How To Become A Food Scientist
Food scientists play a critical role in what you eat. You may have wondered where brilliant food products like plant-based meat and gluten-free bread come from. These innovations for food were made possible by food scientists.
Food science doesn’t just deal with the regular food we all know. It analyzes the raw ingredients and develops newer and healthier ways of processing and packaging this food for consumption.
Maybe you desire to provide the world with more nourishing and satisfactory food, or you love experimenting with foods, so you have decided that your dream career is food science. This article covers every information you need to become a certified food scientist.
WHO IS A FOOD SCIENTIST?
A food scientist is a food professional who specializes in research, developing, and analyzing various ways raw food can be transformed into edible foods for the public. Food science deals with various food ingredients and how they are processed and packaged for people to consume. Therefore a food scientist is a specialist that researches and creates better ways of producing, processing, and packaging food and beverages.
Roles and Responsibilities of a Food Scientist
A food scientist studies food – the composition of ingredients, chemical structure, and the manufacturing process. They study the science of food and how it is produced. Food scientists play a critical role in what we eat and don’t eat. They handle several responsibilities to ensure that the food produced is fit for human consumption.
- Food Analysis: Food scientists analyze foods to determine the level of nutrients present. They also determine the vitamins, proteins, fat, and sugar levels before labeling the food product.
- Food Development: Food scientists work to develop and design new food products and packages. They oversee the food production processing and storage methods and ensure that they are secure and efficient.
- Test Ingredients: They test the ingredients from food and beverages to ensure no harmful content is present. Food scientists mostly work in the lab. They also ensure that the foods and beverages produced for consumption meet the safety standards.
- Food Review: Food scientists review every aspect of a food product, including the taste, texture, and appearance. Food scientists (specifically food chemists) analyze and test the chemical nature of food.The harmful chemicals used to process food are one of the factors that affect over 600 million people every year. Out of that number, 420,000 of them die. Food scientists study food chemicals and ensure they are safe for consumption.
- Develop Production Machinery: Engineering is also a course of study under food science. Food scientists design and develop machines to ease producing and packaging of food.
The responsibilities of a food scientist depend majorly on their specific areas of concentration.
KEY STEPS TO BECOMING A FOOD SCIENTIST
Being a food scientist is fascinating. You get to explore the various ways of processing food. However, it may take years before you are established as an expert food scientist. There are practical steps to follow during these years that will get you started on your desired career path as an expert food scientist.
1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (and an Advanced Degree)
This is where you lay the foundation for your career. Food science is a high-standard course, and you will need a degree in the field if you want to gain a solid foot in the food science industry. Earn a B.SC in food science.
Your area of concentration will be in chemistry, physics, microbiology, and engineering. You can also include mathematics. As you progress in your course of study, you start taking specific courses like food analysis, food chemistry, food processing operations, and food engineering.
But a Bachelor’s degree will only get you access to entry-level positions. If you want to advance your career in the future, a Master’s degree is necessary to expand your career reach in food science. The degree is research-based and is best offered offline because it requires lots of laboratory work.
A Ph.D. in food science is also necessary but not a requirement. An advanced degree is important, especially because food science can be complicated. It requires intelligence and expertise. Therefore, it is not advisable to stop at a basic degree.
Best 10 Colleges Offering Food Science and Nutrition Programs
|NAME OF UNIVERSITY
|ACCEPTANCE RATE %
|Cornell University in New York, USA
|#1 — in the world
#1 — both in North America and the USA
|The University of California in Davis, USA
|#2 — in the world
#2 — both in North America and the USA
|The University of Illinois at Urbana — Illinois, USA
|#3 — in the world
#3 — both in North America and the USA
|University of Wisconsin, Madison — Wisconsin, USA
|#4 — in the world
#4 — both in North America and the USA
|Jiangnan University — Wuxi, China
|#5 — in the world
#1 — both in Asia and China
|University of São Paulo — São Paulo, Brazil
|#6 — in the world
#1 — both in Latin America and Brazil
|University of Minnesota, Twin Cities — Minnesota, USA
|#7 — in the world
#5 — both in North America and the USA
|State University of Campinas — Campinas, Brazil
|#8 — in the world
#2 — both in Latin America and Brazil
|Texas A&M University, College Station — Texas, USA
|#9 — in the world
#6 — both in North America and the USA
|University of Georgia — Georgia, USA
|#10 — in the world
#7 — in both North America and the USA
Popular Food Science Topics Offered in this Programs
- Food Chemistry
- Food Packaging
- Nutritional Science
- Food Analysis
- Food Microbiology
- Sensory Evaluation
- Food Product Design and Development
- Food Preservation and Safety
- Food Toxicology
Typically, you can complete a Master’s degree program in a year or two. Ph.D. programs take about three to four years to complete.
