Good taste, texture, quality, and safety are all very important in the food industry. Food science technicians test and catalog the physical and chemical properties of food to help ensure these aspects.
Attention to detail, good communication skills, and the ability to think critically
Vocational or Associate's degree
Subjects to Study in High School
Biology, chemistry, algebra, geometry, calculus; if available, statistics
Environmental science and protection technicians, including health
Source: O*Net, BLS
Training, Other Qualifications
Most jobs in this career track require training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree. Some may require a bachelor's degree.
Education and Training
Many employers prefer applicants who have at least 2 years of specialized training or an associate degree in applied science or science-related technology.
People interested in becoming food science technicians should take as many high school science and math courses as possible. Science courses taken beyond high school, in an associate or bachelor's degree program, should be laboratory-oriented, with an emphasis on bench skills. A solid background in applied chemistry, biology, and math is vital.
Whatever their education, food science technicians usually begin work as trainees under the direct supervision of a scientist or a more-experienced technician. As they gain experience, technicians take on more responsibility and carry out assignments under only general supervision, and some eventually become supervisors.
Communication skills are important because technicians are often required to report their findings both orally and in writing. In addition, food science technicians should be able to work well with others.
Organizational ability, an eye for detail, and skill in interpreting scientific results are important, as are a high mechanical aptitude, attention to detail, and analytical thinking.
Nature of the Work
Food science technicians assist food scientists and technologists in research and development, production technology, and quality control. For example, food science technicians may conduct tests on food additives and preservatives to ensure compliance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations regarding color, texture, and nutrients. These technicians analyze, record, and compile test results; order supplies to maintain laboratory inventory; and clean and sterilize laboratory equipment.
Watch this interview with food scientist Corey Scott to find out what he enjoys about his job.
Most food science technicians work indoors, often in laboratories, and have regular hours. Some occasionally work irregular hours to monitor experiments that cannot be completed during regular working hours. Technicians directly involved in food production may work in 8-hour shifts around the clock.
Advances in automation and information technology require technicians to operate more-sophisticated laboratory equipment. Food science technicians are likely to make extensive use of computers, electronic measuring equipment, and traditional experimental apparatus.
On the Job
Typical tasks for a food science technician might include some of the following:
Conduct standardized tests on food, beverages, additives, and preservatives to ensure compliance with standards and regulations regarding factors like color, texture, and nutrients.
Provide assistance to food scientists and technologists in research and development, production technology, and quality control.
Compute moisture or salt content, percentages of ingredients, formulas, or other product factors, using mathematical and chemical procedures.
Record and compile test results, and prepare graphs, charts, and reports.
Clean and sterilize laboratory equipment.
Analyze test results to classify products, or compare results with standard tables.
Taste or smell foods or beverages to ensure that flavors meet specifications, or to select samples with specific characteristics.
Examine chemical and biological samples to identify cell structures and to locate bacteria, or extraneous material, using a microscope.
Mix, blend, or cultivate ingredients to make reagents or to manufacture food or beverage products.
Measure, test, and weigh bottles, cans, and other containers to ensure that hardness, strength, and dimensions meet certain specifications.
Does green apple juice taste the same as red apple juice? That might seem like a silly question. Food coloring does not have any flavor—so how could it change how something tastes? Find out whether it does in this food science project!
Forget drinking your juice. Instead, try snacking on it! Use the steps and recipes in this food science project to transform drinks into semi-solid balls that pop in your mouth. The technique is called spherification and it is part of a larger food science trend called molecular gastronomy— but we just call it yummy science!
Have you ever made your own ice cream? If you have, you probably know that you need to get the ice cream mixture really cold to freeze it quickly. Ice cubes alone will not do the job, but if you add chemicals, such as salt or sugar, to the ice cubes that surround the ice cream container, the mixture gets cold enough to freeze. Why does that work? How does adding salt or sugar affect the freezing point of water? Find out with this ice-cold science project and use your results to make your own…
Have you ever wondered why apple slices turn brown once you cut them, or why a yellow banana gets dark spots over time? In this project you will find out why this happens, and how you can keep your apple slices looking fresh!
