Product Development Scientist: Job Description, Duties and Salary

Jan 21, 2020

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a product development scientist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about education and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

Product development scientists work in a variety of industries, including food, biotechnology, pharmaceutical science, and medical device manufacturing. Their responsibilities include developing new foods, drugs, and medical technologies along with researching and developing ways to enhance existing products. They typically possess a bachelor's degree, but a graduate degree may be required for advancement.

Required Education A bachelor's degree in a related field; a graduate degree is recommended for advancement
Other Requirements Mathematical and communication skills
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 3% (for materials scientists)*
Median Salary (2020) $70,482**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **

Product Development Scientist Job Description

A product development scientist (PDS) applies his or her knowledge of various sciences to a particular industry. For instance, a PDS might apply knowledge of sensory sciences to the food science and technology industries. These scientists develop ways to improve or enhance consumables. A PDS may create new flavors of foods. They may also make foods more nutritious to eat or digest.

Product development scientists working in the medical industry might develop a new medical device that is used during operations. A PDS who works in the pharmaceutical industry might develop a new drug to treat an ailment or enhance a lifestyle. Similarly, those who work in biotechnology can apply their knowledge of biology and chemistry to develop safer fuels to protect the environment, like discovering an energy source that is less toxic and burns cleaner than gasoline. Product development scientists work behind-the-scenes to help make our products safer, easier to use, and healthier.

In the food manufacturing industry, product development scientists may develop new flavors of sports drinks, achieving the desired taste and product appearance or color. They might also add vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants to a sports beverage to make it healthier or to help athletes stay hydrated. The end goal may be to make the product consumable and marketable.

Job Duties

Product development scientists conduct thorough research on products and consumers. Research might be basic, such as finding a new source for a deliverable, or applied research, such as testing the safety of manufacturing processes. For example, in the food manufacturing industry, a product researcher's duties can extend beyond simply improving the flavor, taste, or nutritional value of food. They also might improve how a product is packaged, shipped, or stored.

Much product research is done in labs and factories. It's helpful for developers to understand the manufacturing processes in order to come up with ways to improve products. If a product doesn't exist, scientists may get input from others to develop something entirely new.

A PDS in the food manufacturing industry might enhance the way fish is processed at a plant by applying new preservatives so that it lasts longer or can withstand more extreme temperatures. These scientists might also improve how fish is packaged by researching the effects that the current storage methods have on its taste or nutritional value. Perhaps the current packaging affects the product's flavor or allows exposure to harmful bacteria or chemicals. A product development scientist can work to improve these areas and develop something to counteract such issues.

Salary Information

Product development scientists can earn a wide range of salaries depending on their industry. According to, as of January 2020, these scientists earned salaries ranging from $49,000 to $98,000 in total annual compensation, including bonuses and profit sharing. According to the same source, senior product development scientists earned between $69,000 and $133,000 in January 2020.

Product development scientists come from a range of industries such as the food, medical, and drug.

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