How to become a food scientist: The training and education required

October 13, 2022 · 4 min read · By ASU Online
Food science is present in every process that leads to a food product landing in your refrigerator or pantry. Food scientists work to ensure the food and drugs you consume are safe, sustainably produced or grown and palatable. Read on to learn how you can join this growing field.

What is a food scientist?

As long as humans and animals rely on food to survive, there will be a need for food scientists. Food science is at the heart of solving national and global food challenges, including 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.

Food scientists also 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 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.

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. Additionally, food scientists are involved in the research and development of safe drugs and fuel options.


The skills a food scientist needs

Working as a food scientist requires a set of well-rounded abilities. You 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 public.

Since food science is influenced heavily by research, relevant skills include math, data analysis and observation. On the other hand, 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), employment in agriculture and food science is expected to grow by 23% between 2021 and 2031, which is faster than average for all occupations. The BLS projects this growth to result in 4,100 new jobs per year over the decade. Agriculture and food scientists can also expect a median annual salary of $74,160, although pay depends on your occupation within the industry.

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 careers 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.


What degree do you need to be a food scientist?

Food scientists commonly choose to pursue graduate degrees to support their career advancement. Graduate programs, such as Arizona State University’s online Master of Science in regulatory science with a concentration in food safety, allow you to deepen your understanding of your chosen field and prepare for leadership opportunities.

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.

Becoming a food scientist allows you to contribute impactful research and improvements in your passion area, and it’s a field with an array of career applications. Whether you want to work on food regulation in a government agency or study soil samples to recommend effective crop growth strategies, there’s a need for your food science knowledge and skills.

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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