If you cannot offer a food science course directly, you can go for alternatives to the food science field. They include Agricultural Science and Nutrition & Dietetics. A Bachelor’s degree in any of these fields qualifies you for a Master’s of Science in Food Science.
2. Enroll in Internship
It is important to work as an intern, especially after your B.Sc or Master’s degree program. The essence of an internship is to equip you with basic work experiences. The chances of getting a job position without any possible work experience are very slim.
Being a food scientist is a highly-specialized job position, and you will need some level of work experience to be considered. Another benefit of getting into an internship program in food science, technology, and nutrition is that it gives you a chance to network and grow your contacts within the industry. Through an internship, you can get a work mentor to guide you through the career path.
Critical Skills Needed as a Food Scientist
It is during the internship program that you concentrate on building up the essential skills you need as a food scientist, such as:
- Product Development
- Logical Thinking
- Problem Solving
- Mathematics Intelligence
- Data Analysis
- Project Management, and
- Interrelationship Skills
These are just the key skills you need. You can develop other skills to boost your work experience and your resume.
Top 3 Best Internships for Food Science Majors
1. Cargill Food Science R&D Intern in Wichita, Kansas
The company offers an internship program that runs for 12 weeks in its protein and salt division. Cargill allows the student interns to work alongside experienced food scientists. They will watch the professional food scientists perform their duties, including sensory evaluation, least-cost formulations, and USDA formulations.
Cargill accepts students who are already graduates or in their final year level of the Bachelor’s degree program. The company pays its interns and requires that they have a minimum GPA of 3.0
2. Corbion RD&A Summer Intern in Lenexa, Kansas
The summer internship at Corbion will greatly benefit students interested in the ingredient solutions industry. Students perform tasks like researching scholarly literature, analyzing data, designing experiments, and processing new ingredients during the internship.
3. Brakebush Brothers Inc in Westfield, Wisconsin
The company offers paid internships for food science students in various sub-disciplines. Some sub-disciplines include food development and research, food safety, and quality assurance. The internship programs last between 10 to 12 weeks.
As Brakebush Brothers are one of the top leaders in poultry processing, interns have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the industry. They can also network with professionals and get relevant career development opportunities.
3. Choose a Career Path
After you have had your degree, you can now choose a career in the food science industry. You can choose your career path during your internship because you are now exposed to what suits you. However, most people choose their desired paths in their Master’s degree program — Master’s of Food Science.
The food science, technology, and nutrition career path are highly sought-after. In 2021, about 15,000 food scientists were employed. In ten years, between 2020–2030, the employment rate is expected to increase by 7%. This means you should start now to identify your desired area of specialty.
Career Options in Food Science
1. Food Microbiology
You can also work as a Food Safety Expert in this career option. The primary role of a food microbiologist is to investigate the source(s) of food-borne illnesses. They also create new tests for food pathogens and develop better food processing methods.
As a food microbiologist, you can also work as a fermentation scientist to help to control food fermentation processes like beer-making and cheese-making. Food microbiology involves ensuring that food is safe for consumption.
2. Sensory Science
A sensory scientist studies the various factors that affect food choices. The factors include:
- The flavor of the food — bitter, sweet, sour, or fresh.
- Food texture — smooth, slimy, crunchy, or tough.
- Food appearance — shiny, dull, flat, or round.
- Consumer mood — happy, stressed, depressed, or relaxed.
