Difference Between Food Scientist & Nutritionist

Understanding nutrition and people's relationship to food are integral parts of being a food scientist and a nutritionist. While food scientists study food production in order to make improvements, nutritionists work with clients to create diet plans that works best for their needs.

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Comparing Food Scientists to Nutritionists

Food scientists and nutritionists both work with food and must be knowledgeable about nutrition and the effects of food on the human body. The primary difference between these two positions is that food scientists analyze food and potential food sources using their knowledge of various sciences, while nutritionists work with clients to develop an eating plan that will be most beneficial to their health. Other similarities and differences are further explored below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Food Scientist Bachelor's Degree in Food or Agricultural Science; may require advanced degree $62,920 (for all agricultural and food scientists) 5% (for all agricultural and food scientists)
Nutritionist Bachelor's Degree in Nutrition or related area; may require advanced degree $58,920 (for all dieticians and nutritionists) 14% (for all dieticians and nutritionists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Food Scientists vs. Nutritionists

The focus on food and nutrition is the common thread between food scientists and nutritionists. Compared to being a nutritionist, a food scientist is more of a research position. These professionals use their background in science to locate new food resources, research nutritional content, and discover new ways to produce and package food. On the other hand, nutritionists work directly with clients who are suffering from illnesses or just looking to improve their overall health through developing a diet plan that fits their needs and restrictions.

Food Scientist

Food scientists work to improve all aspects of the food industry, from production to consumption. Some food scientists specialize in a specific area, such as packaging, agriculture, or quality assurance for production facilities. Work environments vary depending on the project at hand. Some food scientists travel to farms and production facilities, while others work primarily in a laboratory. Employment in this field requires at least a bachelor's degree in food science and on-the-job training, though some go on to achieve a master's degree or doctorate.

Job responsibilities of a food scientist include:

  • Improve and create food products through scientific experimentation
  • Develop practices that improve safety and decrease cost
  • Maintain a strong understanding of the machinery and processes of production facilities
  • Inspect processing areas to ensure regulations are being met

Nutritionist

Nutritionists use their strong understanding of food and food's effect on the human body to curate meal plans for individuals and institutions, such as schools and hospitals. Nutritionists may work with people who suffer from chronic diseases, athletes looking to optimize their performance, or those simply looking to lose some weight and kickstart a healthier lifestyle. These nutrition experts generally work in an office, but may spend time in kitchens or people's homes. Most nutritionists have obtained a bachelor's degree in nutrition or a related science. Those that work for an institution may be required to have a more advanced degree.

Job responsibilities of a nutritionist include:

  • Communicate with clients to understand their needs and convey the appropriate lifestyle changes required
  • Teach clients about the principals of nutrition, food selection, and proper preparation
  • Work with physicians and nurses to identify the needs and proper restrictions for the client
  • Oversee the food operations of an institution, paying attention to safety and sanitation

Related Careers

These two careers aren't the only options for those interested in food and science. Those drawn to the food knowledge and preparation aspect of being a nutritionist may also be interested in becoming a chef. If you are more intrigued by science, you may enjoy a career as a food technologist. This position is similar to a food scientist but more focused on the technology that leads to new product development.

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