College Major of the Month: Food Science
Do you like food? Were you captivated watching movies like “Food, Inc.” and “Supersize Me”? Are you curious about how food gets from the farm to your plate?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may want to take a closer look at this month’s College Major of the Month: food science.
What is food science? Food science combines chemistry, microbiology, chemical engineering and other sciences to study the makeup of food. Food scientists work to understand processing and deterioration of foods and analyze food content and nutritional value. Food scientists research new ways to ensure processed foods are safe, tasty and healthy. They also develop new food products and packaging.
What jobs exist for food science majors? According to Penn State University, “industrial food scientists are needed in food quality management, processing, research and development, marketing and distribution.” Food scientists need strong communication, math, critical thinking, observation, data analysis and decision-making skills.
Food scientists work for food manufacturing companies, restaurants, and private and federal food research organizations. Think companies like Butterball (where your Thanksgiving turkey might be coming from!), Hormel, Barilla, Del Monte, Kraft Foods, Frito Lay, General Mills and Campbell Soup Company.
Also think organizations like the National Food Laboratory, US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
What are education and certification requirements for food science majors? First, look for a food science major at universities that have colleges or departments for agriculture and life sciences. Most entry-level jobs require food scientists to have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.
Undergraduate courses you’ll take may include biology, botany, physics, mathematics, food chemistry, food analysis, food microbiology, food engineering and food processing operations. Many food scientists go on to get a master’s or doctorate degree to study advanced topics such as genetics or biotechnology.
Additionally, you can obtain certification from organizations such as the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).
How much do food scientists make? The median annual salary for food scientists is $54,890 for those working in the food manufacturing industry, $70,920 for those working in research and development, and $71,440 for those working in management, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more salary information, check out the IFT’s biennial salary survey.
How can I prepare in high school to major in food science? First, check out the IFT’s Day in the Life of a Food Scientist online series to learn more about food science careers. Next, be sure to take all the science classes (including AP courses) you can. Plus, take any home economics courses that cover nutrition or food preparation. It’s also a good idea to find a professional in your area that you could job shadow for a day.
What scholarships are available for food science majors? Many college scholarships are available for food science majors. For example, Feeding Tomorrow awards multiple $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors planning to pursue a degree in food science.
Look for scholarships from food companies, environmental organizations, as well as from food producers associations in your state. For example, the Iowa Pork Producers Association offers various scholarships for students studying an agriculture-related major like food science. Goya (a food company specializing in authentic Latin cuisine) offers the Goya Foods Culinary Arts and Food Sciences Scholarship Program that awards students up to $5,000 per year.
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