Food Scientist: Educational Requirements for a Career in Food Science
Food scientists apply their knowledge of biology, chemistry and engineering to develop and improve foods. They may alter a food product's nutritional value, flavor, texture or appearance, as well as its packaging and production processes. Food scientists generally work for federal government agencies, food processing companies and academic institutions.
Food Scientist Educational Requirements
Depending on the positions in which they serve, food scientists might hold an undergraduate or graduate degree. Bachelor's degrees in agricultural science or related sciences may be adequate for positions in farming and food processing technology. Food scientists who work in research positions at academic institutions are typically required to hold at least a master's degree, and those who wish to teach generally need a doctorate.
Aspiring food scientists can enter the field with a bachelor's degree in agricultural or food science. Bachelor of Science in Food Science programs typically focus on agricultural science and technology applicable to entry-level positions in the food industry. Courses may include food processing and packaging, agricultural analysis and chemistry, dairy biology, nutrition and food law. These programs may also offer opportunities to gain hands-on, industry experience through internships.
Master's and doctoral programs in food science usually focus on advanced, specialized training. These programs incorporate classroom and laboratory instruction in technology and principles of food engineering. Courses may include food microbiology and chemistry, preservation, food safety and research methods. Ph.D. programs may also involve teaching instruction or teaching assistantships. Graduate students are typically required to complete thesis projects or dissertations.
Along with formal education, food scientists should have strong oral and written communication skills. They often work with teams of agriculturalists or food scientists, but must also be able to work independently. Proficiency with computers is necessary for this career, as well as statistical, analytical and problem-solving skills.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of food scientists was forecast to increase 16% from 2008-2018 (www.bls.gov). This growth was expected to stem from the need to feed the increasing population, as well as the demand for newer, healthier and safer food products. Food scientists at all levels of education were expected to benefit from the rising number of job opportunities; however, researchers and teachers of food science could experience limited opportunities. In May 2010, the BLS reported that food scientists earned an average income of $65,380 per year.
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