Food scientist: job description
Food scientists study the microbiological, physical and chemical properties of food and ingredients to make sure they are safe for consumers. Responsibilities of the job include:
- evaluating the nutritional value, colour, flavour and texture of food
- testing food samples for particular types of moulds, yeast and bacteria that may be harmful
- ensuring that food manufacturing processes conform with government, processing, consumer and industry standards
- exploring alternative manufacturing methods
- producing new food products
- working closely with other food production staff including microbiologists, engineers, packaging specialists and buyers
- establishing low-cost wholesale food production methods
- investigating and setting standards for safety and quality
Employers of food scientists include food manufacturing and retail companies, universities, government organisations and specialist research associations.
Opportunities are advertised by careers services and recruitment agencies, and in newspapers and specialist publications including Food Manufacture, both online and in print. Early applications are advisable to larger employers. Speculative applications are also recommended, for which directories such as the Ingredients Network may be useful.
To become a food scientist, a good bachelor’s degree in an appropriate subject such as food science/technology, food/chemical engineering, biochemistry, nutrition, microbiology or chemistry is normally necessary. Possession of a food-related postgraduate qualification can be beneficial, particularly for candidates without a relevant first degree. Candidates possessing food industry work experience are often at an advantage. Experience can be gained via food production line employment, or by working as a technician. Job shadowing, networking and vacation placements can also be helpful.
It is possible for a school leaver to enter this area by becoming an apprentice food technologist, although there are currently only a few opportunities available. To eventually become a food scientist, you will most likely need to study for a degree unless your apprenticeship involved working towards a degree-level qualification. To find out more about how you can get into this career via a school leaver route (eg an apprenticeship or school leaver training programme) see the science section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.
- Find out how Vanessa Fursden got her job as a food technologist at Marks & Spencer and read her top tips for landing a job in this area here.
- Read our overview of product technology and food technology job roles for more details on this area.
Training is often provided on the job. Membership of the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) provides opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD) such as training courses, conferences and workshops. Once you have gained enough experience, you can apply for chartered scientist status (CSci), which can help to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to your field.
- Knowledge of a range of sciences and their applications to food
- Good business, IT, analytical and numerical abilities
- Being a confident independent worker
- Meticulous attention to detail, particularly with regard to health, safety and hygiene
- Good communication skills
- Strong teamworking skills