Food science deals with numerous aspects of agriculture, nutrition, and the preparation, production, safety, and distribution of food. Chemistry, engineering, microbiology, biochemistry, and other disciplines are all relevant to this area of science.
For people who pursue a food science degree and career path, there are many opportunities to make a real-world impact, as they help keep people healthy, safe, and fed.
A food scientist can directly affect how companies develop and offer products, how more sustainable actions can be taken to feed global populations, and more.
Conventional food science careers like health inspector, toxicologist, food chemist, microbiologist, and product developer remain in demand, but there are also many emerging roles and unconventional opportunities.
Technology, ever-changing markets, agricultural sustainability, supply chain issues, and other factors mean that food scientists will have a lasting role in the future of food.
Whether a food scientist takes on a traditional job or explores a pioneering field, there is a lot of room for growth.
Becoming A Food Scientist
Pursuing a career as a food scientist usually starts with completing a bachelor’s degree in a related scientific discipline. These will vary by institution, but many colleges and universities with food science programs will offer degrees in agricultural science, dietetics and nutrition, culinary science, and similar fields of study.
The right choice of these or other programs will depend on the type of career or industry one aims to enter. For example, studying nutrition is a good route for someone who hopes to work as a nutritional or dietary consultant, while a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science can set one on a career in livestock management.
A four-year degree in food science can open many doors in food manufacturing, agriculture, and other industries, but to enter the workforce as a food scientist, a master’s degree is usually a minimum. At this level, it will be helpful to pick a more specific concentration or subdiscipline of food science.
Food chemistry, for example, will enable one to study food and nutrition sources at a component level, which provides a deeper understanding of how vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other biological elements, factor into specific ingredients. Focusing on molecular gastronomy is beneficial to individuals on a culinary scientist track.
This area of food science is focused on the physical and chemical aspects of cooking food, as well as many social, creative, and technical factors.
Food engineering puts food production into a mechanical context by examining the principles of production, handling, storage, and distribution on an industrial scale.
Food microbiology deals with the relationship between food and bacteria, along with other microorganisms. This addresses issues of food spoilage, safety, as well as probiotics and fermentation.
With a master’s degree in these and other food science disciplines, graduates can move on to careers in production, research and development, inspection, sales and marketing, and other fields in the private and public sectors.
Because there are so many different industries that need people with these qualifications, food scientist salary ranges are vast. Starting pay averages around $44,000 while the highest earners can take home more than $128,000 annually.
New And Unexpected Food Science Careers
With so many people on the planet and so many factors affecting food production, distribution, quality, and sustainability, the field of food science is becoming more diverse. This means that food science jobs have also become more dynamic and unconventional.
Food scientists might be asked to address many unique challenges, such as how to make meals more portable and delicious for astronauts living on the International Space Station, how to change the taste and texture of plant protein so that it closely imitates animal products, and how to grow staple crops in conditions that are inhospitable to traditional farming methods.
For creative and scientifically-minded people who want to solve problems and do impactful work, food science can amount to a very fulfilling and engaging profession.