How to become a food scientist in 6 steps (With salary info)
Updated 25 July 2023
Food scientists study the chemical, physical and microbial aspects of food and apply their findings to develop more nutritious and safe products. With rapid environmental and climate changes calling for 'new and improved' food production methods, becoming a food scientist can be a rewarding career. If you develop an interest in producing healthy and new food products, you may benefit by knowing what this career path entails and what you can expect from the job.
In this article, we discuss what a food scientist is, help you understand how to become one, explore their average salary and discover the skills required in the role.
How to become a food scientist
To understand how to become a food scientist, follow these six steps:
1. Learn more about the job
Before pursuing a career in food science, take some time to research more about this job role. Often, this role requires good aptitude in science and mathematics. Also, consider the time frame for becoming a food scientist to ensure it aligns with your long-term goals. If possible, talk to someone already working in the food science field to know more about this job role.
2. Complete GCSEs and A-levels
The first step toward becoming a food scientist is completing the requirement for either a university degree or apprenticeship. You can choose whether you want to complete a university degree or apprenticeship or both. Regardless of the option you choose, complete the entry-level requirement to gain admission to the degree programme. Though every university has different educational requirements, often it can include:
5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C)
1 or 2 A-levels for a higher national diploma or foundational degree
2 to 3 A-levels for a degree programme
GCSEs or A-levels in science, English and maths
3. Earn a university degree
Next, complete a university degree in food studies, food science, food technology or related areas. During your course, strive to choose subjects like chemistry or nutrition to gain the skills required to become a food scientist. If you have a university degree in unrelated subjects, pursue a post-graduate degree in food, nutrition or related areas.
4. Find an apprenticeship
Often, candidates prefer pursuing an apprenticeship over earning a university degree. Search for an apprenticeship that lets you earn your degree part-time while you apprentice full-time. You're eligible for a food technologist advanced apprenticeship and with some experience, you can choose a technical degree apprenticeship.
5. Apply for entry-level positions
After earning the required qualification, apply for entry-level positions such as food technician or lab assistant. You can work with a food manufacturer to get hands-on experience in this role. Often, employers prefer candidates with prior experience or in-depth knowledge for this role. Experience as an entry-level food scientist can make you a desirable candidate.
6. Join a professional association
When you join a professional association like the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), you get in touch with a community of global food innovators, scientific scholars and achievers. As a member, you have access to learning resources, networking opportunities and events that can help in shaping your career. Food scientist associations keep you updated on the latest trends and technologies in this sector.
Who is a food scientist?
A food scientist works to improve the quality of products and create a safer and efficient way to produce food. They ensure that food products comply with safety standards. They also develop improved food processing and storage processes. A part of their workday may involve preparing, improving and evaluating food sources. Some of their typical day-to-day job activities are:
researching the current customer market and evaluating the latest technologies to develop new food product concepts
identifying cost-reducing food manufacturing processes that meet regulatory requirements
creating food production and quality standards
determining the shelf-life for various food products
designing quality assurance policies
studying the complete process of food development, including food production and land production
testing food shortage and making recommendations on improvement
travelling to food manufacturing and production site to ensure food safety process
collaborating with agricultural engineers and food technicians to create new food products
working on packaging technology and innovation
compiling and approving food product labelling and specifications
The average salary of a food scientist
The average salary of a food scientist is £27,790 per year, with the potential to increase with experience. Their exact salary depends upon the industry, their educational qualification, skills and geographical location. Often, candidates with a master's or doctorate receive higher remuneration than those with a bachelor's degree.
Skills of a food scientist
Here are some skills you require for a rewarding career as a food scientist:
Strong communication skills are necessary to complete various food-related research. They require both verbal and written communication skills to discuss projects and report findings. Often, these professionals write reports and share them with business stakeholders.
Research and mathematics
The primary aim of a food scientist is to complete research in various areas related to food science. They require the ability to take small measurements and record them accurately. These professionals may require knowledge of various research methods for researching food. Good research skills in food production and quality are essential for this role. Also, good mathematical ability helps conduct research. Often, a food scientist calculates different percentages to determine the health or fat content of food items.
Often, food scientists may solve problems related to food sourcing or quality concern. The ability to identify problems and come up with solutions is essential. Problem-solving skills are essential to come up with innovative food products.
Observation and technical knowledge
To complete their job-specific duties, these professionals conduct experiments and analyse data using different technologies. They spend a lot of time observing different practices before making recommendations for improvements. Also, proficiency in using computers and various software is essential for this job role. Having proficiency in spreadsheets, word processing and presentation software can be helpful for a rewarding career.
The work environment of a food scientist
The work environment of a food scientist depends upon the industry in which you work and in what capacity. As a food scientist, you can specialise in plant, animal or soil technology. Some food scientists may work in a laboratory setting and focus on designing and conducting various food experiments. Others may spend a part of their workday improving soil to ensure better food nutritional value.
Some food professionals may work in central government bodies. Others may work in education, food processing and equipment manufacturing organisations or conduct experiments on the sustainability of various food products. A part of their workday may involve travelling to farm or production facilities and they may travel nationally or internationally for work-related tasks. Most food scientists work 40 hours per week.
Tips for developing your career
Use these tips to develop and progress your career as a food scientist:
Increase your professional network: Growing your professional network can help you find suitable jobs as a food scientist. To develop and fast-track your career growth, connect with your university's alumni network or become a member of a professional food association.
Look for a mentor: If you know an experienced food science professional, request them to become your mentor and give you guidance about the job role. They can help you find better job opportunities and provide support.
Keep updated with the latest trends: For a fulfilling career, it's important to stay ahead of the latest trends and research. Regularly reading about various food science journals and news can help you stay current in your profession.
Create career goals: Setting clear career goals can help you strive as a food scientist. Whether you create short-term or long-term goals, use the SMART goal method and make your goals specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
Learn about different food cultures: Expanding your knowledge and learning about different food cultures worldwide is a great way to expand your skill set. This can help you create new food products and ingredients.
Know the working conditions: As a food scientist, you may travel to various locations for conducting experiments and developing new products. These might involve working in different conditions, like extreme temperature or loud noises.
Food scientist career growth
After gaining promotions as a food scientist, employers may hire you for senior technologist posts. For entering the managerial posts, employers prefer candidates with a master's or doctorate degree. A typical career path for this role may include:
senior development technologist
new product management manager
senior product management manager
Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
Explore more articles
- How to become a mechanic: A step-by-step guide
- How to become an electrician's mate (with definition)
- How To Successfully Achieve a Career Change at 50
- How to become a conveyancer (with skills and daily tasks)
- How to become an Azure architect in 4 steps (with salaries)
- Public sector graduate schemes (with skills and examples)
- What does an executive do? (Examples of roles and duties)
- How to become a registered manager (with duties and tips)
- What is a Managing Director? Managing Director Job Description, Skills and Duties
- How to become a French teacher in 9 steps (with duties)
- 15 jobs with the highest starting salary (plus duties)
- What is a compliance administrator? (With requirements)