Choosing a Career in Foods

A 4-H’er interested in foods is probably also interested in career opportunities in the foods field. To help them narrow down what they might want to do, a person’s attitude and interests are two factors to consider. For example, if a 4-H’er likes to be around people, food processing, sales, or public relations may be the job for them. But, if they are more interested in how things happen, food research or new product development may be a better choice. All of these options require a background in food science.

Where Do College Graduates in the Foods Field Work?

The Food Industry
Most college graduates with a degree in food sciences are employed by the food processing industry. The career opportunities within the food industry are unlimited and the need for highly trained technical people is always present. Because the field is so large, it is convenient to divide the careers available at a food processing plant into broad categories. Keep in mind that this list is limited. With new products being developed all the time, new career paths may open up as well.

Food company career options
Career Description Example Related careers
Product developer
  • invent new foods
  • improve existing foods
  • investigate how different ingredients function in food
regular cookie vs. fat-free cookie Food chemist
Food technologist
Food safety
Quality assurance
Process developer
  • design new ways to produce a food product
  • adapt products to new manufacturing techniques
  • design equipment
"baked" vs. "fried" snack foods Food engineer
Food law
Waste management
Product packagers
  • develop packaging to protect a product during transport and against consumer tampering
microwave popcorn
drink boxes
shrink wrap
foil packages
Food safety
Quality assurance
Technical service specialists
  • conduct research at various stages of food production
  • design experiments
  • conduct taste tests
  • gather quality control data
temperature readings
package seal tests
Food technician
Sensory evaluation
Consumer education
Home economist
Graphic designer
  • inform consumer how to use product
  • develop recipes
  • deisgn package label
  • determine nutrition informtion
altered recipe
instructions for lower fat in final food product
Nutrition education

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Government Agencies
Government agencies at the local, state, and federal government levels offer many opportunities for the food scientist in various settings, including the following.

Dietitians and nutritionists may be employed as public health or community nutritionists. They help to interpret current nutrition research to inform the general public by using presentations, counseling, brochures, and media programs. Some government agencies that employ food scientists and/or food and nutrition college graduates are included in the following chart.


Government career options
Level Organization/Department Program
  • Food and Agricultural Organization (AFO)
  • World Healthy Organization of the United Nations (WHO)
US Department of Agriculture:
Food and Nutrition Service
Agricultural Research Service
Cooperative State Research Service
Extension Service
US Department of Health & Human Services:
Public Health Service
Office of Human Resources
US Department of Education
US Department of Defense
Food Stamps
Commodity Food Distribution
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program
Expanded Food & Nuitrition Education (EFNEP)
National Institutes of Health
School Healthy and Nutrition Services Project
Quantity Food Service
Research; Meals-Ready-to Eat (MRE)
State State Health Agencies Nutritional surveillance
Nutritional standards
Nutritional consultation
Applied nutrition research
Local and Community
  • Nutrition and health services for specific population groups, such as mothers and children, the elderly, and low income groups
  • Food safety inspections at eating establishments
Home health services
Family planning
Group care services (hospitals, nutrsing homes, extended care facilities, day care centers, etc.)
Detention centers (prisons), and detoxification centers
Chronic disease control services

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Educational Institutions
For the food scientist, nutritionist, or dietitian with an advanced degree from a university and an interest in teaching and doing research and/or consulting, a career in education at the university level can be ideal. Some of the rewarding aspects of a career at an educational institution include:

Medical Institutions
Medical institutions employ more nutritionists and dietitians than food scientists. Dietitians are necessary as part of the team approach in the health care of individuals. Clinical dietitians are responsible for developing healthful diet plans for patients in their care who may have a medical condition requiring careful planning of the foods they eat. They also educate groups of individuals about their diet needs. Institutions where dietitians work include:

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