Become a Food Production Manager
Food production managers oversee food processing facilities and procedures. They supervise employees and monitor product quality at plants that turn raw materials, including livestock, seafood, vegetables, and grains into products that shoppers buy at stores. A food production manager makes sure employees and procedures comply with state and federal regulations.
When food production managers spend time on the production floor, they might need protective gear; they are likely to have an office to work in, too. Overtime, evening, weekend, and on-call work are common.
A bachelor's degree is typical for a range of acceptable majors, including food science, technology, business, and engineering. Certification is required for some food preparation workers. Some employers require at least five years of experience in food manufacturing management or prior management experience in a manufacturing facility. Key skills include leadership, communications, and strong interpersonal skills. Strong computer abilities are needed, including a familiarity with Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for industrial production managers was $93,940 as of May 2015.
Step 1: Earn a College Degree
Entry-level food processing workers do not need a formal education and most learn the necessary skills via on-the-job training. Aspiring food production managers, however, will benefit from earning a college degree. Employers typically require a bachelor's degree in relevant fields, including food science or technology, meat science, business, or engineering.
Students enrolled in food science degree programs learn about quality control and food safety. A bachelor's degree program in food science may offer courses in food chemistry, food regulations, preservation methods, microbiology, and food engineering. Future food production managers can benefit from additional classes in business administration and leadership.
Step 2: Obtain Work Experience
Some employers require food production managers to have at least five years of experience in food manufacturing management or some prior management experience in a manufacturing plant. Possessing computer skills and speaking a foreign language are assets that employers may require or prefer in production managers. Future food production managers can obtain work experience through apprenticeships, internships, other food manufacturing jobs, or lower-level managerial positions.
Get familiar with regulations in the food processing industry. Employers expect food production managers to know about the government regulations concerning this industry. For example, food manufacturing must comply with federal Good Manufacturing Practices regarding procedures, equipment, sanitation, and workers. State agencies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulate and inspect food processing facilities. Federal and state agencies also require some types of food processing plants to abide by a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan to ensure food quality and safety.
Step 3: Receive Required or Optional Certifications
Government agencies may require certification for some food preparation employees to assure that health regulations are met, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Workers typically receive any needed certification training while on the job, the BLS said.
Various professional associations award optional certifications in production, management or manufacturing. Earning voluntary credentials from professional organizations may benefit the careers of food production managers. The Association for Operations Management offers the Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) credential. To be eligible, applicants must have at least two years of experience in the field as well as pass exams on topics including managing resources and operations.
The American Society for Quality awards the Certified HACCP Auditor credential to applicants who pass a test and have five years of relevant work experience. Three years of work experience can be waived for applicants with a bachelor's degree, four years waived for applicants with an advanced degree, or one year for candidates holding an associate's degree.
Step 4: Maintain Professional Certification
Certified managers typically pursue continuing education and professional development opportunities to keep their credentials. HACCP auditors must renew their credentials every three years by documenting at least 18 re-certification units. Individuals holding CPIM credentials are required to renew every five years by obtaining 75 professional development points.
In summary, a bachelor's degree is not required for aspiring food production managers; however, years of experience and certification are required.