers require a bachelor's degree, while others will hire high school graduates who have relevant experience and skills. The most relevant field of study for degree seekers is food science. Students enrolled in food science programs typically take courses in food chemistry, quality assurance and nutrition, food processing, biology and microbiology. Some programs may offer or require internships where students gain hands-on experience in a work environment.
- Develop related skills. Food science technicians need good communication skills to explain their concerns and findings to non-scientists, as well as to communicate with other technicians.
- Maximize lab time before graduation. Employers may require employees to already know their way around a lab and be familiar with the use of key equipment. Students should seek out courses and internships that involve laboratory and technical work related to what food science technicians do on the job.
Step 2: Start Working in Food Science
Degree program graduates can go to work for food producers and processors, who may hire technicians in operations or research and development. There are also positions with local, state and federal government inspection agencies, public sanitation and health services organizations, food regulatory control labs and biotechnology firms. Typically, food science technicians receive on-the-job training, which may cover such topics as sanitation procedures and production techniques. Depending on the complexity of the job, training could last for more than one year.
Step 3: Gain Proficiency in Food Safety Systems and Quality Standards
There are several systems that concern food safety. Some may be especially relevant for food science technicians, such as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system of food safety guidelines regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These guidelines are meant to prevent biological, chemical and physical hazards from harvest through to consumption. Becoming knowledgeable about HACCP, as well as other food industry guidelines and regulations, could help technicians perform their jobs more effectively.
Step 4: Consider Certification for Career Advancement
Through the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), technicians with a bachelor's degree in food science or a related field and 3 to 6 years of experience can sit for the Certified Food Scientist exam. Food science technicians may also become a member of the IFT to gain access to benefits, such as seminars and special events.