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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.

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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.

Bachelor's Degrees

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.

Graduate Degrees

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.

Other Qualifications

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 and technologists is forecast to increase 8% for the years 2010-2020 (www.bls.gov). In May 2012, the BLS reported that food scientists and technologists earned an annual median income of $58,070.

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