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Career Profile: Food Scientist

Why Is Food Science a Job of Tomorrow?
Food is something that brings people together. Most major events and holidays are celebrated with food, and the restaurant industry is going strong despite the economic downturn. As people will always need to eat, and dining out remains a big part of socializing, food will always be a prominent factor in the daily lives of individuals. In fact, restaurants provided more than 70 billion meal and snack occasions in 2009, which included dining out, takeout and catering, according to the National Restaurant Association. With so much emphasis on eating, food scientists will become more sought after to develop methods of keeping foods safe for mass consumption. Employment opportunities for food scientists are expected to increase 10 percent by 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Food scientists make an average salary of $53,810 annually.

What Does a Food Scientist Do?
Food scientists strive to create food products as well as improve existing ones. They may work with universities, food processing industries or the government to develop food analysis and safety technology. Food scientists draw on chemistry, physics, engineering, microbiology and biotechnology to formulate better food products. They are responsible for analyzing food content to determine its fat, sugar, protein and vitamin levels for research purposes as well as to print on the product’s nutritional facts panel. They also engage in research to find healthier substitutes for potentially harmful ingredients and additives, like nitrites. Some food scientists research methods of packaging and preserving food products. They think of new ways to package foods so that they will arrive fresh and unspoiled, as well as ways of preserving them so that they last longer on store shelves and in the homes of consumers. In addition, food scientists may research new methods of pasteurizing foods so that the products remain sanitary and safe for consumption. Food scientists who work for the government typically are responsible for ensuring the safety of food products. They inspect meats, produce and canned products to ensure that they are of sufficient quality, are sanitary and are free of pathogens.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a Food Scientist?
Food scientists must have at least a master’s degree in biology, chemistry or another related field. A master’s degree takes about two to three years to earn after first obtaining a four-year bachelor’s. Students should take courses in food analysis, chemistry and engineering to prepare them for this career.

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