Career Highlight: Food Scientists

Adapted from and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 

Want to work to ensure the nutritional value, safety, and quality of foods in the United States and elsewhere? Want to help develop the next vegetarian burger patty or ice cream flavor to hit the market? Interested in exploring careers where you can still spend parts of your day in a lab setting? If any of this sounds intriguing, read on! 

Job Duties: 

Food scientists and technologists use chemistry, biology, and other sciences to study food. They analyze the nutritional content of food and research ways to make processed foods safe and healthy. They may also work in product development and develop better ways of preserving and processing. 

Where They Work: 

Food scientists typically work full-time and spend most of their time in laboratories and offices. However, traveling is occasionally needed to conduct site visits at food processing plants.  

Food scientists work in a variety of different industries, which may shift the focus of the job. For example, a food scientist working for a government agency may focus on using their research to advise policymakers. Those working in the private industry may be looking at whether new processed foods are safe to consume or fit with federal nutrition guidelines or may be involved in developing new products. Those working for agricultural companies like Cargill, Monsanto or Tyson may research new ways to process foods more efficiently or improve the quality of crops and livestock. 

Education and Training: 

Food scientists or food technologists will often need at least a bachelor’s degree in Food Science or another related field (e.g., Chemistry or Biology). Participating in lab work during your undergraduate is necessary as it helps you gain experience before going into the workforce. Internships are highly recommended as well because many entry-level jobs value firsthand, practical experience. In fact, many companies in the food industry will use internships as a hiring pipeline for full-time roles. 

Those who go on to earn higher degrees have a more advanced knowledge of their field, and there are some master’s programs especially designed for individuals without an undergraduate degree in Food Science (For example: The one-year Master of Food Science program at Cornell University).  

Pay and Job Outlook: 

Overall, employment is projected to grow by 9% from 2020-2030 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median salary was $73,450 in May 2020.