What Is a Food Technologist? (Plus How To Become One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 23 December 2022

Published 23 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Food technologists are vital figures in the manufacturing industry. These professionals help ensure food manufacturers produce high-quality, safe food for consumers to eat. Learning how to become a food technologist can help you decide if working in the food safety field is the right choice for you. In this article, we answer the question of 'What is a food technologist?' and discuss what these professionals do, how to become a food technologist, the national average salary and the relevant skills required.

What is a food technologist?

A food technologist is a professional who researches food to gain a better understanding of potential improvements to agriculture, food processing, food production, food storage and food shipment. They can work for food production suppliers, food equipment manufacturers, the government and food companies in product development. Food technologists ensure food safety in processing plants to ensure plants do not compromise safety for the sake of efficiency, and they may research and develop foods that are healthier and safer to consume.

Some food technologists focus on product development. They may consult with product professionals and assist with researching and approving nutritional data, designing packaging, writing product specifications and enforcing labelling regulations. Similarly, some food technologists assist with designing food processing plants to ensure they comply with regulations and promote efficiency and safety.

What does a food technologist do?

To answer 'What is a food technologist's day-to-day like" here are some common duties that they may perform at work:

  • Collaborate with staff: Food technologists collaborate with staff working in food production to ensure staff handles food safely, labels ingredients properly and distributes food products correctly.

  • Conduct research on products and markets: These professionals perform research on food products and markets to improve existing food products available.

  • Develop product labelling guidelines: These professionals create labelling guidelines for food products to ensure consumers understand which ingredients are used to make the food they eat.

  • Document food records: Food technologists may use organisational methods to ensure they store research backlogs effectively.

  • Ensure food is safe: This task requires food technologists to review food regulations to ensure products are safe for consumption.

  • Improve efficiency: Food technologists may consult with professionals who operate processing plants to identify ways to improve efficiency without compromising safety or health.

  • Maintain regulations at food processing plants: They oversee food processing plants to ensure they are following all rules, laws and regulations regarding food manufacturing.

  • Travel to farms: Food technologists travel to farms to observe how they process food, like meat and dairy products. They check to ensure that there are no harmful preservatives added to food products.

How to become a food technologist

Follow these steps to pursue a career as a food technologist:

1. Earn a qualification

Complete year 12, and pursue a relevant qualification from university. While completing your year 12 studies, focus on subjects such as biology, chemistry and mathematics. While in university, you may earn a certificate, diploma or bachelor's degree in a science-based field like:

  • Biochemistry

  • Chemistry

  • Dietetics

  • Food science

  • Microbiology

  • Nutrition

Related: 17 Interesting Nutrition Careers to Pursue (With Salaries)

2. Pursue relevant certifications

Some organisations may require you to complete certain requirements or provide specific certifications upon employment. For example, some organisations may require you to pass a medical exam or undergo a national police check. Other organisations may require you to have a first-aid certificate before beginning work.

3. Gain relevant experience

To gain valuable on-the-job experience and develop your understanding of the industry, you can apply for entry-level jobs. Consider exploring a variety of areas within food technology to help you determine what type of specialty you may want to pursue later in your career. Similarly, you may consider pursuing general jobs related to building your lab skills, especially while you're still earning your qualification.

4. Join professional organisations

Consider joining a professional organisation related to food technology, such as the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology. This may help you keep current with the latest developments in your field and allow you to connect with other professionals. Similarly, your membership in professional organisations may demonstrate your commitment to your career to hiring managers when you apply for jobs.

5. Build your network

Explore ways to build your professional network. Begin with local or national professional organisations you can join, and consider creating a profile on online networking platforms. Leveraging your network can be beneficial when you look for new jobs or potential mentors.

Related: Become a Networking Expert in 7 Steps

6. Advance your career

As you continue your career, think about your options for advancement. For example, you may choose to earn an additional qualification, such as a master's degree in food science and technology. Similarly, as you advance in your career, you may determine which aspects of food technology you prefer. This may help you choose a specialisation to focus your career on, such as:

  • Food biotechnology

  • Food entrepreneurship

  • Food fermentation

  • Product design

Food technologist skills

Becoming a food technologist requires developing a specific skill set comprising various soft and hard skills. Soft skills relate to your personality and natural abilities. Hard skills, however, refer to the technical skills you need to perform your specific job and the skills you may learn through experience or formal education or training.

Some examples of important skills to develop to become a food technologist include:

Lab skills

Lab skills refer to your capability to complete certain tasks when working in a laboratory setting. This includes how to operate certain equipment, follow procedures and guidelines, perform tests, create records and clean equipment and tools. Lab skills are essential for food technologists to analyse food and complete various laboratory tests.

Teamwork

Teamwork skills reflect how well you work with other people. Food technologists often collaborate with other professionals, especially those who work in product development. It's important they're able to build relationships and work together successfully to achieve a common goal.

Read more: Teamwork Skills: Definition and Examples

Research skills

Research skills can help you gather and review information about a topic to find an answer or determine the solution to a problem. Food technologists use research skills to learn more about various foods and products. Similarly, they may use research skills to learn more about other organisations in the market, updated safety regulations or methods of improving processes.

Analytical thinking

Analytical thinking skills enable you to evaluate a problem, identify problems, create connections between facts and determine potential solutions. Food technologists need analytical thinking skills to evaluate their research findings appropriately. These skills may also help them develop creative solutions to issues with processes or safety they find in processing plants.

Read more: Definition and Examples of Analytical Skills

Workplace safety

Workplace safety includes your ability to follow and enforce safety guidelines. Food technologists must follow strict safety guidelines, especially those related to hygiene and personal protection when they're working with food. It's also important for them to be mindful of the materials they're working with when performing laboratory tests. Similarly, it's their responsibility to enforce food safety standards, so they need a good understanding of health and safety as related to food.

Written communication skills

Written communication skills refer to your ability to record information and share information effectively. Food technologists often conduct research and experiments, so it's important for them to track their findings accurately. Similarly, it's essential that they're able to transform their findings into written reports.

Read more: Written Communication Skills: Tips and Examples

What is a food technologist's salary?

The national average salary for a food technologist is $72,262 per year. However, exact salaries may vary due to factors like experience, education, credentials and geographic location. For example, a candidate specialising in a particular area following the completion of a master's degree may earn more than the average salary.

What is a food technologist's work environment like?

Food technologists often work for companies or organisations that market and develop food products, specialise in food manufacturing or enforce and promote food safety. The answer to 'What is a food technologist's work environment like?' can vary significantly. Depending on the type of organisation they work for and the tasks they complete, they may work in a variety of settings, such as factories, offices or laboratories. Food technologists may sometimes travel to visit food or food product storage sites or the origin locations of items.

Food technologists generally work regular hours during the standard business week. However, they may sometimes need to work later hours when they need to meet deadlines. Similarly, they may also occasionally need to work in the evenings or on the weekends to run tests during non-peak times.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles