There are approximately 14,900 food technologists employed in the United States. They work in a wide variety of settings, including food processing plants, food ingredient plants, and food manufacturing plants. Food technologists may work in basic research, product development, processing and quality assurance, packaging, or market research. There are positions in laboratories, test kitchens, and on production lines as well as with government agencies. About 7 percent of food technologists are self-employed.
Many schools that offer degree programs in food science will also provide career services and job placement assistance. Also, recruiters from private industry frequently conduct interviews on campus. Faculty members may be willing to grant referrals to exceptional students. Another method is to apply directly to individual companies.
Frequently, the food products with which food technologists work determine where they are employed. Those who work with meats or grains may work in the Midwest. Technologists who work with citrus fruits usually work in Florida or California. Most food technologists are employed by research universities and private industry. Some work for the federal government. Some major government employers of food technologists include the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
For food technologists with a bachelor's degree, there are two general paths to advancement, depending on whether they work in production or in research. They may begin as assistant quality-assurance chemists or assistant production managers and, with experience, move up to more responsible management positions such as plant director. Some technologists may start as junior food chemists in the research and development laboratory of a food company and advance to section head or another research management position.
Technologists who hold master's degrees may start out as food chemists in a research and development laboratory. Those with doctorates usually begin their careers in basic research or teaching. Other food technologists may gain expertise in more specialized areas and become sensory evaluation experts or food-marketing specialists.
Tips for Entry
Read publications such as the Journal of Food Science (http://www.ift.org) and Food Technology (https://www.ift.org/news-and-publications/food-technology-magazine) to learn more about food science.
Visit https://www.ift.org/career-development/job-postings and http://www.gmaonline.org/resources/career-center for job listings.
Join the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and other professional associations to access training and networking resources, publications, and employment opportunities.
Attend the IFT’s Annual Event & Food Expo (https://www.ift.org/events/annual-event-and-food-expo) to network and interview for jobs.
Conduct information interviews with food technologists. Ask them for advice on preparing for and entering the field.