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Food Scientists

At a Glance

  • Conduct research to create or improve food products
  • Often specialize in one area
  • Usually work for the food processing industry
  • Work alone most of the time
  • Have at least a bachelor's degree

Career summary

Food scientists conduct research to develop and improve food products that are healthy, safe, and appealing.

#closest match is 2641 ag scientists

Food scientists work in many different industries such as:

The work of food scientists varies depending on their specialty area. Some food scientists engage in research to discover new food sources and products. They analyze food content to determine levels of vitamins, fat, sugar, or protein.

Food scientists also study methods to improve the quality of foods. For example, they might look for ways to improve flavor, color, texture, or nutritional content.

In addition, food scientists develop methods to process, preserve, package, or store food. New methods must meet government rules and industry standards.

Food scientists who work in product development apply the findings of food science research. For example, they test new products in test kitchens. They confer with specialists to resolve problems with products. For example, they might consult flavor experts or process engineers.

In government jobs, food scientists develop food quality standards and safety and health regulations. Some food scientists enforce government regulations by inspecting food processing areas.

All food scientists keep records of their research and write reports of their findings.

Related careers

This career is part of the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to food scientists.

Common work activities

Food scientists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, food scientists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Food scientists frequently:

It is important for food scientists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for food scientists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Food scientists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a food scientist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

You need a bachelor's degree in agricultural or food science for a job in applied research. In a food science program, you study food chemistry, food analysis, and food processing. A degree in a related science, such as biology or chemistry, also prepares you for jobs in food science.

You need a doctoral degree (PhD) to lead research projects or teach at a college or university. To complete a doctoral degree, you take more courses, do fieldwork, and do your own lab research. The general trend is for food scientists to have a PhD.

All states have land-grant colleges that offer agricultural and food science programs. Many other colleges and universities offer similar programs.

Military training

The military does not provide initial training in this field. However, the military may provide work experience to food scientists who have a master's degree or higher.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link).

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Entry-level positions for food scientists require a bachelor's degree. In these positions, beginning food scientists assist other scientists as they conduct basic research. Most employers require at least a master's degree for food scientists who will lead research projects. However, some companies will allow those who have only a bachelor's degree to lead research. In contrast, some employers prefer to hire researchers who have a doctoral degree (PhD). Employers also look for applicants who can speak and write clearly.

Colleges and universities require teaching faculty to have a PhD. Universities choose candidates based on their area of research and the quality of their published articles.

Costs to workers

Workers who join a professional association may pay a membership fee and annual dues.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Food scientists and technologists (SOC 19-1012)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $15.93 $20.10 $30.31 $37.26 $46.41
Monthly $2,761 $3,483 $5,253 $6,457 $8,043
Yearly $33,130 $41,820 $63,040 $77,510 $96,520
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $22.67 $28.95 $34.89 $38.48 $40.70
Monthly $3,929 $5,017 $6,046 $6,669 $7,053
Yearly $47,143 $60,216 $72,568 $80,034 $84,659
    Vancouver Hourly $20.94 $24.41 $28.83 $34.92 $40.27
Monthly $3,629 $4,230 $4,996 $6,052 $6,979
Yearly $43,541 $50,775 $59,980 $72,631 $83,769
    Yakima Hourly $13.71 $16.04 $19.11 $22.85 $41.04
Monthly $2,376 $2,780 $3,312 $3,960 $7,112
Yearly $28,520 $33,372 $39,734 $47,523 $85,366
United States Hourly $19.00 $24.35 $31.39 $42.86 $57.04
Monthly $3,293 $4,220 $5,440 $7,428 $9,885
Yearly $39,510 $50,660 $65,300 $89,150 $118,630

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. Wages also vary by the scientist's level of education and experience.

Benefits also vary by employer. Most full-time food scientists receive benefits. These include vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. 

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings. 

Food Scientists and Technologists (SOC 19-1012)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 131 6.1% 16.1% 15
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 22 13.6% 13.4% 3
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 10 0.0% 15.2% 1
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 16 -6.3% 14.6% 1
    King County 39 2.6% 19.6% 4
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 20 5.0% 13.8% 2
United States 14,900 5.4% 5.2% 1,800

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Job growth for this occupation is expected to as fast as average. Demand for this occupation is driven by demand for new food products and increased food safety. Most growth in this occupation will be in the private sector as companies develop new food products. Competition may be strong for college teaching jobs, even for scientists with doctoral degrees.

Job openings will occur as many people are expected to retire from this occupation in the next ten years. In general, food scientists who have advanced degrees will have the best job prospects.

Other resources

AgCareers.com (external link)
Western USA Office
Agriculture Council of America (external link)
11020 King Street, Suite 205
Overland Park, KS 66210
American Association of Cereal Chemists International (external link)
3340 Pilot Knob Road
St. Paul, MN 55121
American Chemical Society (external link)
1155 Sixteenth Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
American Institute of Biological Sciences (external link)
1800 Alexander Bell Drive, Suite 400
Reston, VA 20191
American Oil Chemists Society (external link)
PO Box 17190
Urbana, IL 61803-7190
Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (external link)
4420 West Lincoln Way
Ames, IA 50014
Institute of Food Technologists (external link)
525 West Van Buren, Suite 1000
Chicago, IL 60607
Learn about Food Science (external link)
National Academy of Sciences Interviews (external link)
North American Meat Institute (external link)
1150 Connecticut Avenue NW, 12th Floor
Washington, DC 20036
Science Careers (external link)
Science Meets Food (external link)
Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology (external link)
3929 Old Lee Highway, Suite 92A
Fairfax, VA 22030-2421
Technology Student Association (external link)
1904 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191-1540
Washington Business Week (external link)
PO Box 1170
Renton, WA 98057


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Holland occupational cluster