How to Become a Food Scientist

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Food science is an essential field that is concerned with all of the scientific aspects of food from harvesting to consumption. Food scientists are important professionals that ensure the food that people eat is safe and is of good quality. They play a vital part in maintaining the food supply of the U.S.


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What does a food scientist do?

Food scientists ensure the safety of food and the productivity of agriculture by examining methods to keep food appealing and fresh and testing the quality of raw materials and food products. They use their scientific knowledge to create new or improved ways of processing, preserving, storing, packaging, and delivering food products.

Some food scientists are involved in basic research where they find new sources of food, search for substitutes for unwanted or harmful additives, and study the content of food to establish fat, protein, sugar, and vitamin levels. Others are involved in applied research where they discover methods to improve food content and remove unsafe additives. Some also implement government regulations and check food processing areas to make sure that the standards of safety; sanitation, quality, and elimination of wastes are correctly met.

What kind of training does a food scientist need?

The educational requirements for food scientists depend on the position. A bachelor degree is adequate for some product development and assistant applied research positions whereas at least a master degree is required for many basic and applied research positions. A doctoral degree is typically needed for senior research and college teaching positions. Food science students typically complete coursework in food engineering, food chemistry, food microbiology, food analysis, and food processing operations. Doctoral degree programs include classroom instruction, laboratory research, fieldwork, and a thesis or dissertation based on independent research.

What are the prospects for a career as a food scientist?

Employment of food scientists is projected to grow about as fast as average for all professions, increasing 9% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The increased demand for new food safety measures and new food products will drive job growth. Increases in food research and biotechnology and nanotechnology advances will also fuel job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be good especially for food scientists with advanced education and extensive experience.

How much do food scientists make?

As of September 2009, the middle 50% of food scientists earned annual salaries between $49,560 and $75,341. The highest 10% earned annual salaries of more than $87,596 (2).

A career as a food scientist is an excellent choice for individuals who are interested in food safety and productivity. Food scientists must have thorough understand of basic principles of business, be able to use computers to analyze data, and be able to apply statistical methods. They must have good organization, a high level of intellectual curiosity, and great problem solving skills. Excellent communication and ability to work effectively independently and as part of a team are also important characteristics.

Joshua T Osborne

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