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Working As a Food Technologist

  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Getting Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • $54,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Food Technologist Do

Agricultural and food scientists research ways to improve the efficiency and safety of agricultural establishments and products.


Agricultural and food scientists typically do the following:

  • Conduct research and experiments to improve the productivity and sustainability of field crops and farm animals
  • Create new food products and develop new and better ways to process, package, and deliver them
  • Study the composition of soil as it relates to plant growth, and research ways to improve it
  • Communicate research findings to the scientific community, food producers, and the public
  • Travel between facilities to oversee the implementation of new projects

Agricultural and food scientists play an important role in maintaining and expanding the nation’s food supply. Many work in basic or applied research and development. Basic research seeks to understand the biological and chemical processes by which crops and livestock grow. Applied research uses the knowledge gained to discover ways to improve the quality, quantity, and safety of agricultural products.

Many agricultural and food scientists work with little supervision, forming their own hypotheses and developing their research methods. In addition, they often lead teams of technicians or students who help in their research. Agricultural and food scientists who are employed in private industry may need to travel between different sites to perform various duties for their employers.

The following are types of agricultural and food scientists:

Animal scientists typically conduct research on domestic farm animals. With a focus on food production, they explore animal genetics, nutrition, reproduction, diseases, growth, and development. They work to develop efficient ways to produce and process meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. Animal scientists may crossbreed animals to make them more productive or improve other characteristics. They advise farmers on how to upgrade housing for animals, lower animal death rates, increase growth rates, or otherwise increase the quality and efficiency of livestock.

Food scientists and technologists use chemistry, biology, and other sciences to study the basic elements of food. They analyze the nutritional content of food, discover new food sources, and research ways to make processed foods safe and healthy. Food technologists generally work in product development, applying findings from food science research to develop new or better ways of selecting, preserving, processing, packaging, and distributing food. Some food scientists use nanotechnology—problem-solving techniques that work on an atomic scale—to develop sensors that can detect contaminants in food. Other food scientists enforce government regulations, inspecting food-processing areas to ensure that they are sanitary and meet waste management standards.

Soil scientists examine the composition of soil, how it affects plant or crop growth, and how alternative soil treatments affect crop productivity. They develop methods of conserving and managing soil that farmers and forestry companies can use. Because soil science is closely related to environmental science, people trained in soil science also work to ensure environmental quality and effective land use.

Plant scientists work to improve crop yields and advise food and crop developers about techniques that could enhance production. They may develop ways to control pests and weeds.

Agricultural and food scientists in private industry commonly work for food production companies, farms, and processing plants. They typically improve inspection standards or overall food quality. They spend their time in a laboratory, where they do tests and experiments, or in the field, where they take samples or assess overall conditions. Other agricultural and food scientists work for pharmaceutical companies, where they use biotechnology processes to develop drugs or other medical products. Some look for ways to process agricultural products into fuels, such as ethanol produced from corn.

At universities, agricultural and food scientists do research and investigate new methods of improving animal or soil health, nutrition, and other facets of food quality. They also write grants to organizations, such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to get funding for their research. For more information on professors who teach agricultural and food science at universities, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

In the federal government, agricultural and food scientists conduct research on animal safety and on methods of improving food and crop production. They spend most of their time conducting clinical trials or developing experiments on animal and plant subjects. Agricultural and food scientists eventually present their findings in peer-reviewed journals or other publications.

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How To Become A Food Technologist

Agricultural and food scientists need at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited postsecondary institution, although many earn more advanced degrees. Some animal scientists earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM).


Every state has at least one land-grant college that offers agricultural science degrees. Many other colleges and universities also offer agricultural science degrees or related courses. Degrees in related sciences, such as biology, chemistry, and physics, or in a related engineering specialty also may qualify people for many agricultural science jobs.

Undergraduate coursework for food scientists and technologists and for soil and plant scientists typically includes biology, chemistry, botany, and plant conservation. Students preparing to be food scientists take courses such as food chemistry, food analysis, food microbiology, food engineering, and food-processing operations. Students preparing to be soil and plant scientists take courses in plant pathology, soil chemistry, entomology (the study of insects), plant physiology, and biochemistry.

Undergraduate students in the agricultural and food sciences typically gain a strong foundation in their specialty, with an emphasis on teamwork through internships and research opportunities. Students also are encouraged to take humanities courses, which can help them develop good communication skills, and computer courses, which can familiarize them with common programs and databases.

Many people with bachelor’s degrees in agricultural sciences find work in related jobs rather than becoming an agricultural or food scientist. For example, a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science is a useful background for farming, ranching, agricultural inspection, farm credit institutions, or companies that make or sell feed, fertilizer, seed, or farm equipment. Combined with coursework in business, agricultural and food science could be a good background for managerial jobs in farm-related or ranch-related businesses. For more information, see the profile on farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers.

