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Food Science Degree Graduates on the Rise

The Food Network, celebrity chefs, diet-related health issues and a heightened awareness of contemporary food movements (organic, local and sustainable) appears to be translating into more college students choosing to major in food science...

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The Food Network, celebrity chefs, diet-related health issues and a heightened awareness of contemporary food movements (organic, local and sustainable) appears to be translating into more college students choosing to major in food science. On college campuses across the United States, undergraduate food science programs are showing substantial enrollment increases. An article in the March 2011 issue of Food Technology magazine, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), shows that the total number of students graduating with B.S. degrees from IFT-approved food science programs in the U.S. has almost doubled from 319 in 2004 to 591 in 2010.

John Floros, PhD, IFT member, professor and head of the Department of Food Science at Penn State University, who has seen enrollment in the program jump 40 percent over last year’s total, says that in addition to improved recruitment of high school students by IFT and university food science departments, enrollment increases can also be attributed to an increased interest in food in general.

Furthermore, jobs for food science graduates are plentiful and the starting salaries are excellent—even in a difficult economic climate. “Having a food science degree will practically guarantee you a job,” added Floros. Both parents and students are recognizing the importance of graduating with a degree that promises solid career potential.

Food science faculty members report that employers are seeking a well-rounded skill set that includes more than solid technical expertise. Employers want to see leadership, communication and team-building skills from recent graduates. In response, universities are adjusting their programs accordingly to encourage students to take advantage of internships and professional organizations, such as the Institute of Food Technologist Student Association (IFTSA), to develop these skills. The article also notes that many food science students are highly motivated to learn about nutrition and healthful foods formulation so that they can eventually help decrease the prevalence of diet-related health issues within the U.S. and around the world.