Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated December 2010
Food science is interlocked with everyone on the planet. People are always going to need to eat food, and science is going to continue to influence how and what those people eat. Today’s consumers want to eat well. They want their food to taste good and be good for them. They don’t want it to cost a lot, and they want all sorts of specialty and seasonal items available everywhere and at all times.
The food science curriculum deals with every technical aspect of food, from the time it is planted or born, to the time it is harvested or slaughtered, to the time consumers prepare it and put it on the table. This field of study, therefore, is an extremely important one, with a whole wealth of jobs available for those with advanced degrees.
Studying in the field
The prospect of earning a masters or PhD degree in food science can lead students down any number of interesting paths. The food science curriculum can contain quite diverse and broad coursework, although details within each class often tend to be highly specific. Some of the areas studied include learning about business, science, agriculture and many other related (and seemingly unrelated) fields.
Topics covered in food sciences courses range from food preservation, safety and engineering to product development, sensory analysis and food chemistry. The spectrum of information studied is extensive, so students tend to specialize in a specific area of food sciences. Some possible food science concentrations students may choose include:
- Animal Breeding
- Reproductive Physiology
- Horticulture Science
- Crop Science
- Food Chemistry
- Food Microbiology
- Dairy Science
Students enrolled in a food science curriculum can also focus on areas such as food processing, food engineering, dietetics and advanced medical nutrition therapy.
Obviously, there is a heavy focus on science in the field, including biology, chemistry, physiology and agronomy. This makes a background in some other related scientific area of study most helpful. While some students may apply to a food science curriculum after having earned a BS degree in food science, it is not uncommon and indeed helpful to come from a science-specific, yet unrelated field.
Food sciences courses focus on the quality of foods in terms of safety and nutrition. Topics covered can include food chemistry, food processing, enzyme and protein technology, and food marketing. Students will learn about the packaging and storage of food, as well as how it should be handled and processed. The food sciences curriculum engages students in a great deal of research and usually covers societal issues, such as obesity, surrounding food and nutrition.
Health and well-being are at the crux of graduate food science studies, as the ultimate goal is to provide the entire world with nutritious, safe, quality food, whether derived from plants or animals. Food sciences courses will likely cover the use of the latest technologies in the field, as well as topics such as plant pathology, soil chemistry and biofuels. Some students can opt to gain certification from the American Society of Agronomy or the Soil Science Society of America in order to enter more advanced food sciences careers.
Job opportunities in the field
Due to the advances in technology, and new industry and professional organizations, new food sciences careers are being created all the time. Additionally, biotechnological research is constantly creating new products, and food and agricultural scientists will always be needed to focus on protecting and preserving our ecosystems. Plus, for as long as people want to go on diets, great jobs will exist.
A food science career as a food scientist or food technologist can earn someone an average annual salary of $56,000. Meanwhile, crop advisors can earn about $48,000, and agricultural and soil scientists can make about $58,000 each year. A food science career as a dietician can earn one $50,000 on average per year.
Those who take a managerial position with the federal government can make an average annual salary of $87,000. Those who earn a PhD degree in food science can become researchers in the field or become postsecondary professors and earn about $68,000 annually.
It is a good time to complete a food science curriculum. As already stated, the potential for growth in the field shows no signs of slowing due to the constant demand for advances in food. Graduates with a masters or PhD degree in food sciences can potentially secure job offers with excellent starting pay even before they graduate, as a result of the increased demand for food scientists in research institutions, governmental agencies and various other industries.
So now is the best time ever to search the GradSchools.com directory and find the right food sciences graduate program.