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Food Scientist job outlook

Job growth among agricultural and food scientists should be about as fast as the average for all occupations. Opportunities are expected to be good over the next decade, particularly for those holding a masterís or Ph.D. degree.

Employment change. Employment of agricultural and food scientists is expected to grow 9 percent between 2006 and 2016, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Past agricultural research has created higher yielding crops, crops with better resistance to pests and plant pathogens, and more effective fertilizers and pesticides. Research is still necessary, however, particularly as insects and diseases continue to adapt to pesticides and as soil fertility and water quality continue to need improvement. This creates more jobs for agricultural scientists.

Emerging biotechnologies will play an ever larger role in agricultural research. Scientists will be needed to apply these technologies to the creation of new food products and other advances. Moreover, increasing demand is expected for biofuels and other agricultural products used in industrial processes. Agricultural scientists will be needed to find ways to increase the output of crops used in these products.

Agricultural scientists will also be needed to balance increased agricultural output with protection and preservation of soil, water, and ecosystems. They increasingly encourage the practice of sustainable agriculture by developing and implementing plans to manage pests, crops, soil fertility and erosion, and animal waste in ways that reduce the use of harmful chemicals and do little damage to farms and the natural environment.

Job growth for food scientists and technologists will be driven by the demand for new food products and food safety measures. Food research is expected to increase because of heightened public awareness of diet, health, food safety, and biosecurityópreventing the introduction of infectious agents into herds of animals. Advances in biotechnology and nanotechnology should also spur demand, as food scientists and technologists apply these technologies to testing and monitoring food safety.

Fewer new jobs for agricultural and food scientists are expected in the Federal Government, mostly because of budgetary constraints at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Job prospects. Opportunities should be good for agricultural and food scientists with a masterís degree, particularly those seeking applied research positions in a laboratory. Masterís degree candidates also can seek to become certified crop advisors, helping farmers better manage their crops. Those with a Ph.D. in agricultural and food science will experience the best opportunities, especially in basic research and teaching positions at colleges and universities.

Graduates with a bachelorís degree in agricultural or food science can sometimes work in applied research and product development positions under the guidance of a Ph.D. scientist, but usually only in certain subfields, such as food science and technology. The Federal Government also hires bachelorís degree holders to work as soil scientists.

Most people with bachelorís degrees find work in positions related to agricultural or food science rather than in jobs as agricultural or food scientists. A bachelorís degree in agricultural science is useful for managerial jobs in farm-related or ranch-related businesses, such as farm credit institutions or companies that manufacture or sell feed, fertilizer, seed, and farm equipment. In some cases, people with a bachelorís degree can provide consulting services or work in sales and marketingópromoting high-demand products such as organic foods. Bachelorís degrees also may help people become farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers; agricultural inspectors; or purchasing agents for agricultural commodity or farm supply companies.

Employment of agricultural and food scientists is relatively stable during periods of economic recession. Layoffs are less likely among agricultural and food scientists than in some other occupations because food is a staple item and its demand fluctuates very little with economic activity.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition

Find related resources below:

Food Scientist Income    
Food Scientist Training and Qualifications


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