Food scientists work in the food and drink industry where they ensure the production of safe and healthy products. They use their knowledge of biochemistry, engineering and microbiology to study the nature of foods, food processing principles cause of deterioration and choices of packaging materials. If you are keen on helping people live healthy, and have a scientific mind, food science could be an optimal career choice for you.
What do Food Scientists do?
Because food scientists work in diverse settings, including food regulation agencies, food processing plants and research institutions, specific duties and responsibilities often vary. The general duties of food scientists involve the following activities;
- Conducting food research to discover new sources of food, or find ways to make foods healthier, safer and attractive.
- Analysing the nutritional values of various types of foods.
- Inspecting food production to ensure production processes conform to the Food Standards Agency’s regulations.
- Using scientific techniques to develop sensors for detecting contaminations in food.
- Formulating food safety policy and regulations.
When food scientists are not in laboratories conducting experiments, they spend time in their offices analysing reports. They also do some field work, which involves visiting farms and processing plants. This exposes food scientists to unfavourable conditions, such as the cold temperatures associated with food production processes. A typical workday begins at 9am and ends at 5pm.
When you meet all the set qualifications and secure a food scientist’s job, your potential wage could be be:
£20,000 - £25,000
£30,000 – £45,000
Source: National Careers Service
Education and Training
To enter the profession, you need to complete the following steps.
- Complete secondary education, earning five GCSE, with at two A levels, preferably in chemistry and math
- Compete a Higher National Diploma or bachelor’s degree in food science, food technology or food studies
For detailed information on securing entry into these courses, search the Universities and Colleges Admission Service.
Professionals holding degrees in fields that are not related to food science, or currently working as lab technicians can become food scientists by obtaining a postgraduate degree in food science and working toward further professional qualifications, respectively.
Apprenticeship programmes in food and drink also provide an alternative way to get enter the profession.
Competent food scientists often have;
- A passion for mathematics and science
- A good attention to detail
- Strong teamwork skills
- Confidence to enforce regulations
- Innovative ability to develop solution to food processing challenges
- Strong written and verbal communication skills to effectively express ideas to other scientists
Once you are in active employment, pursue short courses and secure relevant certifications to demonstrate your competence and enhance professional standing. Some of the organisations offering certifications for food scientists include;
Also, you can join the Institute of Food Science and Technology to gain access to its continuing professional development scheme.
This, coupled with job experiences and a master’s degree in food science can be a springboard to management roles.
Top employers for food scientists include;
- Retailers and supermarket chains
- Food manufacturers
- Research and development firms
- Local authorities
- Academic institutions
According to the National Careers Service expects the UK economy to create 140,000 new vacancies for science and engineering professionals between 2014 and 2020. As an aspiring food scientists, expect to find work as soon as you secure all the qualifications.
Finally, becoming a food scientist requires a consistent updating of knowledge. You must stay abreast of food processing technologies to ensure all modern food processes result in production of safe foods.
Photo Credit: The University of Adelaide