Food scientist-food technologist

Job profiles

Food scientist-food technologist

  • Hours

    30-40 per week

  • Starting salary

    £20,000 + per year

If you have a scientific mind and are interested in food production and preparation, this job could be ideal for you.

Food scientists and food technologists work in the food and drink industry developing a wide range of products and making sure they are safe for consumers.

In this job you will need good attention to detail. You will also need to stick to strict hygiene rules.

You will need a strong background in science, usually through a BTEC HNC/HND or degree in a subject such as food science, food studies, or food technology. You could get a job as a lab technician and study part-time for relevant qualifications. You may also be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme.

The work

As a food scientist, you would use scientific techniques to:

  • provide accurate nutritional information for food labelling
  • investigate ways to keep food fresh, safe and attractive
  • find ways of producing food more quickly and cheaply
  • test the safety and quality of food.

As a food technologist, you would plan the manufacture of food and drink products and your duties may include:

  • working on newly discovered ingredients to invent new recipes and ideas
  • modifying foods, for example creating fat-free products
  • conducting experiments and producing sample products
  • designing the processes and machinery for making products in large quantities.

Some jobs (for example carrying out research for a supermarket chain) may involve quality control as well as product development.

As a food scientist or food technologist you would also gain knowledge and experience of areas like chemical engineering, production planning, market and consumer research, and financial management.


Hours

You would often work 9am to 5pm but in some jobs shift work is common to cover production times.

As a food scientist you could work in laboratories, research departments, or quality inspection and control on production lines.

As a food technologist, you would often spend time in factories monitoring production processes and machinery operations, which could include travelling to warehouses, distribution centres and suppliers’ factories.


Income

  • Starting salaries for food scientists and technologists can be between £20,000 and £25,000 a year
  • With experience and increased responsibilities, this can rise to between £30,000 and £45,000.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.


Entry requirements

You will need a strong background in science, usually through a BTEC HNC/HND or degree in a subject such as food science, food studies, or food technology.

To get on to a degree you will usually need:

  • five GCSEs (A-C), and
  • two or three A levels, preferably in chemistry or biology.

For a BTEC HNC/HND, entry requirements are usually one or two A levels or equivalent.

You can search for courses on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website, and you should check directly with course providers for exact requirements.

If you have a degree in an unrelated subject, you could improve your chances of employment by taking a postgraduate course in a subject such as food safety or food quality management.

Visit the Institute of Food Science and Technology careers website for more information including details of relevant courses.

Alternatively, you could begin as a lab technician and work towards further qualifications whilst in employment. For this level you would need at least four GCSEs (A-C) including English, maths, and a science subject. See the laboratory technician job profile for more information.

Another option could be to enter through an apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. The most suitable Apprenticeship in Food and Drink (Food Industry Skills). To find out more, visit the Apprenticeships website.


Training and development

Once you start work, your employer may provide in-house training, often as part of a graduate trainee scheme.

You may also be encouraged and financially supported through external short courses in subjects such as food hygiene, meat safety or sales and marketing. If your role includes inspecting food premises, you may need to take a qualification awarded by an organisation such as the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) or the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).

If you join the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) you will have access to their continuing professional development (CPD) scheme, which will help you keep your knowledge and skills up to date.


Skills and knowledge

To be a food scientist/food technologist you should have:

  • an aptitude for science and maths
  • an interest in food production and preparation
  • strong attention to detail
  • the ability to work with strict hygiene rules
  • good communication skills, to explain ideas to other scientists and factory staff
  • a confident approach to enforcing regulations and reporting problems
  • the ability to work in a team.
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