Food Scientist or Technologist
A food scientist or technologist could...
|Find a natural substitute for undesirable or harmful food additives or preservatives.||Discover a new food source for people or animals.|
|Create a better package to help keep crackers crispy longer.||Determine the nutritional content of food under different conditions, like freezing.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||There is a fraction of the world's population that doesn't have enough to eat or doesn't have access to food that is nutritionally rich. Food scientists or technologists work to find new sources of food that have the right nutrition levels and that are safe for human consumption. In fact, our nation's food supply depends on food scientists and technologists that test and develop foods that meet and exceed government food safety standards. If you are interested in combining biology, chemistry, and the knowledge that you are helping people, then a career as a food scientist or technologist could be a great choice for you!|
|Key Requirements||Ability to reason original solutions to problems, curiosity, detail-oriented|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, algebra, geometry, algebra II, calculus, English; if available, statistics|
|Projected Job Growth (2010-2020)||Average (7% to 13%)|
|Interview||Read interviews with a Senior Scientist and a Product Development Engineer who work at Kraft Foods.|
Training, Other Qualifications
Training requirements for agricultural scientists depend on the type of work they perform. Most food scientists or technologists need at least a master’s degree to work in basic or applied research, whereas a bachelor’s degree is sufficient for some jobs in applied research or product development, or jobs in other occupations related to agricultural science.
Education and Training
The minimum requirement for food scientists or technologists is a bachelor of science degree. A bachelor's degree in agricultural science is sufficient for some jobs in product development or assisting in applied research, but a master's or doctoral degree is generally required for basic research or for jobs directing applied research. A PhD in agricultural science usually is needed for college teaching and for advancement to senior research positions.
Students preparing to be food scientists or technologists take courses such as food chemistry, food analysis, food microbiology, food engineering, and food processing operations. Those preparing as soil and plant scientists take courses in plant pathology, soil chemistry, entomology, plant physiology, and biochemistry, among others. Advanced degree programs include classroom and fieldwork, laboratory research, and a thesis or dissertation based on independent research.
Food scientists who have advanced degrees usually begin in research or teaching. With experience, they may advance to jobs as supervisors of research programs or managers of other food technology-related activities.
Food scientists or technologists should be able to work independently or as part of a team and be able to communicate clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing. Most of these scientists also need an understanding of basic business principles, the ability to apply statistical techniques, and the ability to use computers to analyze data and to control biological and chemical processing.
Nature of the Work
Watch this interview with food scientist Corey Scott to find out what he enjoys about his job.
The work of food scientists or technologists plays an important part in maintaining the nation's food supply by ensuring food safety. Food scientists and technologists usually work in the food processing industry, universities, or the federal government to create and improve food products. They use their knowledge of chemistry, physics, engineering, microbiology, biotechnology, and other sciences to develop new or better ways of preserving, processing, packaging, storing, and delivering foods. Some food scientists engage in basic research, discovering new food sources; analyzing food content to determine levels of vitamins, fat, sugar, or protein; or searching for substitutes for harmful or undesirable additives, such as nitrites. Others engage in applied research, finding ways to improve the content of food or to remove harmful additives. They also develop ways to process, preserve, package, or store food according to industry and government regulations. Traditional food processing research into baking, blanching, canning, drying, evaporation, and pasteurization also continues. Other food scientists enforce government regulations, inspecting food processing areas and ensuring that sanitation, safety, quality, and waste management standards are met.
Food technologists generally work in product development, applying the findings from food science research to improve the selection, preservation, processing, packaging, and distribution of food.
Food scientists or technologists involved in management or basic research tend to work regular hours in offices and laboratories. The work environment for those engaged in applied research or product development varies, depending on specialty and on type of employer. For example, food scientists in private industry may work in test kitchens, while investigating new processing techniques.
On the Job
- Test new products for flavor, texture, color, nutritional content, and adherence to government and industry standards.
- Check raw ingredients for maturity or stability for processing and finished products for safety, quality, and nutritional value.
- Confer with process engineers, plant operators, flavor experts, and packaging and marketing specialists to resolve problems in product development.
- Evaluate food processing and storage operations and assist in the development of quality assurance programs for such operations.
- Study methods to improve aspects of foods, such as chemical composition, flavor, color, texture, nutritional value, and convenience.
- Study the structure and composition of food or the changes foods undergo in storage and processing.
- Develop new or improved ways of preserving, processing, packaging, storing, and delivering foods, using knowledge of chemistry, microbiology, and other sciences.
- Develop food standards and production specifications, safety and sanitary regulations, and waste management and water supply specifications.
- Demonstrate products to clients.
- Inspect food processing areas to ensure compliance with government regulations and standards for sanitation, safety, quality, and waste management standards.
- Search for substitutes for harmful or undesirable additives, such as nitrites.
Companies That Hire Food Scientist or Technologists
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- 'Make Mine Medium-Rare': Heat Conduction in Steak
- A Juicy Project: Extracting Apple Juice with Pectinase
- Candy Chromatography: What Makes Those Colors?
- Chemistry of Baking Ingredients 1: How Much Baking Powder Do Quick Breads Need?
- Chemistry of Baking Ingredients 2: Can Baking Soda Substitute for Baking Powder in a Recipe?
- Chemistry of Ice-Cream Making: Lowering the Freezing Point of Water
- Choice Cheesecakes: Which Baking Method is the Best?
- Cookies: Can You Blame the Burnt Ones On the Cookie Sheet?
- Determining Iodide Content of Salt
- Do Oranges Lose or Gain Vitamin C After Being Picked?
- Do You Have the Willpower to Taste Something Sour?
- Do You Love the Taste of Food? Find Out if You're a Supertaster!
- Dried Foods: The Science Behind Making Lightweight Snacks
- Egg Substitutes
- Egg-cellently Cooked Eggs: The Process of Soft-Boiling an Egg
- Electrolyte Challenge: Orange Juice Vs. Sports Drink
- Fish + Food = Science of Aquaponics
- Flavor That Food! Exploring the Science of Marinades
- Fresh Whipped Cream That Lasts
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Food Scientist or Technologist that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- BLS. (2009). Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), 2008-09 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://www.bls.gov/oco/
- O*Net Online. (2009). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://online.onetcenter.org/
- Kraft Foods. (n.d.). Careers at Kraft Foods: Research Development and Quality (RQ&Q). Retrieved October 8, 2009, from http://brands.kraftfoods.com/careers/careers/rd.htm
- TPT. (2006). Real Scientists. DragonflyTV, Twin Cities Public Television. Retrieved October 8, 2009, from http://pbskids.org/dragonflytv/scientists/scientist28.html