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Food Scientist Job Description, Career as a Food Scientist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: College

Salary: Median—$49,610 per year

Employment Outlook: Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

Food scientists work in the food processing industry. Educated in nutrition, biology, and chemistry, food scientists use their knowledge to improve methods of processing, canning, freezing, storing, packaging, and distributing food. Most food scientists work in the research and development departments of food processing companies. Some work in processing plants as quality control inspectors or production supervisors. Some teach in colleges or work for the government as food graders and inspectors. Others work in sales or advertising. Food scientists are also called food technologists. Scientists who specialize in the technology of the dairy industry are called dairy technologists.

Food scientists who work in research and development study the chemical changes that take place in stored or processed foods. For example, canning or cooking food can lower the vitamin and protein content. Food scientists try to find ways to process food so that fewer nutrients are lost. They study the effects of food additives. They are also concerned with producing enough food to feed the growing world population. Some food scientists are trying to find new sources of protein. The development of meat substitutes made from soybeans and other vegetation is one example of new solutions to the problem of food shortages. Although food scientists are mainly concerned with nutrition, they also pay attention to the flavor, appearance, and texture of processed foods.

Many food scientists work in quality control in food processing plants. They inspect raw ingredients to make sure they are fresh. They also see that the processing operation is carried out in accordance with government regulations. Other food scientists in processing plants make up production schedules, supervise processing, and develop sanitation methods.

Education and Training Requirements

Candidates must have a bachelor's degree in food technology to be a food scientist. For teaching positions and some research jobs, they need a master's or doctoral degree. Some colleges offer courses in dairy technology.

A food scientist working on food safety in a laboratory holds samples of bacteria to a light. (© Jim Richardson/Corbis.)

Getting the Job

Visit the college placement office for assistance with job searches. Apply directly to dairy and food processing plants. Also, check the want ads in professional journals. To get a job with the government, apply to take the necessary civil service test.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Food scientists may become supervisors. For example, a food scientist may become a production manager or a research director. Some become top managers in their company.

The number of jobs for food scientists is expected to grow more slowly than average through the year 2012. Many openings will result from those who leave the occupation or retire. Also, a growing emphasis on diet, health, and food safety will lead to job opportunities for food scientists.

Working Conditions

Working conditions vary with the type of work. Food scientists work in laboratories, food processing plants, and colleges. They generally work thirty-five to forty hours a week.

Where to Go for More Information

American Meat Science Association
1111 North Dunlap Ave.
Savoy, IL 61874
(217) 356-5368

Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology
1200 New York Ave. NW, Ste. 390
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 326-7080

Institute of Food Technologists
525 W. Van Buren, Ste. 1000
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 782-8424

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings vary depending on education and experience. Food scientists earn an average of $49,610 per year. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations, pension plans, and health insurance.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesManufacturing & Production