By the bioMérieux Connection Editors
The increasing globalization of the food supply chain has resulted in even the simplest of meals—a salad, pasta, or a bowl of soup—being made up of ingredients that come from all around the world. While globalization has many benefits, it also presents the opportunity for foodborne contaminants and illnesses to spread across international borders and impact more people.
Increasing globalization and rapid technology developments have turned food science into a critical industry. According to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), food science is the study of the physical, biological, and chemical makeup of food, the causes of food deterioration, and the concepts underlying food processing. Food science offers diverse career opportunities and is consistently growing—the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that food safety employment will rise 8% by 2026.
Benefits of a Career in Food Science
Despite the word science, a career in food science doesn’t necessarily mean working in a lab. One of the biggest benefits of the industry is the flexibility in career paths and the variability of roles and responsibilities.
“Many people do not realize the wide array of disciplines that make up the science of food,” says IFT President Noel Anderson, Ph.D. The need for food safety professionals at each step of the food supply chain provides professionals many different career options—agriculture, product development, manufacturing, labeling, regulatory approvals, marketing, and distribution all provide opportunities for food safety scientists.
Job security in food safety is also promising. The global food and agricultural industry is a trillion-dollar market, employing millions of people worldwide and supplying food to billions of consumers. The quality and safety of this food will always rely on food scientists. Additionally, further drivers of job growth and security include constant innovations in technology, more rigorous food safety laws, heightened public awareness of nutrition and food safety, and increased focus on transparency along the food supply chain.
Perhaps the largest advantage of a career in food science is the potential for social impact. Food safety scientists’ work helps to ensure the quality, safety, and security of the global food supply by preventing potentially deadly pathogens from making their way to consumers. Food scientists’ day-to-day tasks can have a direct effect on bettering public health.
“The diverse expertise possessed by the professionals in these arenas enables the food industry to have significant impact on human health,” said Anderson. “Food safety scientists, including microbiologists, have the opportunity and responsibility to help protect the health of consumers and ensure the food on their table is safe to consume.”
Resources for Students Interested in Food Science
It’s never too early to have a passion for food science—high school students who show interest in pursuing a career in the industry can seek volunteer opportunities with public health organizations, take part-time jobs in the food service industry, and take courses in math, life sciences, and physical sciences. In college, majoring in a food science or a scientific area like biology, chemistry, or microbiology and pursuing a summer program or internship in the food safety field can help prepare students to enter the workforce.
Organizations like IFT offer internships, scholarships, and many other opportunities and resources for budding food scientists. “As a global organization, IFT is committed to bringing together these bright minds to advance the role of science in support of a safe, nutritious, delicious, affordable and sustainable food system,” Anderson says of IFT’s dedication to the next generation of food scientists.
IFT HERB-Approved Undergraduate Programs
To support IFT’s mission and vision, the IFT Higher Education Review Board (HERB) rigorously assesses undergraduate food science programs that meet its high IFT Undergraduate Education Standards for Degrees in Food Science. Students attending these IFT HERB-approved institutions qualify for IFT-sponsored scholarships.
IFT Internship Opportunities
IFT offers internships through its foundation, Feeding Tomorrow’s Intern+ Program, allowing students to explore career interests, develop skills, and gain experience.
Careers in the Science of Food
Visit IFT’s website to learn more about exciting opportunities in consumer research, teaching, regulatory affairs, basic research, and nutrition and what it means to work in the food science industry.