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Food Science

Program Description

Just the Facts

Food Science. A program that focuses on the application of biological, chemical, and physical principles to the study of converting raw agricultural products into processed forms suitable for direct human consumption, and the storage of such products. Includes instruction in applicable aspects of the agricultural sciences, human physiology and nutrition, food chemistry, agricultural products processing, food additives, food preparation and packaging, food storage and shipment, and related aspects of human health and safety including toxicology and pathology.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctoral degree

High School Courses

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Additional Information

Have you ever wondered who determines the cooking instructions on the package of frozen pizza pockets? Or how to keep canned green beans green? Food science students learn how to do this, plus a lot more.

Food science degrees are offered at many colleges and universities. Bachelor's programs are usually three or four years long. You'll need a master's or a PhD to become a research scientist.

Typically, undergraduate food science programs are set up so first- and second-year students take basic chemistry, microbiology and biochemistry classes. Most food science classes are taken in the upper years.

"Once you get through the basic sciences, you're off into a different part of the curriculum which focuses on the applied aspects of food science -- food processing, chemistry, microbiology, etc.," says Charles Edwards. He is a professor and food scientist at Washington State University.

High schools offer basic sciences (chemistry, physics and biology), that teach you how to look at specific molecules. You'll need these basics in food science, says Edwards, because "we look at the bigger picture -- we take the knowledge of those molecules and apply it to a real-world situation."

Real-world situations include making sure french fries retain their golden color while being deep fried in spitting hot oil. They include figuring out the right time and method to pick and ship fruit so it gets to the supermarket unscathed. It was a food scientist who discovered that spraying wax on an apple will help to keep it fresh.

Prospective undergraduates should have an interest in applied science, says Edwards. Students also need an interest in food, lab skills and oral and written communication skills.

In high school, concentrate on science classes, and find after-school work in the food industry. Getting a job in a food-processing plant is the best way to get a taste of what's to come, but you can also reap a lot of background knowledge by working in a restaurant-type setting.

Besides tuition, costs include books and lab coats.

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) provides a list of accredited schools and offers scholarships to those who meet the criteria based on academic standing, ability and personality.

"Students should go to an IFT-accredited school," says Alex Speers, a food science professor. "It gives an advantage to students -- the most obvious are the scholarships, but also it's sort of a badge, because there's no formal accreditation other than that."


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Agricultural and Food Scientists

U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Page
News, safety alerts, consumer advice and more

Food Online
News, resources, product information and more for those in the industry


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