How to Become a Food Scientist

Woman examines plants in a greenhouse

Food science professionals play important roles in the food supply chain. Food scientists need to know a lot about chemistry, biology and nutritional sciences in order to understand the basic elements of food. Their work helps ensure the safety of harvested, processed and manufactured foods. Food scientists also empower individuals to take better control of their wellness by ensuring the accuracy of food product labels and nutritional information.

Individuals who work in food science also seek to discover new food sources and systems. After learning more about what food scientists do, you may consider whether you would like to pursue a degree in food science.

Food Science Careers

Food science is a broad career path made up of professionals who work at farms, labs and food manufacturing plants. Knowing which particular career interests you will help in directing your academic journey. For example, if you aspire to work as a quality assurance technician at a food processing facility, your main responsibilities will include ensuring compliance in the area of sanitation, safety and quality in various areas of the facility. You will also analyze the nutritional content of the food products and ensure proper labeling.

Professionals who work in research positions might do anything from experimenting with various food storage methods to researching the safety of food additives. Food scientists who work in development will primarily look for ways to improve upon existing food products or create brand new ones.

Earning an Undergraduate Degree

Food science is a multidisciplinary field. It combines aspects of chemistry, nutritional science and biology. Some universities may offer a specific food science degree, but a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry or a BS in Nutritional Sciences degree program provide many of the same academic foundations for earning an advanced degree.

While you work toward your bachelor’s degree, look for opportunities to grow and learn beyond the classroom. Employers often look to hire recent graduates who demonstrate on-campus involvement in clubs and other organizations, so look for groups that are relevant to your personal and professional interests. In addition, explore internship opportunities at relevant jobsites, such as food manufacturing facilities or agricultural establishments. An internship gives you the chance to see food science in a practical setting and build professional connections.

Pursuing Certification to Enhance Your Job Qualifications

Investing in continuing education is a core component of professional development in any field with high qualifications. Obtaining voluntary certifications is an excellent way to demonstrate commitment to your profession as you pursue job opportunities and career advancement.

The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) offers training courses that are specific to individual jobs, such as food handlers, processors and manufacturers. Consider signing up for one of these online training courses, especially certificate programs. You may find it easier to land your first job in food science if you can add a certificate to your resume.1

Earning a Graduate Degree

Many food scientists may find success with just a bachelor’s degree. An undergraduate degree can allow you to pursue applied science and private sector research opportunities at manufacturing plants or agricultural entities. However, if you would like to pursue a university research position or an advanced role, you will need to earn a master’s or doctoral degree. You can expect a master’s degree program to take about one to two years, depending on your schedule of classes. A doctoral program may last will vary in the time it takes to complete it based on the research you conduct for your dissertation and the demands of your specific program.

Landing Your First Food Science Position

While you look for a job in the food science field, it can be helpful to join a professional organization such as the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). The IFT has an online Career Development resource, which includes a job board. Other professional organizations include the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and the Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH).

You can also check your local or state board of health for job opportunities, as well as the USA Jobs website — an official federal government property. This last website posts federal food facility inspection and research jobs.2

You can also use the following tips to help you land your first food-science related job:

  • Follow major food companies on social media to stay on top of new opportunities
  • Ask for letters of recommendation from your professors
  • Connect with food science alumni via your college network
  • Thoroughly research companies you are invited to interview at

If you have your sights set on a career in food science, you can begin your studies at Grand Canyon University’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology. Our Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences will prepare you to begin your career in food science and continue your education. To learn more about our college, visit our website or Click on the Request Information button on this page.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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