Becoming 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.
Working as a food process engineer will require a bachelor's degree. This can be gained in food process engineering, or in the field of biology, food science, or a related field. In this line of work, employers will be looking for individuals with several key skills, like data analysis skills, observational and communication skills, the ability to think critically and solve problems, and computer skills. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May of 2015 that the median annual salary for the related field of food scientist was $65,840.
Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree
A 2016 search of food scientists and technologists on O*NET Online indicated that positions require a bachelor's degree 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 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 academic institutions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics 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: Experience and Advancement
Students can further immerse themselves in food process engineering education by joining an organization, like the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). This organization offers student memberships to those endorsed by a faculty member. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 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.
So a career as a food process engineer will likely require a bachelor's degree in food engineering or a related field in order to work in a private manufacturing facility or for a government agency. This could be in a laboratory, manufacturing plant, or outdoor facility in which the engineer analyzes existing equipment and processes in order to ensure quality work in a safe and efficient environment.