Food History Degree Program Overviews

Degree programs in food history are rare and typically found at the graduate level. Master's students in food studies programs learn about the sociocultural traditions associated with food and food production, while doctorate students can major in history with a focus on food and agriculture.

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Essential Information

Most students interested in food history are seeking advanced positions in teaching or research, and, with this goal in mind, often pursue a master's degree or doctoral degrees with a concentration in culinary arts, food studies or gastronomy. In a master's degree program, students get an overview of topics including food policy and the business of food production and distribution. They can often concentrate on food history through classes and research. At the doctoral level, food history degrees are rare, but students in a history degree program can choose food history as an area of concentration and select a specialized area of study for their research and dissertation.

To be accepted into a master's degree program, applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree in a related subject, as well as provide standardized test scores. Students are also expected to have some prior work or educational experience in the culinary industry. Those interested in a Ph.D. program will also need a bachelor's degree. They may also need to take a qualifying exam and provide scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). A thesis, capstone, or final graduation project is required to graduate.


Master's Degree in Food Studies

A Master's Degree in Food Studies is typically a two to three year program that prepares students for research on the social and cultural impact food in a historical and contemporary context. The first year of studies includes an overview of business, food policy, politics and history of food. Students interested in food history may choose elective classes in the subject or a food history concentration track. Students interested in food history may take courses on the evolution of food production, culinary arts and concepts of nutrition. Elective courses relating to food history include the following topics:

  • Food in literature and visual art
  • Food anthropology
  • Food archeology
  • History of French cuisine
  • Historical trade routes

Ph.D. in History

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in History is an advanced degree, which prepares students for careers in teaching, management, and research. While a few schools offer a Ph.D. in Food Studies or the Anthropology of Food, these programs are rare. Most history departments do not have a concentration in food history, but have courses related to the subject. Students might seek a university with faculty members actively involved in research related to food history. Most history departments require students to narrow research to a specific cultural region or century.

Students interested in food history may choose elective classes in food anthropology, history of agriculture and cultural history of nutrition. Depending on their chosen focus, students may seek courses that include the following topics:

  • History of Mexico
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Nutrition and society
  • Early United States history
  • History of the Atlantic region

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of historians in general was expected to increase more slowly than the national average at 2% between the years 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). Many of these jobs were predicted to be in policy or academic research. The BLS also reported in 2015 that historians earned a median salary of $55,800.

Popular Career Options

Graduates may qualify for an entry-level position in teaching or writing, and may find knowledge of food history useful to the following careers:

  • Novelist
  • Researcher for museum
  • Consultant for film industry

Degrees for aspiring food historians are available at the master's and doctoral degree level and prepare graduates for historian careers in writing, research and consulting. Doctoral students in history may be able to focus their study on certain cultural regions or time periods.

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