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What Do You Need to Know About Food Science and Technology Careers
Choosing a career in Food Science is rewarding yet the path to success in this chosen field is not that easy. When I chose this course of study, I did not really knew much of what to expect. Little did I know of the academic requirements that I needed to satisfy. Good thing it worked out all right for me. It is my aim to inform through this hub what you need to know if and when you choose to take a career in Food Science.
What is food science?
According to the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST), "Food science is the scientific understanding of the composition of food under various conditions". This involves multidisciplinary knowledge in a combination of sciences like biology, microbiology, chemistry, physics and engineering which are used to study the nature of foods, the causes of their deterioration, and the principles underlying food processing.
When you apply food science to the selection, preservation and processing of food materials to come up with safe, nutritious, wholesome, tasty and attractive food products, that is called Food Technology. Application of other technologies like packaging, engineering, instrumentation, electronics, agriculture and biotechnology need to be integrated with Food Technology to complete the food production process as well.
Food science and technology combined is responsible for the many popular food products we enjoy today like carbonated drinks, ready-to-eat cereals, frozen desserts, processed dairy and meat products like cheese, yogurt, ham and sausages, various canned goods and a whole lot more. Consumers seldom think of the research and development that were involved in the production process that has resulted in many of these convenient foods. O where would all our favorite foods be without Food Science and Technology?
What are the requirements in the study of Food Science?
If you're aspiring to have a career in Food Science, it is best to have a good grounding in the sciences namely chemistry, microbiology and physics. As a Food science student, you will be taking more specialized science courses such as food chemistry, food analysis, food microbiology, food engineering, and food processing operations. Don't be surprised of the long hours you could be spending in the laboratory.
Some Nutrition, Statistics, Quality Assurance and Business Management subjects are also called for. How advantageous it is if you also have the ability to use computers to analyze data and complete reports! You should also learn to work independently or as part of a team and be able to communicate clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing.
To get a feel of what the food industry is about, students are also usually placed in a food company to complete an on-the-job training. This is where you get to see the practicality of the food science course you've studied for about 3 years and apply what you have learned in the Food sciences. It took me 4-5 years to finish my Bachelor of Science in Food Technology undergraduate course.
Food Science Overview and History
What career opportunities await a Food Scientist?
There are a lot of career opportunities that await food scientists and food technologists. Everybody is in need of food. As long as food is being studied and produced, there will always be a need for food scientists and food technologists. Work can be found in the food processing industry, in universities, or in government agencies.
They can get engaged in Research and Development, Quality Assurance or Quality Control, or Production Management. If you think you enjoy developing new or better ways of preserving, processing, packaging, storing, and delivering food products, or improving on existing products, you'll do well in Research and Development (R&D). If you don't mind the unending redundant laboratory activities to ensure that food qualities and standards are met, then you'll be fine working in Quality Control. If you have the additional people management skills, you might find yourself working in the Food Production area.
Outside the food manufacturing industry, you can also land Teaching jobs, do Consultations with small and medium scale food businesses, start your own Food Business, work with Sales and Marketing and more. Others who get hired by the government can be tasked to enforce government regulations, inspect food processing areas to ensure food sanitation, safety, quality, and waste management standards are met.
What Do Professionals in Food Science Have to Say?
Is Food Science a career worth taking? How much salary can you earn?
Demand for food scientists and technologists is expected to continue to rise. This is driven by the demand for new food products and the public awareness of diet, health and food safety. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
Job growth among agricultural and food scientists is projected at 9% from 2012 to 2022, as fast as for most average occupation. Opportunities are expected to be good over the next decade, particularly in food science and technology and in agronomy.
Food scientists and technologist held about 19,400 jobs in 2012. About 33 percent worked for manufacturing companies, 9 percent worked in the management of companies and enterprises, 9 percent worked in research and development, 8 percent worked in educational institutions and 7 percent worked in crop production. Others were employed in the Federal Government, mostly in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While still others were self-employed, mainly as consultants.
The average annual wages of food scientists and technologists in May 2012 is $58,610 (from $59,520 in May 2008). In the top 4 industries hiring food scientists and technologists, the following is the median annual wages:
Annual Median Wage
Management of companies and enterprises
Research and development
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state
Knowing the above labor statistics, is food science a career worth taking? I say, yes, it is. But the more important questions are: Are you ready to take the challenge involved in the study of the food sciences? Do you see yourself as loving to do this job working with food?
- Institute of Food Technology
IFT is a nonprofit scientific society with members working in food science, food technology, and related professions in the industry, academia, and government. It's an authoritative voice in the food industry and publishes various helpful resources.