Food Technologist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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A food technologist's average salary is around $65,000. Is it worth the education requirements? Check out some real job descriptions and get the truth about career outlook to learn if becoming a food technologist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons to Being a Food Technologist

A food technologist, also known as a food scientist, specializes in chemistry and researches food. To learn some more of the pros and cons to being a food technologist, keep on reading.

Pros of Being a Food Technologist
Expected job growth of 11% between 2012-2022*
Many job vacancies are expected to open up in the next ten years due to retirements in the field*
Above average wages ($66,870 mean annual salary)*
As the public becomes more conscious of nutrition, additional job openings might occur*
A variety of employers to choose from, including the government, universities and private companies*

Cons of Being a Food Technologist
Extended education is typically needed for career advancement in research*
Unpleasant odor and waste from animals is common at production facilities*
Field work can make for unpleasant work conditions depending on the weather*
Biosecurity measures have to be followed in many work environments as a food technologist*

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

Job Description and Salary Info

Career Duties

The nature of your employer's business typically determines what sort of career duties you'll be performing as a food technologist. Generally, you'll be assigned to a specific research project. In some cases, you might be on multiple assignments and divert your focus between them. As part of your research, you'll look into figuring out new sources of food, examining the nutritional content of food and researching methods of making food processes healthier and safer. Product development is typically the area a food technologist works in. You'll keep logs of your research, which are eventually presented to your employer and the public.

Earnings and Job Growth

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2014 reported that food technologists had an average yearly income of about $66,000. This means that food technologists roughly made $32 a hour on average. The top ten percentile of wage estimates for food technologist was found to be about $107,000 annually. The top five paying states for food technologists were Maryland, Minnesota, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia and Louisiana. Between 2012-2022, the BLS reports an expected growth of 11% for food scientists.

What Are the Requirements?

Education Requirements

A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement to become a food technologist. Many employers expect food technologists to obtain a master's or doctoral degree for higher level careers in research. Ideally, you'll want to major in agricultural science. Other acceptable majors include chemistry, physics and biology. While in school, you'll want to take coursework in food processing operations, food microbiology, food analysis, food chemistry and food engineering.

What Do Employers Want in Food Technologists?

Possessing excellent observation skills helps you become a keen candidate for employment. Due to the sensitive nature of the experiments and work a food technologist performs, employers want you to be capable of taking precise samples. Any mistakes can potentially lead to inconclusive results that can ruin hours of work time. You'll get a better understanding of what real employers are looking for in technologists from reading the below information taken from real job postings in April 2012.

  • A food production company in Pennsylvania seeks a food technologist with previous experience analyzing lab test results. A bachelor's degree is required, and candidates should be trained in cleaning techniques.
  • In Texas, a food supply company calls for food technology applicants willing to maintain quality assurance in the company's products.
  • A food delivery company in Iowa prefers food technologists who are also registered dietitians.
  • In California, a food manufacturer seeks a senior food technologist who has a master's degree. The job duties include research and training other employees.

How to Stand out as a Food Technologist

Taking the time to earn professional certifications can help set you apart from other technologists. These certifications demonstrate your additional level of professionalism and commitment to food science. The American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists (ARPAS) is one of the organizations that make certifications available to qualified candidates. Generally, you have to be a member of the organization first and then meet the necessary requirements. For ARPAS, you'll need a master's degree. From there, you'll need to pass an examination in either animal nutrition, animal food science, animal genetics, animal physiology, animal welfare science or animal behavior.

Other Career Choices

If you'd rather be working in the field than in the laboratory, consider becoming a farmer or agricultural manager instead of a food technologist. As an agricultural manager, you'll oversee crop production on a farm. This includes the harvesting, planting and fertilizing processes. At many farmers, you'll also be in charge of raising livestock like chickens, cows and goats. Agricultural managers and farmers had an average yearly salary of roughly $70,000, according to the BLS in May 2011.

If you want to directly apply your educational background towards helping animals, you may want to look into being a veterinarian. Veterinarians tend to specialize in a specific area, like research, food safety, food animals, horses or companion animals. A typical veterinarian examines an animal and assesses the health of the creature. If the animal is diagnosed with any problems, then the veterinarian might perform blood work and other tests. This career requires you to earn a doctoral degree, which can be time consuming and expensive. However, in May 2011, the BLS found that veterinarians had annual earnings on average of about $91,000.

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