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How to Become a Dairy Scientist: Education and Career Roadmap

Jul 10, 2020

Should I Become a Dairy Scientist?

Dairy scientists study livestock breeding and food science in order to enhance the quality of dairy products. Their studies might focus on animal nutrition or environmental factors within dairies. Dairy scientists spend time in the laboratory conducting experiments, as well as on the manufacturing floor, monitoring the production of foods like cheese and yogurt. In performing their daily job functions, dairy scientists might be exposed to cold or noisy facilities, and they might also be around animal byproducts.The following table contains the core requirements for becoming a dairy scientist.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; graduate degree may be required for advanced research positions
Degree Field Dairy science, animal science or closely related field
Certification Voluntary; may enhance career prospects
Experience Related experience is required, typically at least 3-5 years; experience is required for certification
Key Skills Critical-thinking, observation, decision-making, analytical, problem-solving and communication skills as well as reasoning abilities, ability to navigate industry-specific software, such as USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, ability to use industry-specific tools, such as crushing and filling machinery
Salary $61,110 per year (Median salary as of 2014 for animal scientists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), iSeek.org, Job listings from employers (November 2012), O*Net Online

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Degree Program

Aspiring dairy scientists can begin their careers by pursing a bachelor's degree program in dairy science, animal science or food science. Foundation work will include coursework in dairy management, care, feeding and production. As students advance in the major, they may opt to specialize in biotechnology to prepare for a more technical education geared towards dairy research, development and application.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. Students may want to consider internship opportunities with dairy farms, agribusiness firms and quality control agencies. In these internships, students can apply what they've learned about animal science, breeding and nutrition to enhance their skills and gain experience for postgraduate opportunities.

Step 2: Consider Advanced Degree Options

Some employers, such as those in dairy research, may prefer applicants with a graduate degree. Prospective candidates for these positions may consider earning a master's or doctoral degree in dairy science or a similar field. Students in these programs are trained on genetic and environmental factors in dairy production and distribution. Some programs may have their own dairy processing plant, allowing students hands-on experience with topics like cattle immunology and cheese manufacturing.

Step 3: Enter the Field

Since some companies may require a college degree as well as some work experience for a position as a dairy scientist, candidates may need to initially pursue entry-level positions. Examples include jobs in dairy management and dairy production. After acquiring work experience, applicants will then be qualified to seek higher-level positions as a dairy scientist. Most jobs at this level involve research, and as such require applicants to have an advanced education, usually a master's or doctoral degree.

Step 4: Join a Professional Association

Membership within a professional association, such as the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA), can have many career benefits. For example, joining provides access to dairy science industry publications as well as the opportunity to attend the association's annual meeting and conferences. The ADSA also provides members with access to internship postings, career resources, industry job listings and other tools for professional growth and advancement.

Success Tips

  • Consider professional certification. Earning voluntary certification, such as those offered by the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists and International Dairy Foods Association, can help enhance a dairy scientist's employment opportunities. Requirements vary, but typically include a combination of education and professional experience.
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