Career Options

Choosing a Career
Individuals should choose a career by considering the following factors:

Education Requirements
If a 4-H’er is considering a career in the foods field, he/she must first decide how much education they want to receive. Job opportunities are available whether a person decides to go to college or not. Income potential is greatest with a college degree.

High School Diploma Only
On the other hand, no educational requirements other than a high school diploma (or working on a diploma) are necessary for certain other jobs related to foods, such as:

Two-Year Programs
As an alternative to going to a university, food careers at the technician level can be obtained for those who wish to enter a 2-year program. Technicians have careers in kitchen production or as assistants to dietitians at hospitals and other health-care institutions as well as schools. Such programs are available at:

Four-Year Programs
At a university there are several options an individual can study if they are interested in food in combination with science:

If the college route is chosen, a minimum of 4 years of college study is required to develop an understanding of the nature, properties, and characteristics of foods. Thus, a strong high school background in the basic sciences (biology and chemistry) and mathematics is important.

A short description of possible college majors is included below.

Food Science
Food Science is an exciting and rapidly expanding industry because of the consumer’s demand for convenience products, snack foods, low-calorie or fat-free foods, food safe products, and environmentally safe food products. The food industry involves getting food from the farmer’s field to the consumer’s dinner plate. Thus, food processing involves not only producing the foods themselves, but also developing the foods into different products, packaging, storing, and delivery.

The need for food scientists keeps increasing because of the growing need to improve the quantity, quality, nutrition, variety and safety of foods. Approximately 40,000 food scientists work throughout the United States. Of these, approximately 75% work in the food processing industry. Others work in federal agencies, food and consumer services, and in marketing and inspection services. Food scientists can also teach in colleges, do research, and work in the cooperative extension service.

Food processing is a top industry in the United States. Food scientists work in:

Food processors deal with drinks, cereal grains, dairy foods, meat, poultry, game, fish and seafood, fruits and vegetables, snack foods, and pet foods.

Food ingredient plants process salt, pepper, spices, flavors, colors, preservatives, stabilizers, vitamins, minerals, proteins, and other items.

Food manufacturing plants formulate new foods from unusual sources. For example, a coffee creamer made from soy protein; or, a substitute for bacon, beef, or chicken made from textured soybean protein.

Nutrition Science
Nutrition Science is a field that applies physiology and biochemistry to the nutrient needs of the human body. The role of diet in the development of certain diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, is the focus of many studies. Today, many public health nutritionists are registered dietitians (R.D.’s) as well.

Foods & Nutrition in Business
The Foods & Nutrition in Business option prepares students for work as liaison specialists between the food industry and consumers. Consumer specialists perform jobs, such as: product testing, promotion and marketing, consumer education, food and nutrition editor, and food product representative.

Dietetics deals with the science and art of translating food to meet the nutritional needs of individuals. Dietitians work with individuals or groups of people in a variety of settings to try to improve their diets or develop healthy eating habits in the treatment of certain diseases. For example, they may suggest modifications, such as instructing a client with high blood pressure to avoid salty foods; or, they could help an overweight person identify sources of fats and sugars. Dietetics can also involve food service operations, research projects, education, and private practice.

Some study plans involve a cooperative work experience. Generally, an internship is required after an individual graduates before he/she is eligible to become a registered dietitian.

Other Careers

Nutrition Educators
Nutrition Educators teach in all types of settings, from traditional schools to industry, advertising agencies, social agencies, and government. Corporate organizations, such as the National Dairy Council and the National Live Stock and Meat Board, also offer opportunities for nutrition educators.

Home Economists
Home Economists work in food related industries for designing, testing, and planning new products. They also can find careers in advertising departments of industries or agencies to help plan, produce, and market food products and appliances. Home economists can work in restaurant management or catering (planning and serving special events).

Chefs and cooks usually specialize. Their careers require vocational training and sometimes advanced degrees from universities or specialized food schools or institutes.

Food Stylists
Food Stylists help set up the format, props, and create the food for photography, television, and publications. This is a highly specialized field; it requires an understanding of the media as well as the science of food preparation and design. Usually most foods must be prepared differently than ordinary cooking to look correct “on-camera.” For example, whipped cream melts under hot camera lights, so shaving cream may be used instead.

Butchers and meat, poultry, and fish cutters reduce animal carcasses into small pieces suitable for sale to consumers. They work in meatpacking plants and in grocery stores and wholesale establishments.

There are several types of inspectors. Some examples include:


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