Which foods are the most nutritious? How can you make processed foods safer and healthier? Are there any opportunities for new food sources that we should be taking advantage of? The food scientist can help answer all these questions and more. Indeed, everything from food production to food regulation would look much different without the expertise of food scientists.
If you're thinking of pursuing your own career as a food scientist or are interested in the possibilities that might be explored in related studies, there are several important things for you to keep in mind.
What Is a Food Scientist?
A food scientist uses biology, chemistry, and other sciences to help study the nutritional aspects of food, along with things like food safety and efficiency in food processing.
Depending on where they find themselves employed, a food scientist may be responsible for various tasks, including:
- Preparing and executing studies to help those across the industry better understand essential topics like sustainability
- Overseeing the design of new policies governing food processing
- Finding new ways to make food processes more efficient, from food production and processing to packaging
- Overseeing available food quantities and demand forecasts, helping to estimate when shortages might occur and how severe they might be
- Making recommendations for improvement on things like food storage
- Developing new food manufacturing procedures and protocols
- Overseeing food safety protocols to ensure that everything operates as it should
What Do Food Scientists Do?
While the actual day-to-day responsibilities of a food scientist will vary depending on the organization that they work with, in general these hard-working individuals will research new opportunities to improve both the efficiency and the safety of their respective workplaces. This includes improving not only products before they make it into the hands of consumers but overall operational practices as well.
A food scientist may also find themselves working in diverse environments. They could be employed in a laboratory where research is conducted, in an office setting, or even in the field.
How Much Do Food Scientists Make?
According to one recent study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a food scientist was $74,160 as of May 2021.
How to Become a Food Scientist
While everyone will follow their own unique path towards becoming a food scientist, there are a few essential steps you must take to help improve your overall chances of success.
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
As you begin to search for job opportunities as a food scientist, you will see that the minimum amount of education required is often a bachelor's degree. During your program, you will focus primarily on science courses with a significant amount of engineering as well. Courses will dive deeper into topics like food processing, food analysis, and even the various laws and regulations that govern the industry.
Participate in an Internship Program or Complete an Analysis of an Issue
An internship can be an important step on your path to becoming a food scientist. The value of an internship gives you firsthand experience working with a food scientist and finding out what the career will entail. Additionally, you’re able to gain experience by completing an analysis of an issue in a capstone-like project. A capstone project is often the final assignment that plays a vital role in preparing students for the industry/career path of their interest. Completing the analysis of an issue prepares students for practical applications and helps them hone their skills and knowledge for the career path ahead.
Earn a Master’s Degree
Even though most available positions will only require a bachelor's degree, many employers will prefer applicants with a master's degree. They will pay particular attention to those with backgrounds in topics like nutrition and food safety, as those areas are always high in demand.
All throughout this period, you should be networking as much as possible. Keep in touch not only with the fellow students that you're meeting in your studies (you never know who might be able to help you down the road), but also with the people you are working with daily via your internship. Every contact that you make today is potentially someone that you can turn to for help advancing your career as a food scientist tomorrow.
Begin Applying for Food Scientist Roles
As is true with a lot of other jobs, long-term success as a food scientist will often be found by way of short-term entry-level work. You'll be able to put your education and training to good use while continuing to gain experience that you can add to your resume, so you can start applying for more senior-level positions before you know it.
Are Food Scientists in Demand?
Thanks to the wide range of unique employment opportunities for those with food science backgrounds, the overall demand for those in this position is positive—and this trend is expected to continue over the next decade in an appreciable way.
The BLS indicates that between 2021 and 2031, the demand for agricultural and food scientists is expected to grow at a rate of 8%, which is faster than the average rate for all types of jobs. More specifically, it is anticipated that there will be approximately 4,100 new openings for agricultural and food scientists on an annual basis. Many of those openings will be created by those who are retiring or switching professions entirely.
Learn More Today
At the U of M, we pride ourselves on helping students create their own trajectory, one that ushers in a new way of thinking and helps them the forge new connections and opportunities they need to thrive. Earning a Master of Professional Studies in Applied Sciences Leadership could help you accomplish precisely that, giving you what you need to pursue a leadership role in a science field. You’ll find the degree timely, accessible, and stackable (combining certificates and courses to complete a master’s degree) .
If you'd like to learn more information about the critical role of food science professionals in today's modern society, or if you'd like to explore earning your own Master of Professional Studies in Applied Sciences Leadership, contact us today.
Note: Data pulled spring 2023.