Food science degree programs teach students various scientific techniques of manufacturing, packaging and preserving food. In bachelor's degree programs in food science, students learn to decipher the chemical and biological make up of various food items by conducting research in classroom and laboratory settings. Prerequisites for a bachelor's program include a high school diploma.
Students of graduate-level programs can further develop their research skills while completing advanced coursework in food processing and food technology microbiology that discusses the levels of toxins and infectious agents found in foods. A bachelor's degree in a related field and GRE scores are required for master's programs.
Research-based doctoral programs prepare graduates for positions of authority. Program highlights include research methods in food science and technology, as well as animal health and diseases. Doctoral program prerequisites include a master's degree in a related field as well as professional experience. Qualified graduates of these programs may earn the Certified Food Scientist (CFS) credential by passing an examination.
Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Technology
Typically offered through a school's department of agriculture, a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Technology degree program looks at food from a scientific and engineering perspective. Students analyze the chemical and biological composition of organic and manufactured food products. Students develop critical thinking and analytical problem solving skills as those skills apply to food science and food engineering. Students engage in class discussions, conduct academic research and hone research skills in a supervised laboratory environment. These programs combine general educational requirements in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences with courses specifically designed for the food science and technology major. Students acquire textbook knowledge, as well as practical, hands-on experience in a laboratory setting. Some typical course subjects include:
- Microbiology in food technology
- Fundamentals of food analysis
- Legal issues in food science and technology
- Fundamentals of food engineering
- Basics of food product development
- Food and interaction with the senses
Master of Science in Food Science and Technology
Students can earn a Master of Food Technology (MFT) or a Master of Science (M.S.) in Food Science. Both programs look at food, food manufacturing, and food preservation from a biological, chemical, and production standpoint. Students hone research skills while obtaining practical hands-on experience, using state-of-the-art technologies to explore contemporary and classical theories in food science and technology. Programs seek to develop a student's research, analytical thinking and problem-solving skills while fostering creative and innovative experimentation. Graduate programs typically last two years and provide students the opportunity to conduct self-directed research, under the guidance of faculty and advisers. Students engage in laboratory research and advanced coursework that covers the following topics:
- Food processing
- Biochemical reactions in food technology
- Chemical composition and nutritional value of lipids
- Microbiology in food technology
- Issues in food packaging
- Toxins and infectious agents in foods
Doctor of Philosophy in Food Science and Technology
Doctoral degree programs in food science and technology focus on advanced topics of study related to food science, food technology and the food industry. Students master the academic and laboratory research skills that are essential to employment in the industry. Programs allow students to continue advanced application of engineering and scientific theories and principles to food, nutrition, food packaging and food preservation. Students also have the opportunity for self-directed academic and laboratory research, under the direction of academic and faculty advisers. While conducting independent research projects, students work on writing a dissertation, which must be presented as a condition of graduation. Courses may be offered in the following topics:
- Statistical analysis in food science and technology
- Research methods in food science and technology
- Animal health and diseases
- Microbiology in food science and technology
- Chemistry of food and food components
- Quality control in food science and technology
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 5% job growth for food scientists and technologists during the 2018-2028 decade (www.bls.gov). In 2018, the median annual salary for food scientists and technologists was $65,300.
Popular Career Options
Bachelor's and master's degree graduates typically gravitate towards careers in the food science technology, food manufacturing or food research industries. Some popular career options are:
- Food safety inspector
- Quality assurance officers
- Food technology laboratory assistant
A doctoral degree usually provides the greatest number of job opportunities. Graduates often enter the fields of academia or food science and technology research. Some popular career options include:
- Research director
- Food science technologist
Following the completion of a bachelor's degree program, students can continue to study food science and technology at the master's degree level. Although not absolutely crucial for employment, an advanced degree often leads to greater employment opportunities and the ability to negotiate for a potentially higher starting salary. Those who wish to continue their studies after obtaining a master's degree can enroll in a food science and technology Ph.D. degree program. A doctoral degree is considered a terminal degree in this field. While a Ph.D. may not be essential for the majority of jobs in the food science industry, a doctoral degree is a standard requirement for those aspiring to teach at the college or university level.
The Certified Food Scientist (CFS) designation may be earned by program graduates who can demonstrate their knowledge and expertise by passing an examination. The test is computer-based and is offered at approximately 5,000 Pearson VUE testing centers across the globe.
Individuals interested in food science can earn a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in food science and technology. Graduate degrees are more research-focused and prepare students for employment in research and development and academia.