The goal of a sensory scientist is to understand the various characteristics of food and how the consumers perceive them.
3. Food Engineering
Food engineering involves designing and developing systems and machines for food processing, storing, and packaging. In most companies, food engineers are called Food Processing Packaging Design Engineers. As a food engineer, you design systems to make the production and packaging of food easier. Food packages should be environmentally friendly.
4. Food Chemistry
A food chemist deals with the chemical nature of various foods and beverages. They design methods to analyze these chemicals. You could specialize in natural food colors chemistry or flavor chemistry as a food chemist. Food chemists usually work a lot in the lab. They analyze various methods of processing foods like canning, cooking, freezing, and packaging.
5. Food Product Development
This career path specializes more in the creation of food. A Food Product Development Scientist (FPDS) is responsible for developing healthier, tastier, and more convenient foods and ingredients. The main goal of an FPDS is to develop high-quality, affordable, and nutritious food products for the public.
4. Get Certified
Getting certified is a sure way of cementing your foot on the best part of the Food Scientist career path. A certification from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), the world’s largest food science organization, will prove your authenticity and open more doors to higher position offers.
IFT offers a Certified Food Scientist credential program. This certification lets you join the ever-growing community of food scientists. As a certified food scientist, you are recognized as an expert and considered for senior job positions.
The Certified Food Scientist program meets the International Standards Organization (ISO) standards. The CFS exam is usually computer-based, with a total of 120 questions. The exam is only suitable for those who meet the requirements.
See the requirement to qualify for the CFS examination in the image below.
After completing your application, you can take the exam. Results for the exam are made available six weeks after the last exam day. Before the exam, candidates will be given a handbook. This handbook aims to guide you in your preparations for the examinations. The handbook contains detailed information on the content outline and the exam delivery information.
Important Note: After being certified, ensure you renew your certificate with the organization every five years.
5. Land Your First Food Science Job
If you haven’t gotten any employment yet, you can start seeking open job opportunities at this stage. This is where you can use the networks you have gathered over time too. You can ask for job opportunities from your colleagues, too.
Another great way to land your first job is to join the IFT organization or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. These organizations provide Career Development Resources for their members, including job search boards. Another relevant organization is the Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH).
Note: While seeking a job, don’t forget to fill up your resume with relevant skills and current information. State your certifications and years of experience, including the experiences from internships.
AVERAGE FOOD SCIENTIST SALARY
The salary range of food scientists varies based on various factors, such as educational background, work experience, certifications, and additional skills. According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary of a food scientist in the U.S is $74,130. This means that you may be working for about $35.64 per hour.
This is just the average salary. It could be higher, like $133,000, or lower, like $28,500. The salary range varies. However, the more your skills and experiences advance, your salary is more likely to be on the high side.
Your location is another factor that affects your salary earnings. If few companies hire food scientists in your area, the pay will likely be lower. But if several companies are open to hiring, the pay will be high.
For example, Santa Clara in California is a very active market for food scientists because several companies are looking to hire. The estimated annual salary in Santa Clara is $89,687. Other top locations include San Francisco and Fremont, CA, with an annual salary of $89,660 and $86,124, respectively.
ALTERNATIVE CAREERS IN FOOD SCIENCE
With a food science degree, you may be wondering if there are other career paths you can take aside from being a food scientist. Since food science involves various disciplines from biology to chemistry, engineering, nutrition, and even psychology, you can take up other food science-related alternatives.
Also, you can work in other fields that include engineering, culinary arts, manufacturing, and healthcare.
- Food technology: It is so closely related to food science that most colleges offer it as food science and technology.
- Nutrition therapy.
- Culinary chef.
- Product development science or Production management
- Research science
- Quality management.
Where can a Food Scientist work?
Because food science is a broad field, food scientists can work anywhere from a health care center to special food labs and food and beverage manufacturing farms. Aside from private firms, you can work for government institutions, food organizations, or NGOs.
With your experience in food science, you may be hired as a food consultant for food firms and restaurants. Most food scientists work as chefs and quality managers. There is no limit to where you can work based on your field.
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