Become a Dairy Technologist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a dairy technologist. Research the education and career requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in dairy technology.

Should I Become a Dairy Technologist?

Dairy technologists are food scientists who work primarily with dairy and dairy products. Dairy technologists study the chemical makeup and properties of milk, yogurt, butter, ice cream and cheese. These scientists might work for private businesses or universities, and sometimes they're self-employed. While there is some fieldwork, many of their days are spent in offices or research labs. Generally, these professionals work standard businesses days, and both pay and job growth prospects are average to slightly-above-average.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; a graduate degree may be preferred
Degree Field Dairy science, food science or a related field
Experience Employers may require 1-3 years of experience; high-level research positions may require 10 or more years of experience
Key Skills Teamwork, communication skills, observation skills, ability to work with data analysis and research software
Salary (2014) $61,480 per year (Median salary for food scientists and technologists)

Sources: Online job postings from December 2012, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Students can complete a major in dairy science or a concentration in dairy science within a food science or food technology program. Students can learn about dairy enterprise operation, research and development and animal care. The coursework in a dairy science program may include classes in animal physiology, genetics, chemistry, physics, microbiology, dairy cattle nutrition, dairy production and milk quality. Many schools with such programs also have a farm and/or dairy facility available for students to receive hands-on instruction and participate in research.

Success Tip

  • Build teamwork skills. Dairy technologists may work as part of a research team or with a team on a farm. It's important for them to develop communication and interpersonal skills necessary to enhance the functionality of a team. Dairy technologists can do so by participating in undergraduate research studies, joining group-oriented extracurricular activities and taking communication courses.
  • Focus your studies on a particular dairy product. Employers may request that candidates have experience with a certain dairy product, like cheese or yogurt. Completing research projects or practical training in the production of a specific dairy food could give one an edge in the job market.

Step 2: Earn a Graduate Degree

Dairy technologists may find that their career opportunities increase with a master's degree or Ph.D. degree in dairy science. Individuals who aspire to lead research projects typically need to earn a doctoral degree. Examples of research endeavors include creating cheese flavors and improving the quality of milk.

In a graduate program, students may be able to specialize in an area such as genetics, nutrition or dairy cattle sustainability. They learn and apply research skills through courses and lab work. Master's degree students can choose a thesis or non-thesis option. Ph.D. students are required to undergo a series of examinations and complete a research project as part of a dissertation; the program culminates with the defense of the dissertation.

Success Tip

  • Build leadership skills. Leadership skills are required for dairy scientists leading research teams. Dairy scientists can develop these skills by working as teaching assistants, serving as leaders in extracurricular groups and taking leadership courses and workshops offered through their school.

Step 3: Consider Professional Certification

Dairy technologists can pursue voluntary certifications from such organizations as the Institute of Food Technologists and the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists. Technologists who earn certification after meeting work, experience and exam requirements can use this credential to demonstrate their professional expertise to prospective employers.

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