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How to Become a Food Scientist in the US

A food scientist is involved in research for the food processing industry, either working directly in that industry or for the government or for an educational institution. This is a vitally important role for determining food safety and processing standards and also for creating new food products. Some responsibilities of a food scientist include developing nutritional information on processed foods, creating new foods, and testing food products.

What Do Food Scientists Do?

Food scientists perform research to develop new food products, test nutritional components of processed foods, create packaging, and set food processing standards. There are many varied positions within the food industry for food scientists to specialise in specific areas of food research and development.

Work Environment

Some food scientists work in agriculture, testing the way farming methods and chemical additives affect the final food product. Others work in the processed food industry, developing new food products and packaging. The government employs many food scientists to perform independent research of food products and set legal standards for them. Educational institutions also have food scientists on staff as educators for tomorrow’s food scientists.

Since not all food scientists work in the same specialized area, the work environment can vary. A research facility is likely to be the place where a food scientist spends much of their time, but they may also work in food production facilities. Most food scientists will work a full time schedule, Monday through Friday with the typical 9-5 pm workday. Stress for this position is minimal compared to other positions.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a food scientist in 2012 was $58,610 per year, with top earning food scientists earning over $80,000 per year. Salary is dependent upon years of experience, region of the country, amount of education, and area of specialization.

Experience Level




Salary Range

Entry Level


0-5 years





5-10 years





10-20 years



Educational Requirements

Educational requirements for most food scientist positions include a Bachelor of Science Degree, with some positions requiring advanced graduate degrees. A Bachelor of Science Degree in Food Science will include a heavy concentration in Chemistry and Microbiology. Internships may also be offered to give students valuable experience in the food and agriculture industry that will help them in finding a job after graduation.

An advanced degree may be mandatory for some food scientist positions that are involved in complex research or product development. A Master of Science or PhD can be earned in specialized areas of food science, such as Food Engineering, Food Chemistry, or Food Microbiology. If you wish to teach at a college level, you will be required to obtain an advanced degree.

Some specialized certifications are also available for food scientists. For those interested in gourmet food, the Research Chefs Association offers a Certified Culinary Scientist certification. The American Society for Quality has developed a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Auditor program for food scientists that would like to work with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in developing food safety and processing standards.

Any advanced degree of specialized certification can increase your employment prospects and your salary earning potential.

Job Prospects

The employment prospects for food scientists are optimistic thanks to the modern demand for newer, faster, more convenient food products. Some food scientists will be increasingly involved in the agricultural side of food production and resource conservation. Combine that with legal standards and consumer demands for healthy items, and the food science industry has promising prospects of job security.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the job market for food scientists will continue to grow at a rate of approximately 9% each year for the foreseeable future.

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