Food Chemistry Jobs: Education Requirements and Career Info

Oct 15, 2019

Food scientists are highly trained individuals in chemistry, food sciences and organic chemistry. They often work as food chemists or flavor chemists with each specialization having a specific set of required skills and knowledge. Professionals in the food science field will see continued demand for their services.

Essential Information

Food science careers require at least a bachelor's degree, depending on the occupational level. A typical food science degree often requires a strong foundation in food chemistry, microbiology, organic chemistry and other food-related sciences. Prospective food scientists may seek specializations and certifications within their career field of interest.

Career Food Chemist Flavor Chemist
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree in food science Bachelor's degree in chemistry and postgraduate apprenticeship
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 5% for food scientists and technologists 5% for food scientists and technologists
Median Salary (2018)* $65,300 annually for food scientists and technologists $65,300 annually for food scientists and technologists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Food science careers involve chemistry in many aspects of food preparation, distribution and handling. Food and flavor chemists are two major occupations within the food chemistry field. Both involve making sure that processed and raw foods are safe and palatable for the general public. Below are detailed descriptions of these two possible career options in the field of food chemistry.

Food Chemist Jobs

Food chemistry is the general application of science used to improve food for the consumer. Advancements, such as longer shelf life, heat processing, packaging, freezing and enhancing nutritional content, all fall under the job duties of a food chemist. While chemistry knowledge is important, food science education is required for most entry-level jobs in this occupation.

Prospective chemists can specialize in a certain aspect of food science, such as food packaging. Some food chemists become involved with quality assurance and control. A major aspect of food chemistry is making sure that food-borne illnesses are controlled and handling regulations are followed. Some employers might require food chemists to obtain certification to ensure understanding of these types of regulations.

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes food chemists as food scientists and technologists. As of May 2018, the BLS reports that 13,300 people are employed as food scientists and technologists, and these professionals bring in a median annual income of $65,300. Employment is expected to increase at an average rate, with 5% job growth projected from 2018-2028.

Flavor Chemist Jobs

Flavor chemists, or flavorists, manipulate flavor by using the building blocks of organic chemistry to influence how our taste buds react to various foods. This can entail using advanced laboratory techniques to isolate flavors, such as gas and liquid chromatography. While some flavorists work for food production companies, another option includes working in flavor houses, companies that create flavors in a lab for numerous purposes.

Flavor chemists often have significantly different requirements than general food chemistry occupations. The major distinction is the emphasis on organic chemistry and the amount of training necessary. Many flavorists hold bachelor's degrees in chemistry to help them understand the intricacies of how flavors are formed. A typical bachelor's degree in chemistry includes topics in organic, inorganic and biological chemistry.

In addition to chemistry, flavor chemists often must have extensive knowledge of flavors and the organic chemical recipes to make them. This regularly involves several years of postgraduate training with a master flavorist. The Society of Flavor Chemists, an agency that offers members professional certification, asserts that flavor chemists should devote seven years to learning the trade as an apprentice.

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also includes flavor chemists in the category of food scientists and technologists. In 2018, the BLS reported that the median annual income for food scientists and technologist was $65,300 with a 5% job growth projected between 2018-2028.

Flavor chemists and food chemists are just a couple of examples of food science jobs. These professionals have bachelor's degrees in food science or chemistry and often have undergone extensive training in their respective field. A fast as average employment outlook was projected from 2018-2028.

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