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
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.
Watch this interview with food scientist Corey Scott to find out what he enjoys about his job.
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.
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.
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