Food Safety Health Inspector Training and Education Program Options
Prospective students interested in becoming food safety health inspectors can enroll in a variety of degree programs in food science or food safety. Undergraduate programs could meet qualifications for entry-level positions in food inspection, though experience in the industry is often required for advancement.
Bachelor of Science in Food Science
A 4-year bachelor's degree program in food science can prepare students for a number of careers in food service, research and safety. During the program, students typically complete an internship experience in a food processing, engineering or distribution setting. Admittance typically requires a high school diploma or GED and prerequisite coursework in algebra, science, chemistry and geometry.
Often offered with the option to choose food safety as a concentration area, food science curricula combine the study of microbiology, chemistry, mathematics and biology with an emphasis on food testing, safety and preservation. Coursework examines the process of engineering food, processing food for mass consumption and adherance to food laws. Chemistry courses introduce students to the biological basis of foods, and studies in food safety explore the growth of microorganisms in unsafe storage conditions. Topics in major coursework include:
- Thermal processing
- Food stability
- Harvest technology
- Milling processes
- Food-borne pathogens
Popular Career Options
Graduates qualify for careers in a variety of settings, from food safety agencies to food processing plants. Popular career options include the following job titles:
- Food safety inspector
- Food service manager
- Food processor
- Food chemistry researcher
- Food commodities broker
Continuing Education Information
Graduates might benefit from enrolling in a master's degree program in a related area, which could improve job outlook and salary expectations. Master's degree options include food science, agriculture, food safety and life sciences. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service sponsors training seminars and workshops that cover governmental regulations and innovative technologies for inspectors in the agricultural industry.
Master of Science in Food Safety
Students pursuing a 2-year Master of Science in Food Safety prepare for leadership positions in the highly diverse food industry. Schools typically offer non-thesis options for students interested in a more interdisciplinary approach that requires additional elective courses. Admission into the program requires a bachelor's degree in a related area of study, preferably in food science, microbiology or food safety.
Food safety courses cover issues in professionalism, epidemiology, food legislation and protection. A master's curriculum introduces students to numerous topics in food safety, from safely harvesting and processing foods to the distribution of properly packaged foods in a temperature-controlled environment. Food safety issues discussed include government regulations, food toxins and international food safety laws. Students conduct food safety research, complete a major graduate project and participate in a food safety practicum in a government or industry setting. The following topics might also be covered:
- Biological contaminants
- Viral pathogens
- Color additives
- Tamper resistance packaging
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), agricultural inspectors held over 13,000 jobs in the U.S. in 2012, with most positions existing in federal and state government agencies (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that jobs in this profession were expected to grow 1% between 2010 and 2020. The median annual salary of an agricultural inspector as of May 2012 was $42,160, per BLS data.
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Food Science
A Ph.D. program in food safety prepares students for careers in research, education and government. Doctoral programs require a substantial amount of academic research and writing, including a comprehensive research project or article suitable for publication and a doctoral dissertation. Admission requirements often include a bachelor's and master's degree in a related area and satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examination.
Ph.D. candidates study food policies, risk management, consumer education and communications, along with coursework in food-borne illness and contaminants. Research projects provide students with the scientific knowledge needed to improve the quality, safety and distribution of food in the United States, as well the safe transportation of food exports. Other areas of study include disease epidemics and methods for stopping the distribution of contaminated foods. Some common course topics include:
- Food quality control
- Disease investigations
- Chemical hazards
- Food safety management
- Risk reduction
Popular Career Options
Employment opportunities for doctoral graduates exist in a variety of areas, especially positions in research, academia and government. Potential job titles for graduates include:
- Research and development director
- Food microbiologist
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