The makers of sports drinks spend tens to hundreds of millions of dollars advertising their products each year. Among the benefits often featured in these ads are the beverages' high level of electrolytes, which your body loses as you sweat. In this science project, you will compare the amount of electrolytes in a sports drink with those in orange juice to find out which has more electrolytes to replenish the ones you lose as you work out or play sports. When you are finished, you might even…
Have you ever wondered how nutritionists know how many Calories a certain food contains? In this project you will learn a method for measuring how many Calories (how much chemical energy) is available in different types of food. You will build your own calorimeter to capture the energy released by burning a small food item, like a nut or a piece of popcorn. This project gives a new meaning to the phrase "burning calories!"
Have you ever been told to avoid certain foods because they contain too much fat? Almost every food we eat has some amount of fat in it; often in an invisible form so we do not even notice. However, eating healthy does not mean getting rid of all fat in your diet. On the contrary, fat is an essential nutrient for your body! Only consuming too much of certain fat types creates problems. Are you curious about how to determine the fat content of different foods? Gather some chips, chocolate, and…
Which type of orange juice has the most vitamin C? In this science project, you will learn how to measure the amount of vitamin C in a solution using an iodine titration method. You will compare the amount of vitamin C in three different types of orange juice: homemade, premium not-from-concentrate, and orange juice made from frozen concentrate. Which do you think will have the most vitamin C?
Here is a riddle for you: what kind of rock grows? The answer is: rock candy! This delicious candy is actually crystallized sugar and you can "grow" it from a sugar-water solution. In this science fair project you'll learn how to grow your very own rock candy and determine if using seed crystals changes the growth rate of your sugar crystals.
Quick, what is your favorite color of M&Ms® candy? Do you want to know what dyes were used to make that color? Check out this science project to find out how you can do some scientific detective work to find out for yourself.
Would you like to add an unusual twist to a yummy food like ice cream? In this kitchen science project, you will make mind-bending hot ice cream. You will experiment with, and of course munch on this gastronomic treat. It is easy, it is delicious, and it is fun! Go ahead and try it out!
Have you ever wondered why some foods taste really sour? Vinegar is one example that you might know from salad dressings or pickles. They taste pretty sour, right? There are many different types of vinegar that you can buy to use around the kitchen for cooking and pickling. The chemical compound that gives vinegar its tart taste and pungent smell is acetic acid. Do you think all the different vinegars contain the same amount of acetic acid? Are there some that are more sour than others? How…
If you love cooking, decorating cakes, or making edible table decorations, this is a project for you! You will compare three different recipes for rice paper and discover the recipe that works best for your application!
How much iron is in your cereal? In this experiment, you will devise a way of testing foods for supplemental iron additives. Then you will use your design to test different breakfast cereals to see how much iron they contain. Which brand of cereal will have the most iron in it?
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Fuzzy things are often cute, but not when that fuzziness is mold on your strawberry—yuck! Companies look for natural, plant-based ways to protect the berries from mold when they are in the store, waiting for you to purchase them. Would washing them in aloe vera juice protect strawberries from mold? Do this project and find out!
Have you ever tried an apple that tastes like a banana? It sounds weird, but what actually makes the apple taste like an apple? Our tongue is definitely important for identifying food flavors, but if you have ever had a stuffy nose, you probably noticed that your smell contributes to taste as well. Which of those senses has more influence on flavor? Imagine eating an apple and, at the same time, smelling a really strong banana scent. How to you think the apple will taste? Will the nose or the…
Nut clusters, chocolate-dipped candies, and chocolate-dipped strawberries are just some of the delicious goodies that have a thin, rich layer of chocolate wrapped around them. But how do pastry and candy chefs make these delectable treats? The first step is to melt and temper chocolate. Tempering is a process in which the cocoa butter in chocolate is hardened into a specific crystalline pattern. When the cocoa butter molecules are in this pattern, the chocolate is shiny and breaks with a sharp…
Imagine if instead of spooning up a bowl of soup, a container of yogurt, or a cup of pudding you could just pick up and pop in your mouth a round, mess-free, ball-like blob of one of those. It might feel like snacking rather than eating a meal! In this food science project you can try exactly that. The simple step-by-step directions will lead you through trying a fun cooking technique called reverse spherification to turn yogurt into semi-solid balls, which are called "raviolis." How do you…
One of America's favorite snacks is potato chips. Although potato chips are very tasty, some varieties are not very healthy for you. A typical 1-ounce (oz.) serving of a well-known national potato chip brand contains 150 calories, 90 of which are from fat. How greasy are your favorite potato chips? Try this science fair project, and you'll get a visual understanding about how much oil a potato chip can hold.
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