Food Scientist

Current employment outlooks identify employment in the public sector as one of the most stable and quickly growing places to find a job.  Different specialties for careers in public health can offer a variety of disciplines that can provide positive outcomes for the community.  While some public health jobs are in healthcare and the medical field, others are concerned with the safety aspect of wellness.  This can include examining sources of nutrition that have either a positive or negative effect on physiological function.

Public health department positions have many openings that meet such needs for the community. These positions also provide a steady work environment that also has great job advancement potential.  A career as a food scientist can provide a way to consider nutritional trends and ways of enhancing safe and healthy food ingestion.  If you are interested in a job in public health that also allows you to help feed the public in a more stable manner, then a position as a food scientist could be the ideal outlet. 

What Is A Food Scientist?

A food scientist conducts evaluations of source facilities to ensure that consumable products which are marketed to the public are both safe and meet nutritional standards.  This may include assessing agricultural facilities for processing practices as well as environmental conditions that could contribute to contamination. 

Food scientists may also evaluate the raising and care of livestock, to ensure that market animals are health and free from potentially harmful antibiotics or hormones.  Some food scientists will also spend time evaluating food processing and analyzing chemicals and preservatives that are used in these industries.  The result of this work is that consumer products are not only safe but are also supportive of public health and wellness.

As a food scientist, you would need to perform the following tasks as part of the job:

  •   Take soil, water, and biological samples from agricultural and livestock facilities.
  •   Analyze consumer products for chemical composition.
  •   Determine the actual nutritional value and constituents of foods that are marketed to the public.
  •   Report findings to the public health department, industry professionals, and the public.
  •   Travel to different agricultural and livestock facilities in order to evaluate these factors.
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Food scientists will also need to have the following personal skills to improve job performance:

  •   Data analysis:  You will have to be able to evaluate the information that you have gathered and develop possible repercussions of these findings.
  •   Critical thinking:  You will also need to be able to determine benefits of certain methods of raising food as they relate to the health and safety of the community. 
  •   Communication:  You will need to be able to present your results in both written and verbal formats.  You will also need to be able to disseminate this information in a clear and concise manner. 
  •   Lab techniques:  Familiarity with lab equipment and the process of isolating chemicals and constituents is a must.. 

Nature Of The Work

Food scientists divide their time between field work and lab work.  Traveling is an important aspect of this job, as you will need to evaluate all of the sources that provide consumables to the community.  In the field, you will be gathering samples as well as interviewing employees and management at the facility.  You will also be observing processes such as irrigation and soil remediation.

Lab work will consist of analyzing these samples and studying their constituent parts.  You will be able to conduct a full chemical analysis of the soil, water, and foods themselves, in order to determine their safety and their health benefits.  The reports that you write on these findings will help to develop changes in the industry and educate the public about the safety and value of what they are eating.

Education And Training

Although many food scientists can find employment with a four year Bachelor’s degree, many candidates will pursue higher education, and some advanced positions may even a requires a degree in veterinary medicine.  For the basic educational track, it is important that you focus on agricultural sciences and technology, as well as biology and biochemistry.  Higher education can designate specialties such as livestock studies and genetics.

Certification through state industrial boards is not always required, but does provide further training that can translate into advancement potential.  Licensing also varies by state, but is definitely required for federal positions and offers further credentialing on the local and state levels.  This may be obtained through completing field experience and credit hours under the supervision of a licensed scientist and then passing the board examination.

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Wage and employment prospects within this field are well above the national averages.  Starting salaries may be as high as $45,000 a year and can top out at over $100,000.  The median wages for food scientists at all levels of public health is around $60,000, which makes it a financially stable career track.

Employment opportunities for food scientists are also on the rise, especially as environmental factors in public health concerns are receiving greater attention.  It is expected that over 42,000 individuals will be working in this industry by the end of 2022, which represents an 11% rise in employment.  For entry level or advanced applicants, a career as a food scientist can represent a good way to provide the means for better community health through everyday living practices.

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