What You Need To Know To Easily Get into Food Science

What You Need To Know To Easily Get into Food Science

An insider’s guide: You can get into Food Science

If you’re interested in working in Food Science, you’ve come to the right place.  No matter what stage of life you’re in, you can always pivot to work in the Food Science field. 

An estimated 50% of Americans work directly or indirectly with food. 

If you go to the Food Science subreddit, you’ll see this is a common question. “I love food, how do I get a job in the food industry or become a food scientist?” 

You may be interested in working in the Food Science discipline.  Your next (or first step) depends on where you are in life.

You can get into Food Science as early as High School

First, if you are in high school, you should take science and technology classes.  Another suggestion is to look for labs working on food and try to get an internship or volunteer.  You can also get a job within the food industry. 

When I was in high school, I worked in restaurants with various roles.  I still use the knowledge I learned from that experience.  If you want to study Food Science in college, connect with both the Admissions department and Food Science department at schools of interest before applying. 

Food Scientist working on tomatoes in lab.  Tomatoes in beaker with chemistry equipment behind it.
If you love tomatoes like me, you can try to get a lab position with someone studying them.

How to get into Food Science for College Students

Next, if you are in college you may or may not be studying Food Science already. If you are, congratulations, you found this discipline before I did in my career! 

If you aren’t, the good news is that you can study any field and work in the food industry.  You should consider a science or math based degree if you want to work in technical roles.  Many product developers, process engineers, etc. within the food industry studied Chemistry or Engineering in college.  

You may have a bit of a harder time getting a job in the industry after graduation if you choose a non-food focus.  However, getting a job will not be impossible but it may be a bit more challenging.

Internships and volunteering is important while you are in college also. If you have the resources they can give you “real world” experience.  Go to the grocery store and look for products made locally.  Contact them and see if they need help. Calling works well usually.

Along with this, connect with as many of your classmates, staff and faculty as possible.  Connections will be useful further in your career because this is your network.  Try to spend time with your professors to learn about what they research, you may find something you are passionate about and did not know you can study.  Exposure to options increases your understanding of the industry.

Determine if you should pursue a Master’s in Food Science

Another popular question on Reddit is “do I need a Master’s in Food Science?”  

Graphical flow to determine if you should go for a Master’s in Food Science

Whether you decide to pursue a Master’s in Food Science is dependent on a few things:

  1. Do you want to work in a Technical Field? If so, you probably want a Master’s degree.
  2. Do you want to go into Product Development?  You may not need a Master’s degree, but it does help get you that first job.  Try getting jobs without the Master’s and if you cannot get one consider going back to school.
  3. Where do you see your career going long term?  If you see yourself as a Manager in R&D, a Master’s will likely be useful.  If you see yourself managing other teams, you may not need a Master’s.
  4. Do you want to work on the business side of things?  For example: Sales or Marketing?  If yes, you probably do not need a Master’s in a technical degree.  You can always go back to school for your MBA once you have experience in the industry.   
  5. Is there is a topic that you are so passionate about, that you want to study it further?  If yes, then find a professor working in that area and go for a Master’s or PhD!
  6. Can you afford the time out of work? Most Master’s degrees in Science come with a monthly stipend and tuition paid. Determine whether you can live off of that income for the time you are in school

How to find a Master’s Program

Once you’ve determined you will pursue a Master’s, there are still many paths you can follow.

You’ve decided to pursue a Master’s, here is how to find the right program:

  1. Make sure you take as many science classes as possible in Undergrad.  These include: chemistry, biology, microbiology, physics, statistics, and calculus.
  2. Do you know what you want to study?  Figure out what you are passionate about.  For example, I studied peanuts in graduate school. I LOVE peanuts.
  3. Figure out where you want to study.  Locate professors studying what you are passionate about. 
  4. Are you okay moving locations?
    1. If you do not want to move, you may not find a Food Science professor.  Research schools offering technical Master’s around you.  Research the types of degrees offered and think of how they could relate to food. For example, if you are interested in chocolate, you may be able to find someone working on chocolate in a chemistry department at a local university.  Get creative.
    2. If you are okay moving, then you find professors with internet searching, by contacting industry groups to see whom they use for research, and by asking people in the industry.  You could even post on social media!  Another option is to use Google Scholar to find technical papers and contact the authors of the technical papers. 

Now you know

If you’re interested in working in Food Science, you’ve come to the right place.  No matter what stage of life you’re in, you can always pivot to work in the Food Industry. 

There are many ways to get involved in Food Science. Remember an estimated 50% of Americans work directly or indirectly with food. 

Smiling Flask with orange liquid

There are many paths to Food Science. Remember an estimated 50% of Americans work directly or indirectly with food. 

I’ll write more about specific roles in Food Science in a later post.

Are you in Food Science? If so, how did you get into Food Science?


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