How to Become a Food Chemist

Food Chemist Career Path Guide

If you want to become a food chemist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for it:


Food chemists have a natural interest in chemistry, science and food. They are self-motivated individuals who seek solutions to problems, such as how to make our food products and food product ingredients healthier.


To work in this field, you need intellectual and emotional stability, as this will not only help you achieve the academic success you will require, it will help you endure the ups and downs of the career, such as when research results aren’t achieved as planned.


Food chemists must be comfortable working in a laboratory setting, and communicating their findings and opinions to others. They must also have the manual dexterity necessary to use specialized laboratory equipment.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a food chemist. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Food Chemist

The education you'll need depends on your career goals; typically, the higher the level of education you achieve, the more career options that become available to you. Regardless of the level of education you wish to achieve, developing a solid background in general chemistry, food chemistry and biology is a great way to develop the knowledge necessary for careers in food chemistry.


Earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, food chemistry, pharmaceutical chemistry or food science is typically the minimum requirement to get an entry-level job in food chemistry.


If you want to become a food chemist who completes your own research projects, directs others in applied research, you will likely need a master’s degree in food chemistry or a closely related field such as medicinal chemistry, organic chemistry or food science. A master’s degree or higher may also allow you to qualify for positions in management or administration.


If you want to teach food chemistry at the university level, you will likely need a doctoral degree in food chemistry or a closely related field, such as those mentioned above. Those with doctoral degrees also work as project leaders, research project coordinators or research directors.





More About the Career: General Job Description

Food chemists are responsible for conducting research and analysis concerning the chemical properties of foods, in order to develop new or improve existing food and beverage products. The goal of many food chemists is to promote human or animal health by improving the quality, safety, nutritional value of food products and food product ingredients. 



General Job Duties

• Experiment with natural and synthetic materials to develop new food additives, preservatives and related products

• Study the effects of various methods of processing, preservation and packaging on the composition and properties of food

• Test various samples of food and beverage products in order to ensure their compliance with industry regulations and legislation related to quality and purity

• Supervise workers who perform quality control tests in food processing, canning, freezing, brewing or distilling

• May specialize in a specific type of food or food preparation process



Getting Relevant Work Experience as a Student

As many jobs in food chemistry are highly competitive, it's extremely important to acquire practical experience during your undergraduate and graduate years.


Most university departments offer a number of summer job opportunities for research assistants. There may also be similar openings for summer students in government agencies and private industry. Be sure to ask your school’s career resources counselor to give you information about any such opportunities.


These opportunities not only provide you with valuable work experience, they allow you to network and get your foot in the door with an employer. This will be extremely useful when you apply for graduate school or a permanent job in food chemistry.



How Much Do Food Chemists Make?

The salary level of food chemists can vary greatly depending on a number of factors, including their level of experience, their level of education, where they work, their specific job responsibilities, and many others.


Food Chemist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary of workers in the Food Scientists and Technologists occupational group, is $64,140 per year.


Salary - Canada: According to the 2016 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Biologists and Related Scientists occupational group, which includes food scientists and chemists, earn an average salary of $84,998 per year. According to WorkBC (Province of British Columbia) the annual provincial median salary of Chemists (which includes food chemists) is $63,003 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (July 20, 2019).





Personal Characteristics Needed to Become a Food Chemist

To be effective in a career as a food chemist, you'll need to posses certain personality traits. These traits are necessary for obtaining the knowledge and skill set necessary to succeed, and will help you to endure the ups and downs of this career.


• A keen interest in contributing to society through the improvement of food products

• A high degree of intellectual curiosity

• Able to follow procedures without taking shortcuts

• Able to effectively communicate with other researchers and colleagues

• Comfortable sharing the results of research with others

• Manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination

• Excellent attention to detail

• Able to take direction from others, and direct the work of others

• Able to organize, implement and evaluate projects



Work Environment Typical to This Profession

The work settings, conditions and duties of food chemists can vary greatly from one job or employer to the next. Below are examples of the primary types of settings for food chemistry careers:


Classroom Setting: Food chemists working in classrooms typically conduct lectures, grade papers and advise students. They have working hours that can fluctuate from very few hours a week to a very heavy workload. They may work normal weekday working hours with extra hours put in for preparing lesson plans, grading papers and performing other duties during evenings and weekends. Some food chemists teaching in universities and colleges may teach classes exclusively, or they may be involved in research as well.


Laboratory Setting: Food chemists that work in laboratories spend the majority of their time conducting, documenting and analyzing research. Working in a laboratory may involve working with hazardous organic materials and inorganic chemicals. These food chemists usually work during normal weekday hours.



Food Chemist Jobs - Current Openings

Our job board below has "food chemist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.




Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to "food chemist", as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.




Food Microbiologist

Food Scientist

Food Technologist




Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a food chemist.


Occupations in Alberta:Food Scientist.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 25, 2019.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Agricultural and Food Scientists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 25, 2019.

What Can I do With a Major In?:Food & Flavor Chemist.” (n.d.) College of Science - Purdue University website. Retrieved November 25, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Food Chemist

Scholarships in our system that are relevant to becoming a food chemist can be found on the following pages:


Biochemistry Scholarships

Chemistry Scholarships

Nutrition Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting into this profession. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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