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What is Food Science?
Food science is the global and complex interdisciplinary study that draws from biology, chemistry, microbiology, statistics, engineering, biochemistry, operations management, chemical engineering, nutrition, and marketing to intimately understand food processes and enhance food products for consumers. The food science industry specializes in the development of foods, particularly how they look, taste, how healthy they are and what methods may be employed to increase those traits. Food scientists are trained to study the chemical, biological, and physical composition of food. The nexus of the scientific and technological study of consumable food is to provide safe, abundant, nutritious, and innovative options for the general public.
Individuals in food science will work in government or the private sector, developing or reviewing foods that will enter the market. Food scientists utilize a variety of sciences in order to isolate and better understand the products being released, how to make them costs effective and meet national standards. Food science is responsible for a variety of innovations, particularly for prepackaged foods.
Degrees in Food Science
When considering on-site or online food science degrees from accredited colleges and universities, it is important to understand your degree options. Each school will have their unique twist on food science and nutrition but general requirements are very similar from school to school. As a result, we have summarized the degree options in food science to help you better understand your options. Degree programs include bachelor degrees, master degrees, and doctorate degrees.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Food Science
An online bachelor’s degree in food science or its classroom-based counterpart will be conferred as a Bachelor of Science (BS) from most colleges. The bachelor’s degree in food science is a four-year program that conjoins liberal arts education such as communications, philosophy, and psychology with core degree courses to help students develop a set of holistic thinking skills. The core food science classes will typically include courses such as: chemistry, biology, dietetic management, medical nutrition, basics of food science, biochemistry, microbiology, ethics, and public health. Students earning a Bachelor of Science in Food Science will be uniquely equipped to launch a career in a variety of fields with public and private organizations as a product development specialist, technical sales representative, sensory scientist, quality control specialist, or similar roles.
Master’s Degrees in Food Science
The master’s degree in food science melds upper level courses in human nutrition and food science to prepare student for advanced positions in the field or the PhD program. The master’s degree in dietetics is conferred as a Master’s of Science (MS) or a Professional Science Masters (PSM) and takes 2-3 years to complete the program depending on the course load and curricular design. Many schools provide students the opportunity to delve into a specialized area of food science such as: food chemistry, sensory science, food microbiology, microbial food safety, food processing, food engineering, chemical nutrition, community nutrition, molecular nutrition, or nutritional toxicology. Coursework will follow the area of concentration and prepare students for the ACEND internship in preparation for the RD designation.
Doctorate Degrees in Food Science
The doctorate degree in food science is conferred as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or stand-alone PhD at most accredited colleges and universities. The PhD program can last 4-6 years dependent upon on the number of courses taken at a given time, transfer credits accepted, and the length of time it takes to complete your thesis research and dissertation project. Graduates of the PhD program in food science are uniquely trained to assume management and leadership roles in research organizations, academia, production facilities, think tanks, government agencies, and private manufacturers across various sectors.
To pursue a degree in food science a student must study several scientific disciplines. Food science requires an individual to understand food at the molecular level, its nutritional values, coloring, flavor, smell, and more in order to improve upon those values. A food science major will provide an individual the skill necessary to understand and affect the production of food, its packaging, processing and distribution. Degrees are available from the bachelor's level on, with masters or doctoral degrees usually required for research positions at universities as well as teaching positions.
Courses offered may include:
- Introduction to Microbiology
- Food Chemistry
- Principles of Human Nutrition
- Processing of Dairy Products
How to Become a Food Scientist
To become a food scientist, you will need to successfully complete a series of discrete steps in your professional quest. A summary of those steps can be found below to help you understand the milestones required as part of the process and actionable steps associated with each step along the way. The steps to become a food scientist include the following:
- Establish Your Priority List – Determine what is most important to you and your career objectives instead of chasing a college ranking system created by media outlets to sell magazine subscriptions or a website hawking free vacations to Tahiti. An example priority list of questions can be found on pages 3-4 of the MatchCollege Complete Guide to College Admissions Guide for quick reference.
- Get Feedback – Ask counselors, teachers, family, school alumni, and friends for feedback on your priority list to elicit valuable input from trusted sources.
- Gather Information – Gather information from accredited colleges and universities to overlay a school’s programs with your priorities. When you blend your priorities with the available food science programs, decision making becomes a much cleaner process. Comprehensive college portals like MatchCollege will help you quickly get matched to a number of accredited schools offering on-site or online food science degrees via this resource page or via our matching
- Get Matched & Apply – After receiving information from a handful of quality schools, you can assess your likelihood of admissions. Understanding a college’s admissions policies, requirements, education parameters, work experience, cost, and program length is a must for an prospective student. Decide on the best school for you and apply for admissions to quality food science programs.
- Financial Aid – After your application for admissions is in queue, you must intimately understand your financial aid options. Determine what options exist for grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and loans before committing to a school.
- Acceptance – Aligning your goals with the school’s offerings and overall cost will allow you to make a quality decision about your future. Once you accept a school’s offer of admissions, you will need to schedule time to attend orientation, meet with your counselor, and register for classes in food science.
- Graduate - Earn a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree in dietetics from an accredited college or university in food science or associated degree in nutritional science, dietetics, agronomy, or biotechnology. Consider adding a minor or additional major in business, chemistry, communications, or statistics to round out your skill set.
- Skill Development - Focus on transferrable skills to help grow your career and skill set. Apply for an industry-related internship and find volunteer opportunities. Consider earning a food science certification to bulk up your resume with certifications such as the ones provided by the Institute of Food Technologists and American Society of Agronomy.
- Work – Find work in the field of food science by sector or industry through the utilization of your professional network and school alumni association.
Where Do Food Scientists Work?
Food scientists can work in a number of industries and sectors of the economy. In fact, food scientists can be employed by private organizations, government research facilities, community health providers, public agencies, and non-profit organizations in a variety of industries. The list below represents the top employers of food scientists today.
- Specialty Food Services
- Research and Development Institutes
- Dairy Production
- Grain and Oilseed Milling Companies
- Animal Food Manufacturing
- Fruit and Vegetable Processors
- Farm Wholesalers
- Federal Government Agencies
- Clinical Nutritionist
- State Government Agencies
- Food Safety Organizations
- Local Government Agencies
- Higher Education
- Food Technology
- Food Packaging
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Employment Opportunities and Job Outlook
The job growth for food scientists is expected to grow at a rate of about 5% in the coming decade adding some 2,000 jobs during that reporting period. This growth rates of employment can be attributed to the needs of a growing population that must be fed more efficiently. Food scientists typically find work in the private sector for food companies, for various agencies in government, or for educational institutions. Food scientists will work with various products for the purposes of review or development, with educational institutions implementing programs and projects in conjunction with the public or private sector, as well as independently, to advance technology in the field. Individuals working for the review process may be responsible for the introduction or barring of new products or techniques into the national market. The job of a food scientist will vary greatly in those positions and wages can vary accordingly. The average salary for a food scientist is approximately $62,920 per year, with the lowest 10% earning less than $37,800 per year and the top 10% averaging $117,480 annually.
States with the Highest Employment of Food Scientists
- California 2,520
- New Jersey 1,150
- Ohio 750
- Georgia 740
- Minnesota 650
Top Paying States for Food Scientists
- Massachusetts $82,170
- New Jersey $79,080
- Arkansas $79,010
- Vermont $78,410
- Minnesota $77,250