Many students with bachelor’s degrees in application-focused food sciences or agricultural sciences earn advanced degrees in applied topics such as nutrition or dietetics. Students who major in a more basic field, such as biology or chemistry, may be better suited for getting their Ph.D. and doing research within the agricultural and food sciences. During graduate school, there is additional emphasis on lab work and original research, in which prospective animal scientists have the opportunity to do experiments and sometimes supervise undergraduates.

Advanced research topics include genetics, animal reproduction, and biotechnology, among others. Advanced coursework also emphasizes statistical analysis and experiment design, which are important as Ph.D. candidates begin their research.

Some agricultural and food scientists receive a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Like Ph.D. candidates in animal science, a prospective veterinarian must first have a bachelor’s degree before getting into veterinary school.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Communication skills are critical for agricultural and food scientists. They must be able to explain their studies: what they were trying to learn, the methods they used, what they found, and what they think the implications of their findings are. They must also be able to communicate well when working with others, including technicians and student assistants.

Critical-thinking skills. Agricultural and food scientists must use their expertise to determine the best way to answer a specific research question.

Data-analysis skills. Agricultural and food scientists, like other researchers, collect data using a variety of methods, including quantitative surveys. They must then apply standard data analysis techniques to understand the data and get the answers to the questions they are studying.

Math skills. Agricultural and food scientists, like many other scientists, must have a sound grasp of mathematical concepts.

Observation skills. Agricultural and food scientists conduct experiments that require precise observation of samples and other data. Any mistake could lead to inconclusive or inaccurate results.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some states require soil scientists to be licensed to practice. Licensing requirements vary by state, but generally include holding a bachelor’s degree with a certain number of credit hours in soil science, working under a licensed scientist for a certain number of years, and passing an examination.

Otherwise, certifications are generally not required for agriculture and food scientists, but they can be useful in advancing one’s career. Agricultural and food scientists can get certifications from organizations such as the American Society of Agronomy, the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists (ARPAS), the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), or the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), and others. These certifications recognize expertise in agricultural and food science, and enhance the status of those who are certified.

Qualification for certification is generally based on education, previous professional experience, and passing a comprehensive exam. Scientists may need to take continuing education courses to keep their certification, and they must follow the organization’s code of ethics.

Other Experience

Internships are highly recommended for prospective food scientists and technologists. Many entry-level jobs in this occupation are related to food manufacturing, and firsthand experience can be highly valued in that environment.

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Food Technologist Career Paths

Food Technologist
Quality Assurance Manager Construction Manager Quality Control Manager
Quality Control Director
9 Yearsyrs
Quality Assurance Manager Production Manager Product Development Manager
Research And Development Director
11 Yearsyrs
Quality Assurance Manager Engineering Manager Research And Development Director
Vice President Of Research And Development
13 Yearsyrs
Assistant Manager Warehouse Manager Quality Control Manager
Research And Development Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Assistant Manager Kitchen Manager
Cafeteria Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Assistant Manager Project Manager Technical Project Manager
Technical Product Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Manager General Manager Food Service Director
Food Safety Director
8 Yearsyrs
Manager Project Manager Project Director
Project Development Director
9 Yearsyrs
Quality Assurance Supervisor Quality Control Manager Research And Development Manager
Senior Manager Of Research And Development
12 Yearsyrs
Quality Assurance Supervisor Laboratory Manager Research And Development Manager
Manager, Product Research And Development
8 Yearsyrs
Quality Assurance Supervisor Manufacturing Manager Research And Development Manager
New Product Development Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Product Developer Design Engineer Research And Development Engineer
Research And Development Project Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Product Developer Design Engineer Product Development Engineer
Lead Product Developer
7 Yearsyrs
Manager Case Manager Customer Care Manager
Customer Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Project Manager Product Manager Global Product Manager
Global Business Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Quality Assurance Specialist Quality Engineer Product Quality Engineer
Product Quality Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Product Developer Research And Development Engineer Research And Development Senior Engineer
Research And Development Project Leader
6 Yearsyrs
Production Supervisor Shipping Supervisor Traffic Manager
Import Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Program Manager Global Program Manager
Global Senior Program Manager
13 Yearsyrs
Research Scientist Senior Software Engineer Senior Software Engineer Lead
Technology Development Manager
9 Yearsyrs
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Average Yearly Salary
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Min 10%
Median 50%
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Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Premio Foods
Highest Paying City
Charlotte, NC
Highest Paying State
Avg Experience Level
2.8 years
How much does a Food Technologist make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Food Technologist in the United States is $54,229 per year or $26 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $36,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $81,000.

Real Food Technologist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Food Technologist So Ono Food Products LLC Urban Honolulu, HI Jan 15, 2013 $113,199
Food Technologist Kellogg North America Company Battle Creek, MI Aug 15, 2015 $92,100
Food Technologist Kellogg North America Company Battle Creek, MI Aug 27, 2015 $92,100
Food Technologist Kellogg North America Company Battle Creek, MI Jul 16, 2014 $86,100
Food Technologist Kellogg North America Company Battle Creek, MI Jun 30, 2015 $85,455
Food Technologist Gerlait Group, Inc. San Diego, CA Sep 15, 2016 $84,000
Food Technologist Gerber California, Inc. San Diego, CA Sep 11, 2015 $84,000
Food Technologist Gerber California, Inc. San Diego, CA Sep 12, 2014 $84,000
Food Technologist Gerber California, Inc. San Diego, CA Aug 09, 2016 $84,000
Associate Food Technologist Kellogg North America Company Battle Creek, MI Sep 11, 2016 $81,000
Food Technologist Bunge Milling, Inc. Bradley, IL Jan 09, 2016 $78,000
Food Technologist KFC U.S. Properties, Inc. Plano, TX Dec 14, 2015 $77,000
Food Technologist Kum Gang, Inc. NY Oct 23, 2015 $76,700
Food Technologist So Ono Food Products LLC Urban Honolulu, HI Jul 07, 2014 $72,100
Food Technologist Diluigi Inc. Danvers, MA Jan 01, 2013 $58,081
Food Technologist Wonton Food, Inc. Plainview, NY Aug 31, 2016 $57,000 -
Food Technologist Diluigi Inc. Danvers, MA Jan 01, 2013 $56,391
Food Technologist Gruma Corporation Irving, TX Sep 07, 2013 $56,326 -
Food Technologist Caribbean Food Delights, Inc. Tappan, NY Jan 12, 2015 $55,530
Food Technologist Caribbean Food Delights, Inc. Tappan, NY Sep 18, 2015 $55,530
Food Technologist Culinary Brands Inc. Vernon, CA Sep 09, 2016 $55,266
Food Technologist Sam HAK Food Corp. Hillside, NJ Jul 03, 2016 $55,037
Food Technologist Sungwon, Inc. Ellicott City, MD Sep 15, 2016 $52,000
Food Technologist Albert Uster Imports Gaithersburg, MD May 20, 2015 $51,522
Food Technologist Katsu International, Inc. Atlanta, GA Sep 19, 2014 $51,000
Food Technologist Bakery Barn Inc. Pittsburgh, PA Sep 28, 2015 $50,440 -
Food Technologist Bauli USA, Inc. New York, NY Oct 01, 2015 $50,012
Food Technologist Wonton Food, Inc. New York, NY Aug 27, 2016 $50,000 -
Food Technologist Har Ridgefield Corp. Ridgefield, NJ Sep 01, 2013 $50,000
Food Technologist Wonton Food, Inc. New York, NY Jul 08, 2015 $50,000 -

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Top Skills for A Food Technologist

  1. Food Safety
  2. Food Preparation
  3. Lab Equipment
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Prepared all of technical documents include food safety documents submit to quality system division for endorsement.
  • Worked in various stages of food preparation.
  • Gained experience with various lab equipment and better understanding of plant operations
  • Contributed in all areas of cookie and cracker product development from test kitchen prototypes to pilot plant scale up.
  • Check and improve quality control procedures, from the raw material stage through to the finished product.


Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Food Technologists

  1. Maine
  2. Rhode Island
  3. New Hampshire
  4. Virginia
  5. Arizona
  6. Wisconsin
  7. Indiana
  8. Washington
  9. North Carolina
  10. Connecticut
  • (18 jobs)
  • (10 jobs)
  • (35 jobs)
  • (53 jobs)
  • (31 jobs)
  • (36 jobs)
  • (29 jobs)
  • (44 jobs)
  • (36 jobs)
  • (20 jobs)

Food Technologist Demographics










Hispanic or Latino


Black or African American





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Food Technologist Education


Pennsylvania State University


Kansas State University


Ohio State University


Michigan State University


Johnson & Wales University


Drexel University


University of Phoenix


Montclair State University


University of Wisconsin - Stout


University of Massachusetts Amherst


California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Purdue University


University of Wisconsin Extension


University of Tennessee - Knoxville


Cornell University


University of California - Davis


University of Georgia


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Florence-Darlington Technical College

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Food Science






Culinary Arts


Food And Nutrition


General Studies


Health Care Administration






Nutrition Science












Criminal Justice


Medical Assisting Services




Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology


Animal Science

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Updated May 19, 2020