How to become a food scientist: The degrees and skills you’ll need

February 27, 2024 · 4 min read · By ASU Online
Food scientists promote safe and efficient food production and distribution and play a role in nearly every step of the process of getting food to your pantry or plate. Read on to learn more about joining this growing field.

What do food scientists do?

Food scientists promote safe and efficient food production and distribution. Often working in research, food scientists can choose to specialize in a variety of areas, such as animal science, food and technology science, plant science and soil science. Careers in each speciality typically involve conducting experiments, analyzing reports and data and communicating findings.

Food scientists improve food processing and shipping, livestock production, food preservation techniques and more. They also consider the agricultural, economic, health and sustainability impacts of techniques used across the food and agriculture industries.

Food science is at the heart of solving national and global food challenges such as demand for water resources, pest and pathogen control and the effects of climate change. Food science has a wide range of applications from studying soil and farming conditions to maintaining the safety of the food that makes it onto plates.

Innovation is an important tenet of the food science profession, no matter the specialty you choose. Food scientists work to ensure all people have access to safe and nutritious food, including those with unique dietary needs. This can include the development of new food products, improving old food production techniques and ensuring food is safe before landing in the hands of consumers.

The applications of food science and research extend beyond the health and safety of food products. Food scientists are also responsible for improving how food is packaged, preserved, processed, stored and distributed.


The skills a food scientist needs

Food scientists must possess a combination of hard and soft skills to collect and analyze food data, and then communicate it to audiences ranging from government officials to the general public.

Since food science is influenced heavily by research, relevant skills include math, data analysis and observation. Additionally, communication, interpersonal skills, creativity and entrepreneurial skills can also support a successful career in the field. With foundational education and skills, you can work as a food scientist in a setting that suits you, from a government agency to a private laboratory.

Gain hands-on research experience through ASU Online’s OURS program

The OURS program was created to provide hands-on research experiences to online students interested in careers in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.

Food scientist salary and job outlook

The food science field is expanding as the demand grows for food safety regulations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment in agriculture and food scientists is expected to grow by 6% between 2022 and 2032, which is faster than average for all occupations. The media annual salary for the role was $74,940 as of May 2022.

Food scientist roles abound in the public and private sectors. Job settings can range from analyzing data in laboratories to working in the field visiting farms and manufacturing sites. Potential jobs include:

  • Food chemist
  • Food engineer
  • Food microbiologist
  • Food process development scientist
  • Food product developer
  • Food science researcher
  • Food technologist
  • Flavor chemist
  • Restaurant inspector
  • Sensory scientist
  • Quality control specialist


The degrees that can prepare you for jobs in food science

Food scientists commonly choose to pursue graduate degrees to support their career advancement. One such master’s program is Arizona State University’s online Master of Science in regulatory science with a concentration in food safety. The program covers food protection concerns and regulations throughout the food supply chain from distribution to the retail market.

Future food scientists who are pursuing their undergraduate studies should consider degrees in agriculture, applied food science, chemistry, microbiology, biology and other sciences. One such degree to consider is ASU Online’s Bachelor of Science in sustainable food systems. In this program, you’ll learn how to assess, analyze and create policies and processes related to food security, sustainable agriculture, climate change, food equity and economic development.

Everything you need to know about ASU Online classes and degree programs

We’ve compiled what you need to know about online classes and degree programs at Arizona State University. Read on to learn all about what to expect from the ASU Online learning experience.


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