How to Become a Food Scientist

Three Parts:Getting the Right EducationGaining Additional ExperienceFinding a Job

Food scientists enjoy a wide variety of career paths with a wide variety of potential employers. A bachelor's degree, either in food science or a related field, is the bare minimum requirement for breaking into this field. However, for the most mobility and best chance at advancement, pursuing even higher education is most often necessary. A master's degree, prior work experience through internships, and a strong network of professional contacts will increase your standing in potential employers' eyes.

Part 1
Getting the Right Education

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    Take appropriate coursework in high school. Aim to excel at required subjects that are relevant to the field, such as math, biology, chemistry, and/or physics. If possible, take electives that focus or touch on areas like health science and family/consumer sciences. Apply for Advanced Placement classes in math and science to bolster your college applications.[1]
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    Apply to colleges that offer majors in food science. Make sure that the school’s food science department has been accredited by the Institute of Food Technologies. Consider whether you already have a firm idea of which branch of study you wish to pursue. Prioritize those schools that offer specializations or other programs that focus on that field of study. Such areas include:[2]
    • Food chemistry
    • Food engineering
    • Food processing
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    Decide on a school. Think ahead to college graduation. Choose your undergraduate school based on which one will provide you with the most qualifications for acceptance into masters’ programs afterward. Favor those schools that offer internships and opportunities for independent research.[3]
    • Other criteria to consider is the quality of their labs in terms of equipment and software, as well as any job placement programs that the school might offer.
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    Obtain a bachelor’s degree in food science. Earn the minimum qualification for entry-level positions in the field. Attend general courses like food analysis, food chemistry, food engineering, and food microbiology.[4] Other coursework may include subjects such as agricultural economics, packaging and distribution, and quality control and management.[5]
    • A Bachelor of Science degree alone can earn you employment as a research assistant or food science technologist.
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    Pursue relevant majors. If your school does not provide a food science major, earn a B.S. in biology, chemistry, physics, or engineering instead. A degree in these fields can still qualify you for grad school and entry-level employment.[6] Other interrelated majors include:[7]
    • Agronomy and Crop Science
    • Animal Sciences
    • Biotechnology
    • Culinary Arts
    • Horticultural Sciences
    • Nutrition Sciences
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    Use your minor to round out your resume. Prepare yourself for a job that will often involve direct contact with representatives from academic institutions, private businesses, and government agencies. Select a minor that will develop skills beyond pure science. Helpful areas of study outside the lab include:[8][9]
    • Business
    • Communications
    • English
    • Marketing
    • Statistical Analysis

Part 2
Gaining Additional Experience

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    Pursue even higher education. A bachelor’s degree may earn you an entry-level position in the field. However, don’t limit your advancement by stopping there. Apply to grad schools to earn a master’s degree in food science. Qualify yourself for even more prestigious jobs by pursuing a doctoral degree.[10]
    • A master’s degree is often necessary for managerial and administrative positions.
    • A doctoral degree is required for project leaders, coordinators, directors, and professors.
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    Complete an internship. Gain hands-on experience by working directly in the field as an intern. Begin professional relationships with industry contacts who may be able to help you find work later on. Bolster your resume with actual work experience outside of the classroom.[11]
    • Visit your school's career services department or your adviser in the food science program. Find out how what credits and coursework you need to complete before becoming eligible for an internship. Complete an application and submit it at the proper time. [12]
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    Find volunteer opportunities. Assist in research for any professors of yours who may be conducting their own research projects at school. Seize the opportunity to possibly score a credit in the published work. Strengthen your resume with even more job-related experience.
    • Speak with your professors directly about possible opportunities, or search online for postings at your school or elsewhere.[13]

Part 3
Finding a Job

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    Write a great resume. Expect your potential employer to only skim it. Keep it short so that they can get the gist of it in one glance.[14] Regardless of what format you choose to follow, begin your resume with a brief summary that encompasses the thrust of all that follows. In a few lines, highlight your experience, accomplishments, and ambitions, and how you wish to apply them to the job at hand. Aim to make your strongest impression here, in case the reader doesn’t bother with the rest. After your summary, include the following:[15]
    • Work experience: Include internships and any paid employment. For each position, list those duties that have the most direct bearing on your desired job to indicate a transferable set of skills. Use strong verbs to define them as personal accomplishments, rather than the general expectations of your former employer. For instance, write that you “advanced research” instead of “I was responsible for research” to suggest a proactive approach to your work.
    • Education: Include those schools from which you have already graduated, as well as any that you are currently enrolled in. For each one, mention your graduation date, the degree that you earned, and any honors you may have received. If you are still attending school, include your projected graduation date and major. If you were valedictorian with a 4.0 average, feel free to share that, but otherwise leave out any mention of your class ranking or grade point average.
    • Other experience: Detail skillsets and accomplishments gained from volunteer positions, academic clubs, training or coursework undertaken outside of a school curriculum, or other examples not covered by your academic and job histories. List them in the same manner as your work experiences. Limit yourself to just those that have some direct connection to the job at hand in order to stay on topic. For instance, describe how you organized river cleanups as a demonstration of your leadership skills, but leave out this volunteer work in favor of something more impressive if all you did was participate in the cleanup itself.
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    Draft a cover letter. Use the same resume to apply to multiple positions if they are similar in nature, but be sure to write a new cover letter for each single position. Limit yourself to one page so that the reader is more likely to read it in full. Include how your experiences, education, and ambitions make you an ideal candidate for that exact position.[16]
    • Address the cover letter directly to the person who is doing the hiring. Use their title (Dr., Mr., Ms., etc) while omitting their first name to make your letter more personal while still maintaining a professional tone.[17]
    • State the specific job opening to which you are applying as either a subject line in your email or as a lead to your letter’s first paragraph. Avoid making your cover letter seem like a vague, all-purpose letter.
    • Mirror the language used by the company on their website and publicity materials. Create the impression that you are an ideal fit for their company by speaking the way they speak.
    • Refer directly to your attached resume to ensure they read it. Request them to contact you in order to set up interviews. Use assumptive language, as if you know for a fact that they will do these things, such as: “The attached resume will detail my experience more extensively,” or “I will be readily available for an interview once you have made your decision.”
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    Utilize your network.[18] Contact former professors, supervisors from internships, and anyone else with whom you formed a professional relationship. See if they would mind being listed as references on your job applications. Also ask for written recommendations to include with your resume if they have are well known and respected in the field and/or have strong relationships with organizations that you plan on applying to.
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    Apply for jobs. Use contacts from school, internships, and/or former employers to find out about potential openings or upcoming projects that they might know about. Search online or through your college career center for job postings. Public and private entities seeking food scientists include:[19]
    • Academic institutions
    • Research companies
    • Local, state, federal, and international food agencies
    • Food and beverage processors and manufacturers
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    Become certified. Certification isn’t largely necessary to be eligible for employment. However, specific jobs may require you to obtain a particular form of certification, especially in government work.[20] When applying for a job, ask if any additional credentials are required beyond your academic degrees and experience. If so, apply for certification from the appropriate body. Although it may not be required, certification from the following bodies may help set you apart as a candidate:[21]
    • American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists
    • American Society of Agronomy
    • Institute of Food Technologists


  • Resources, such as the Institute of Food Technologists and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provide opportunities for enrichment.
  • Consider pursuing certification by taking online professional development courses in food science, project management and leadership skills. Most companies do not require certification, but additional training can make you the more competitive candidate for a job.
  • Continuing your education after you begin a food scientist career can help ensure you remain an asset to your company.

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Categories: Appreciation of Food