Job description

Food scientists use chemistry, microbiology and other sciences to study food content, safety and processing. They analyse nutritional value and research ways to make foods healthier and more flavourful. Food scientists evaluate data and test results to discover better techniques for food selection, preservation and distribution.

Duties

    • Check raw ingredients for quality and stability for processing
    • Evaluate finished products and test new ones for safety, nutritional value and other quality standards
    • Compile data on the structure of food and changes that occur during processing and storage
    • Study and test methods for improving flavour, colour, texture and other aspects of foods
    • Coordinate with experts in processing, food flavours and marketing to improve product development
    • Develop new processes of selecting, processing, packaging, storing and delivering foods
    • Research alternate food sources and develop substitutes for harmful additives
    • Develop new food items for production based on research, testing and customer feedback
    • Inspect food processing areas for compliance with safety regulations and sanitation
    • Develop and implement improved standards for safe food handling and waste management
    • Supervise technicians and direct their testing and laboratory work
    • Demonstrate new products for clients

Skills, qualities and knowledge

Chemistry
Microbiology
Food production
Analytical software
Scientific software
Reading comprehension
Monitoring
Attention to detail
Critical thinking
Problem-solving
Coordination
Social perceptiveness
Initiative
Leadership
Integrity
Persistence
Teamwork

Working hours and environment

Average working hours

40hweek

Typical schedule

Full Time

Standard business hours

Food scientists work full time, mostly in the laboratory or office. They may also do fieldwork at farms, greenhouses and processing plants. Some food scientist positions require travel, including international locations.

Visiting food production facilities requires appropriate clothing and following biosecurity protocols. Exposure to loud production machinery and cold temperatures from storage equipment is possible.

Salary

Bottom 10%

$40k

Median

$65k

Top 10%

$120k

Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.

Qualifications and training

Education level

Undergraduate

DVM / VMD degree

Study time

4years

Food scientists typically have a bachelor's degree in agricultural science or a related field like chemistry or chemical engineering. You should select applicable coursework such as food analysis, food chemistry and food engineering. Internships and cooperative programmes provide valuable hands-on experience to boost your résumé.

Some food scientists earn advanced degrees to expand their career options. Certifications from organisations like the American Society of Agronomy and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) can help with your career progression.

Job outlook

Projected growth
The projected growth rate of employment in the US from 2018 to 2028, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme. The national average growth rate for all professions is 5%.

5%

No of new jobs
The number of jobs projected to become available in the US between 2018 and 2028, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme.

800

Automation risk
The probability of computerisation, based on data published in ‘The Future of Employment’, a 2013 working paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne.

7.7%

Career progression

Achievement and reliability as a food scientist can lead to larger and more prestigious projects. Earning a master's in toxicology or dietetics can open up more specialised job opportunities. Those with a more general BSc degree may choose to earn their PhD and focus on doing research in the food sciences.

Food scientists may also use their degree to transition into related careers in farming, agricultural inspection and farm-related manufacturing.