Food Science Technician: Salary Information & Job Description

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A food science technician's median annual salary is around $35,140. Is it worth the training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a food science technician is right for you.
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Food Science Technician Career: Pros and Cons

Food science technicians work with food and agricultural scientists to develop and test food products. Learn about the pros and cons of being a food science technician to determine if it's right for you.

Pros of a Food Science Technician Career
Associate's degree or less is enough for some entry-level positions*
Job opportunities are expected to be good for applicants with a degree*
Work indoors, in laboratories*
Typically have regular work hours*

Cons of a Food Science Technician Career
Risk of exposure to chemical or toxic materials*
Long on-the-job training without a degree*
Finishing some projects requires working odd hours *
Employers prefer employees with advanced technical skills*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description

Food science technicians help to maintain the quality of food. Under supervision, they conduct research in food and product development and make sure that food additives and preservatives are compliant with FDA standards. Some technicians strive to improve food processing methods or packaging techniques to increase food's lasting quality. Usually, you'll start by working in a rote position under the supervision of a food scientist or another technician. As you gain more experience, you'll be given more responsibilities and can even progress to management positions.

To fulfill these responsibilities, you'll need to be comfortable working with other professionals and presenting research. The research nature of the career means you should be organized and detail-oriented. Technicians usually work in a laboratory and may work with unsafe materials, but the risk of hazardous exposure isn't high because of the many safety protocols.

Employment and Salary Information

Aspiring food service technicians can expect less-than-average growth in the field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reported that employment of agricultural and food science technicians was forecasted to increase by about three percent between 2012 and 2022. As of 2014, 26% of food science technicians worked for food manufacturing companies, while 19% were employed by educational institutions. The median annual salary for food science technicians was about $35,140 as of May 2014, according to the BLS.

Education Requirements

While you can find positions in this field with just a high school diploma, you can expect to engage in a long period working as a trainee. The BLS reports that most science technicians, including food science technicians, have some education beyond high school, such as an associate's degree.

Through an associate's degree program in food science or food science and technology, you'll explore food quality assurance techniques, food safety and nutrition. You can also expect to participate in labs. Completing an associate's degree program isn't likely to make on-the-job training unnecessary, but it can shorten the length of your training.

Useful Skills

To work in this field, you'll need organizational skills, self-motivation and the abilities to multi-task and pay attention to detail. Other skills that you might need, which can be acquired through a degree program, include:

  • Communication skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Computer skills
  • Knowledge of food chemistry
  • Familiarity with food processing techniques

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers look for a variety of skills in food science technicians. They expect employees to be able to work with lab equipment and perform effectively in a research or laboratory environment. The following are job listings for food science technicians from March 2012 to give you an idea of what employers are looking for:

  • In Los Angeles, a scientific research and development employer wanted someone who was willing to work overtime and on weekends, had strong computer skills, got along well with others and had experience in quality control testing. The applicant needed an associate's or bachelor's degree in food science or a related program.
  • A consumer products company in Virginia wanted a lab technician who had a degree in food sciences or a related field, basic computer skills, some laboratory experience and some production or quality experience. The ideal individual would know how to set up and operate lab equipment, monitor experiments and record results.
  • A New York food and beverage company sought a candidate for a lab technician position. The company wanted a candidate who paid attention to detail, had analytical experience and had good communication and interpersonal skills. The employer preferred someone who had a bachelor's degree in food science, but would consider individuals with a degree in another life science.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Although the BLS states that only an associate's degree is necessary, having a bachelor's degree in food science, food science technology or chemistry could help you stand out. Within a food science bachelor's degree program, you might consider pursuing an emphasis, such as science, technology and engineering, food technology or food packaging, which could provide you with advanced knowledge of a specific area of food science. Additionally, completing an internship could give you the practical, real-world experience you'll need for this job.

Acquire Specialized Skills

The BLS reports that a background in science is important. One way to make your resume stand out is to take classes that complement food science technology, like chemistry, which is an integral part of food science. If you have the opportunity to work in a lab, even as a student, you can become familiar with lab procedures, safety regulations and quality assurance procedures. According to the BLS, acquiring skills using lab equipment can help shorten your on-the-job training period. Job postings for this career suggested other qualifications that can make you stand out, such as:

  • PowerPoint presentation skills
  • Familiarity with quality control testing
  • Troubleshooting skills
  • Knowledge of wet chemistry
  • Ability to fulfill project goals

Alternative Career Paths

Agricultural Science Technician

If becoming a food science technician doesn't seem like the best fit for you, you might consider becoming an agricultural science technician. These technicians often work outdoors, studying fibers and animals in addition to researching food. They may assist with animal nutrition or find ways to improve the quality of crops or the yield. Agricultural science technicians also made about $34,000 as of May 2011, according to the BLS.

Food Scientist

With a median salary of around $58,000 per year reported as of May 2011, a food scientist career might be worth considering. This job is research-oriented and requires a bachelor's degree for most positions, according to the BLS. Food scientists search for new ways to preserve, package and process foods, as well as new food sources.

Nutritionist

If you're still interested in working with food, but want a more people-oriented job, becoming a nutritionist could be right for you. Dieticians and nutritionists earned about $54,000 as of May 2011. You'll need a bachelor's or master's degree in nutrition or dietetics, and you might have to pass a state licensure exam. You can also pursue optional certification. In this position, you'll teach people how to prevent or reverse obesity and other medical diseases through healthy eating.

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    1. Kaplan University

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