As you think of the title, Food Scientist, you probably expect that they all work in food factories; whether in the lab or on the production floor. But what if you love the idea of combining your knowledge about food and science yet you are not drawn to working in a food factory setting? Is there anything else that you can do? The answer is yes. Several industries and services provide support for food processing companies. Product support may include packaging materials, ingredients, equipment, enzymes, stabilizers, and other chemicals. Services may include laboratory testing, inspection, auditing, and consulting. Here are four food science job titles I’ve had that did not require work in a factory.
I worked as a Laboratory Technician right after leaving college with an associate of science degree in general agriculture; a degree I completed in Portland, Jamaica. I was employed with a government food research institute, responsible for developing new value-added products and providing food processing technology transfer to entrepreneurs. It was a fun job, especially having the opportunity to run interesting product development trials, particularly working with oyster mushroom. I also enjoyed helping with food processing training in our pilot plant, and the chance to travel to factories across the island to inspect canning equipment for compliance with food safety laws. During my time as a laboratory technician, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to India to study flour milling technology in Mysore, Karnataka where I lived for over a year.
I served as food Inspector at a government regulatory agency responsible for enforcing food laws. In this role, I got to travel to many food processing factories to inspect their operations for compliance with local food laws and regulations. This job was much like what an FDA inspector would do in the US. Later, the job expanded to include food safety and labelling compliance enforcement in retail facilities and ports of entry.
I spent the next year working independently as a food safety trainer and consultant. This position combined my knowledge in food science, food safety, and food production with my experience in training. It provided great flexibility with my time and opportunities to travel even more. This job was the most challenging than any one I did previously since it involved running a business which I never did before. Make sure that you are ready for this before you jump into it. Much more work and time is required when you are working for yourself than when you are working for someone else.
After a short consulting stint, I accepted the position of Instructor at a vocational institution, training students in basic food technology skills to prepare them for the food industry. This completed about 12 years of service to the food industry in Jamaica without ever having to work permanently in a factory. At this point I migrated to the US to pursue my undergraduate degree in food science, which also led me to a PhD in cereal science. I now serve as Associate Professor at Wright State University where I teach several courses including the biology of food, human nutrition, and biochemistry.
You don’t have to work in a factory setting after you graduate with a degree in food science. Several opportunities exist in the allied food industry. You may conduct research in a private or government food laboratory, work with a regulatory agency to inspect food facilities, consult, or teach like I did. What line of work can you think of, or have you done that does not require work in a food factory? Comment below.