How to Become a Food Scientist in 5 Steps

Read further to learn how to become a food scientist, which requires completing undergraduate and graduate degree programs and possibly earning certification. Learn more about what food scientists do, what kind of training they need and what their specialization options are. Review the advancement potential for the career. Schools offering Art of Cooking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Food Scientist?

Food scientists develop new food products, design processes for packaging, conduct shelf-life studies and perform chemical testing. Analyzing food to determine levels of fats, vitamins, proteins or sugars for labeling, improving food content or removing harmful additives are among the purposes of testing. They generally work in government agencies, universities or the food processing industry. A food scientist typically needs a bachelor's degree in a related discipline, but many research and applied science positions require graduate degrees.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

If you're interested in becoming a food scientist, consider earning a Bachelor of Science in Food Science. The Institute of Food Technologists (www.ift.org) lists universities and colleges that offer approved undergraduate food science degree programs. You could concentrate your studies in such areas as chemistry, physics, engineering and microbiology, along with more specific courses in food chemistry, food analysis, food engineering and food processing operations. You should also learn business fundamentals and statistical analysis methods, as well as developing the ability work well both individually and as part of a team.

Step 2: Participate in an Internship

Not all food science programs offer internships, but if yours does, sign up. An internship can provide you with work experience and the opportunity to develop contacts in the industry. Government agencies, food processors and packagers are among the institutions that might have standing partnerships with your school.

Step 3: Earn a Graduate Degree

If you're interested in conducting research, you'd need at least a master's degree, and if you want to teach at the college or university level, you'd need a doctoral degree. Master of Science, Ph.D. and Master of Professional Studies programs are available in food science. Possible specializations include food chemistry, food microbiology or food engineering. The IFT has a list of universities with their graduate programs. Master's degree programs require completing additional classroom work, engaging in fieldwork and writing a thesis based on independent research. Doctoral programs emphasize original research, culminating with the writing and defense of a dissertation.

Step 4: Choose a Career Path

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that approximately 13,400 food scientists were employed as of 2008 (www.bls.gov). Employment was projected to increase 16% to around 15,600 between then and 2018, but as of May 2009, had instead fallen to 10,790. According to IFT, you could work in such areas as packaging, research and manufacturing. In food technology, you'd develop ways to process and package food to ensure safety, convenience and taste. As a food researcher, you'd compile information on nutrients and other food components for consumers. Food manufacturers develop methods to mass produce food products.

Step 5: Obtain Certification

With certification and work experience you could potentially advance to supervisory roles or manage other food related projects. The Research Chefs Association offers a Certified Culinary Scientist designation to food scientists who've studied the culinary arts in order to develop exceptional food products. You might also consider Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Auditor certification from the American Society for Quality. HACCP is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety standard. The FDA has mandatory HACCP programs for poultry, meat, seafood and juice.

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