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Career profile Food Scientist

Also known as Food and Drug Research Scientist, Food Chemist, Food Engineer, Food Scientist, Food Technologist, Formulator, Product Development Scientist, Research Chef, Research Food Technologist, Research Scientist

Food Scientist

Also known as Food and Drug Research Scientist, Food Chemist, Food Engineer

Interests Profile
  • Investigative
  • Realistic
  • Conventional
Pay Range
$41,240 - $130,430 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Writing
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Active Listening
Knowledge Areas
  • Food Production
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
Core tasks
  • Inspect food processing areas to ensure compliance with government regulations and standards for sanitation, safety, quality, and waste management.
  • Check raw ingredients for maturity or stability for processing, and finished products for safety, quality, and nutritional value.
  • Develop new or improved ways of preserving, processing, packaging, storing, and delivering foods, using knowledge of chemistry, microbiology, and other sciences.
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What does a Food Scientist do?

Food Scientists use chemistry, microbiology, engineering, and other sciences to study the principles underlying the processing and deterioration of foods; analyze food content to determine levels of vitamins, fat, sugar, and protein; discover new food sources; research ways to make processed foods safe, palatable, and healthful; and apply food science knowledge to determine best ways to process, package, preserve, store, and distribute food.

What kind of tasks does a Food Scientist perform regularly?

Food Scientists are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Inspect food processing areas to ensure compliance with government regulations and standards for sanitation, safety, quality, and waste management.
  • Check raw ingredients for maturity or stability for processing, and finished products for safety, quality, and nutritional value.
  • Develop new or improved ways of preserving, processing, packaging, storing, and delivering foods, using knowledge of chemistry, microbiology, and other sciences.
  • Evaluate food processing and storage operations and assist in the development of quality assurance programs for such operations.
  • Test new products for flavor, texture, color, nutritional content, and adherence to government and industry standards.
  • Stay up to date on new regulations and current events regarding food science by reviewing scientific literature.
  • Confer with process engineers, plant operators, flavor experts, and packaging and marketing specialists to resolve problems in product development.
  • Study the structure and composition of food or the changes foods undergo in storage and processing.
  • Seek substitutes for harmful or undesirable additives, such as nitrites.
  • Study methods to improve aspects of foods, such as chemical composition, flavor, color, texture, nutritional value, and convenience.
  • Develop food standards and production specifications, safety and sanitary regulations, and waste management and water supply specifications.
  • Develop new food items for production, based on consumer feedback.
  • Demonstrate products to clients.

The above responsibilities are specific to Food Scientists. More generally, Food Scientists are involved in several broader types of activities:

Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Analyzing Data or Information
Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.

What is a Food Scientist salary?

The median salary for a Food Scientist is $73,450, and the average salary is $80,190. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Food Scientist salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Food Scientists earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Food Scientists earn less than $41,240 per year, 25% earn less than $54,300, 75% earn less than $99,870, and 90% earn less than $130,430.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Food Scientists is expected to change by 7.3%, and there should be roughly 1,700 open positions for Food Scientists every year.

Median annual salary
$73,450
Typical salary range
$41,240 - $130,430
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
7.3%

What personality traits are common among Food Scientists?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Food Scientist are usually higher in their Investigative, Realistic, and Conventional interests.

Food Scientists typically have very strong Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Also, Food Scientists typically have strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Lastly, Food Scientists typically have moderate Conventional interests. Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Food Scientist tend to value Support, Achievement, and Recognition.

Most importantly, Food Scientists strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Second, Food Scientists strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Lastly, Food Scientists moderately value Recognition. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Food Scientists must consistently demonstrate qualities such as analytical thinking, integrity, and attention to detail.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Food Scientists, ranked by importance:

Analytical Thinking
Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
Integrity
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Cooperation
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
Achievement/Effort
Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.

What education and training do Food Scientists need?

Many Food Scientists will have a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not.

Food Scientists usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training.

Educational degrees among Food Scientists

  • 60.4% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 26.8% earned a Master's degree
  • 12.8% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Food Scientists

Food Scientists may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as food production, biology, or chemistry knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Food Scientists might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Food Production
Knowledge of techniques and equipment for planting, growing, and harvesting food products (both plant and animal) for consumption, including storage/handling techniques.
Biology
Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
Chemistry
Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
Production and Processing
Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
Mathematics
Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.

Important Abilities needed by Food Scientists

Food Scientists must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Food Scientists need abilities such as oral comprehension, problem sensitivity, and near vision in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Food Scientists, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Deductive Reasoning
The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.

Critical Skills needed by Food Scientists

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Food Scientists frequently use skills like writing, reading comprehension, and active listening to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Food Scientists, ranked by their relative importance.

Writing
Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Complex Problem Solving
Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
Monitoring
Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.