Food science programs, also known as nutrition science programs, are available online at the bachelor's degree level, although they are not very common and include some on-campus requirements such as labs.
|Online Availability||Fully online and hybrid|
|In-Person Requirements||Labs, oral exams|
|Degree Levels Available||Bachelor's and master's degrees|
|Important Prerequisites||Master's degree applicants may be required to have work experience|
Online food science programs are more common at the master's degree level. Master's degree programs allow students to specialize in a particular area, like food chemistry or dairy technology, and both thesis and non-thesis options are available. Prior to program completion, students must complete an oral exam that may only be available on campus.
Bachelor's Degree Program
Food science programs are multidisciplinary, integrating the study of agriculture, biology, engineering, and business. At the bachelor's degree level, food science programs typically focus on either the scientific or business side of the field. Both programs cover the chemistry, processing, and engineering of food. Business-focused programs include an additional focus on marketing and distribution.
Program Information and Requirements
Complete Bachelor of Science in Food Science degree programs are four years in length; however, some universities require their online students to complete their general requirements prior to enrolling in the food science program. In this case, the online food science degree can be completed in two years.
Distance learning students must have reliable access to the Internet and a valid e-mail address. Online food science coursework may be disseminated through class websites, recorded lectures, chat rooms discussions, e-mail correspondence, informational videos, and audiotapes. Some required courses may not be fully available online and must be supplemented with onsite labs or classroom study.
Food science bachelor's degree programs require in-depth study of hard sciences such as microbiology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, engineering, and agricultural science. In addition to the core program courses, bachelor's degree candidates must complete general education requirements for the school, such as expository writing and humanities electives. Core education courses for most food science program include:
Food Science Fundamentals: In this entry-level class, students are introduced to modern food production systems. Coursework explores connections between hard science, food preservation, and processing. Students become informed about emerging developments in the food industry and food science research.
Nutrition: This distance learning course focuses on the effects of nutrition on personal health and may also include a macro-level look at how agricultural practices affect public health as a whole. Students study various nutrients and their relation to the human metabolism, including how nutrients are absorbed, digested, and stored and how this relates to wellness and disease prevention.
Food Processing: Students learn about the processes that go into food preservation and packaging and study various chemicals and ingredients that assist with extending a product's shelf life and attractiveness. This course also covers FDA and USDA laws concerning food safety and sanitation.
Food Chemistry: This online class covers the chemical structures of various food products, in order to understand how they react to other chemicals and change over time. Food constituents such as minerals, water, carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, colorings, and flavorings are examined extensively.
Master's Degree Program
Master's degree programs in food science are also available online, often targeted towards professional already working in the food industry. Master's degree students are given a substantial degree of flexibility in choosing their course subjects in order to suit individual career goals. Distance learning students typically have the option of choosing to focus their research in different product areas such as dairy technology, food chemistry, product development, meats, grains, or food safety.
Program Information and Requirements
Master's degree programs in food science may require applicants to already be working in the field, while others may only require applicants to have a bachelor's degree and have completed specific classes in physics, organic or biochemistry, botany, zoology, and biology.
Online food science programs at the graduate level also require students to have computer access and an e-mail address. These programs also utilize recorded lectures, chat rooms, online videos, and other mediums to transmit information. Students may need to appear on-campus for an oral exam at the end of the program.
Online courses in food science program cover food safety, nutrition, food engineering, and product development. The core course may vary depending on the student's chosen area of focus, as well as if they are taking a report or non-thesis program. Some courses include:
Advanced Food Analysis: This online course explores chemical and physical methodology for analyzing food makeup and quality. Students not only learn how to measure caloric content, fat, protein, and carbohydrates, but also color, water holding capacity, oil quality, and texture. They also learn to determine shelf life and stability.
Food Safety and Risk Analysis: In this course, students learn to manage risk by studying toxicants and methods to prevent and control food-borne illness. The distance learning course may touch on human diseases, agricultural integrity, emergency communication, bioterrorism, border security, site security, or epidemiology.
Quality Assurance: With this course students learn to navigate the laws and regulations surrounding the food industry and review sanitation issues. Food chemistry and microbiology are put into context for specific food products. Hazard analysis and critical control point system are also discussed in this online class.
Graduates of a food science online bachelor's degree program can work for governmental regulatory departments, such as the USDA or FDA, or for private food companies in manufacturing, quality assurance, processing technology design, research and product development. Employment options for graduates with advanced degrees in food science are varied. A graduate degree is required for most positions in education, especially at colleges and universities. After a few years experience, graduates may also be qualified for leadership roles at research institutions or manufacturing facilities.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the highest percentage of food scientists work for manufacturing companies, followed by research and development organizations, and private companies. Demand for food scientists is growing as fast as average for all occupations, and job openings are expected to grow 5% between 2014 and 2024. As of June 2015, the median annual wage for food scientists was $62,470.
Online food science degree programs are offered at both the bachelor's and master's degree level, include the study of a variety of topics including nutrition, food chemistry, food safety, and legal considerations and prepare students to work for manufacturing facilities and/or educational institutions.