Food Engineering Colleges and Degree Programs: How to Choose

Programs in food engineering can be attractive educational pathways for students interested in careers as agricultural or food scientists. Food engineering programs integrate principles of natural sciences, such as chemistry and genetics, with engineering advances, such as nanotechnology and biotechnology.

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How to Select a Food Engineering Program

Some professional organizations, such as the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), have their own educational standards for food science/engineering degree programs. This can be particularly pertinent if a prospective student plans to apply for scholarships distributed by the IFT (www.ift.org).

Prospective students also might consider the breadth and quality of a particular program's technological resources, teaching commitment, student support network and postgraduate career opportunities. Since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that most research positions require candidates to hold at least a master's degree in food science or a related field, students may find graduate options attractive (www.bls.gov). Another consideration may be the availability of internships. Schools that have extracurricular activities, such as food science clubs and pre-professional associations, also may be good choices for aspiring food scientists.

Food Engineering Degree Programs

Bachelor of Science in Food Engineering

The BLS has reported that a bachelor's degree in an engineering specialty, such as food engineering, is the minimum educational requirement for many applied food science careers. Students in these degree programs may be required to take introductory courses, such as chemistry, math and physics, before taking more specialized courses, such as microbiology and organic chemistry.

Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Technology

Students may be expected to take such lab-intensive courses as biochemistry, organic chemistry and microbiology. They also might complete classes in food processing, food composition, food sensory science and nutrition.

Master of Professional Studies in Food Science and Technology

Professional studies programs are designed for individuals who already have work experience in the field. Students complete courses and, oftentimes, a problem-solving project. Areas of study in a master's program might include microbiology, food marketing, chemistry and engineering.

Other Graduate Options

In Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy programs in food science and technology, students use mathematics, computer applications, thermodynamics and other engineering processes to address problems in food processing. They typically choose an area of concentration within food science and technology and a minor in an outside field, such as molecular biochemistry, biophysics, chemical engineering, animal science or genetics. These programs generally require research, teaching experience and an oral exam.

Salary and Job Outlook

The BLS projected that employment of food scientists and technologists would grow by 11% during the 2012-2022 decade. These workers had a median annual salary of $58,070 as of May 2012, according to the BLS.

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