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Food Scientist: Educational Requirements for a Career in Food Science

May 13, 2020

Are you interested in making food tastier, healthier, and more nutritious? Then consider a career in food science, which requires a good amount of formal education. A bachelor's or master's degree is needed depending on the position, and a doctorate can facilitate career advancement.

Food Scientist Job Description

Food scientists use skills in the disciplines of biology, chemistry, and engineering to find ways to improve manufacturing and nutritional value of the foods we eat. They may alter a food product's natural nutrients, flavor, texture, or appearance, as well as its packaging and production processes. Food scientists generally work for federal government agencies, food processing companies, and academic institutions. Food scientists might hold an undergraduate or graduate degree, depending on the type of work they do.

Required Education Bachelor's degree at minimum; doctoral degree for more advanced work
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 5% for food scientists and technologists
Median Salary (2018)* $65,300 for food scientists and technologists

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Food Scientist Education Requirements

Depending on the position in which they serve, food scientists need an undergraduate or graduate degree. Bachelor's degrees in agricultural science or related sciences may be adequate for positions in farming and food processing technology. Food scientists who work in research positions at academic institutions are typically required to hold at least a master's degree, and those who wish to teach in the field generally need a doctorate. Some of these food science degrees are available online.

Bachelor's Degrees

Aspiring food scientists can enter the field with a bachelor's degree in agricultural or food science. Bachelor of Science in Food Science programs typically focus on agricultural science and technology applicable to entry-level positions in the food industry. Courses may include food processing and packaging, agricultural analysis and chemistry, dairy biology, nutrition, and food law. These programs may also offer opportunities to gain hands-on, industry experience through internships.

Graduate Degrees

Master's and doctoral programs in food science usually focus on advanced, specialized training. These programs incorporate classroom and laboratory instruction in technology and principles of food engineering. Courses may include food microbiology and chemistry, preservation, food safety, and research methods. Ph.D. programs may also involve teaching instruction or teaching assistantships. Graduate students are typically required to complete a thesis project or dissertation.

Other Qualifications

Along with obtaining the appropriate formal education, food scientists should have strong oral and written communication skills. They often work with teams of agriculturalists or food scientists, but must also be able to work independently. Proficiency with computers is necessary for this career, as well as statistical, analytical, and problem-solving skills.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of food scientists and technologists is predicted to increase five percent for the years 2018-2028 (www.bls.gov). In May 2018, the BLS reported that food scientists and technologists earned an annual median income of $65,300.

To be a food scientist, you'll need to earn at least an undergraduate degree. If you're interested in a teaching or research position, you'll need to continue your education in a graduate degree program. A food scientist must also possess skills in data analysis, critical thinking, and mathematics.

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