Two food scientists inspect a disc on a machine

A food scientist or technologist could...


Find a natural substitute for undesirable or harmful food additives or preservatives. Piles of multi-colored spices and dyes Discover a new food source for people or animals. Branches of seaweed
Create a better package to help keep crackers crispy longer. Goldfish crackers spilling out of a bag Determine the nutritional content of food under different conditions, like freezing. Two food scientists hold trays of strawberries
Find out more...

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
Median Salary
Food Scientist or Technologist
  $63,950
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
  $49,630
Min Wage
  $15,080
$0
$10,000
$20,000
$30,000
$40,000
$50,000
$60,000
$70,000
$80,000
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%)
Interview Read about several food science professionals at Day in the Life of a Food Scientist.
Related Occupations
  • Nursery and greenhouse managers
  • Farmers and ranchers
  • Purchasing agents and buyers, farm products
  • Food science technicians
  • First-line supervisors/managers of aqua-cultural workers
  • First-line supervisors/managers of agricultural crop and horticultural workers
  • First-line supervisors/managers of animal husbandry and animal care workers
  • Agricultural inspectors
Source: O*Net

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.

Other Qualifications

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

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.

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

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.

Work Environment

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.

Source: BLS

Companies That Hire Food Scientist or Technologists

Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...

Science Fair Project Idea
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! Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
To be able to live on Mars, humans need breathable air, clean water, and nutritious food. Spacesuits can provide oxygen to breathe, ice on Mars can be a source of water, but how could we get nutritious food? Today's astronauts bring food with them. But a manned trip to Mars would require food that was either successfully grown in space or on Mars, as taking the extra weight of food for such a long time—it takes 6–9 months one way—is just too costly. In this project, you will… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
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! Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
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… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
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! Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
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… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
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!" Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
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… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
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? Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
When you go to the supermarket, how do you pick out ripe fruits and vegetables? You might look at their size or color, or feel them for firmness. That might be easy to do when you pick out a half dozen apples, but imagine if you had to examine thousands of apples growing in a field, or strawberries coming down a conveyor belt getting ready for packaging. Suddenly, it is a lot harder to do yourself! What if a machine could pick and sort the produce for you? In this project, you will address part… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
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. Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
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. Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
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! Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
Do you know why enzymes are oftentimes called the workhorses of biochemistry? It's because they can speed up a wide variety of chemical reactions, and chemists and biologists use enzymes to do all kinds of jobs. In this project, pectinase, an enzyme frequently used in the food industry, will be used to extract juice from apples. Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
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… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
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! Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
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? Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
Do you read the list of ingredients in foods and drinks before you buy them at the grocery store? If you do, you may have noticed that many of the items, especially colored drinks, contain dyes with names such as FD&C Blue 1, Red 40, or Yellow 5. But how much dye is needed to create all these colors? In this chemistry science project, you will build a simple spectrophotometer that is able to measure the concentration of colored chemicals in solutions. You will test your device by measuring… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
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… Read more
Science Fair Project Idea
Are oranges highest in vitamin C when they are fresh from the tree (or, in a pinch, the grocery shelf)? Does the amount of vitamin C in an orange change over time, after it has been picked? In this science project, you will find answers to these questions by measuring the amount of vitamin C in a solution using an iodine titration method. Read more

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Sources

Free science fair projects.