I remember when I was a kid I went through a phase where I wanted to be a mad scientist and then a phase where I wanted to be a chef. Does having a career in food science basically mean one gets to be both? Time to research (Yes, I am aware that I sound like the cheesy teacher in a kids TV show.)!
Food scientists exist to ensure quality and safety in food products and to (the fun part) develop new food products. This involves a lot of scientific experimentation and critical thinking.
Truity.com gave a great summary on what food scientist do:
“Food scientists and technologists use chemistry and other sciences to study the underlying principles of food. They analyze nutritional content of food, discover new food sources, and research ways to make processed foods safe and healthy. Food technologists generally work in product development, applying findings from food science research to develop new or better ways of selecting, preserving, processing, packaging, and distributing food. Some food scientists use nanotechnology, problem solving techniques that work on the atomic scale, to develop sensors that can detect contaminants in food. Other food scientists enforce government regulations, inspecting food processing areas to ensure that they are sanitary and meet waste management standards.”
I also found out that communicating research findings to the scientific community, food producers, and the public and meeting with clients (companies in the food industry) who want new or improved products are also tasks of the job. This career is more social than I thought!
If you still feel confused as to what goes on in this career, Dana Pierce, an employed food scientist gives a basic run through of the lifestyle of a food scientist.
Personality and skills required for this position:
This job is all about solving problems regarding the quality of food so one must be able to pay meticulous attention to detail (critical thinking), analyze statistics and enjoy troubleshooting. Communication skills are also required as one will have to report and explain their food experiments. Lastly, you gotta have a passion for food!
How to get into this career:
One can start prepping for this career in high school by taking Chemistry, Science, Home Economics and Statistical Mathematics. From there degrees in food chemistry, food analysis, food microbiology, food engineering, and food processing operations serve as valid qualifications for this career.
On top of this you will need additional on-the-job training and work experience. Doing internships at food science labs or food manufacturing companies is one of the recommended ways to gain some of the experience required to “make it”.
If you enjoy traveling try get employed by multi-national companies in the food industry as through they employ food scientists to travel to compare products internationally.
The working hours:
A standard, full time schedule. Working overtime is not common (Sorry to shatter your image of the mad scientist pouring glowing potion onto chicken at 3 am. [This apology is directed mostly to myself.]).
Food scientists in the US currently average at $69,255 annual salary while in South Africa food scientists average at R 205,048.
-As it is hard to get into this career chances are you will be in a working environment with creative, like minded people as passionate as you are.
-This salary is above average.
-72% of the people in this career report high job satisfaction
-Travelling is over involved in this career. One day you could be in Africa, the next, France.
-You are developing new foods for the consumers (you are improving others food experiences).
-There is a stable work and life balance allowed in this career.
-Possible exposure to bio-hazards while working in the food labs.
-It is challenging to become a food scientist. The very minimum requirement for this job is a bachelors degree.
-The work environment can get noisy from all the scientific equipment and machinery running.
-There are a limited number of positions available, you will face high competition when applying.
My conclusion and rating on this career:
I think a big let down for many is that this career is based on critical thinking and science instead of just creating fun food concoctions. Not sure I’m scientifically orientated enough to do this job… However, when looking at this career more objectively (That’s right, to the back burner with you and your personal thoughts girl!), this career comes with many benefits and has a high rating of job satisfaction so if one is a good critical/scientific thinker and loves food, hands down they should go into this job! Its a 8/10 from me.