I have a PhD in Food Science, What Are My Career Options?

Hey Team FoodGrads!

Maybe you have this question, or maybe you know someone who has the same dilemma?  Please feel free to share.

 I have a question regarding possible work opportunities for a Food Science technologist holding a PhD degree. 

At my stage we always look for research jobs but I would like to know if I don’t want to continue working in laboratories, what other options do I have in the Food Industry?”

This question was another hugely popular one, clearly a hot topic.  I reached out to my LinkedIn network for their advice and the following is their feedback.

Feedback from the Food & Beverage FoodGrads Community;

In our company, we only hire Directors and CSOs if they have PHDs. So high level management is always an option Adam Yee

As a PhD in Food Science, your best bet is an R&D position in food industry if you desire to leave academia and academic labs/research. The job titles can be from Research Scientist to Product Developer but the reality is that there is no real research going on in the Canadian Food industry and the R&D departments and R&D jobs in the Canadian Food Industry are only a “big D” (Product Development) which could be of interest based on your own preferences and areas of focus.

In general though, it is not the easiest transition from years of academia -BSc, MSc, PhD and for some PostDoc into industry, one main reason being over-qualification with a PhD in hand! However this transition is not impossible, it takes effort and needs determination and faith in what you ultimately wish to do.

For me I finally decided–which was not the easiest decision and took a lot of thinking and consulting–to even resist PostDoc offers that I had after PhD graduation and keep striving to get in the right position in industry.

Now I am very happy that I took the time and the risk, the risk of swimming up stream–not accepting a PostDoc offer even from Cornell University–to enable myself to transit into industry faster. Somayeh Sabouri, Ph.D.

I have noticed that larger more established companies like Kraft, Unilever and Nestle tend to appreciate pHd’s – they understand what they can bring to the table and need them for all of their own inside research.

Smaller companies do not always have that need because they are not doing internal research but formulating based on research that has been done. Rachel Zemser, CFS, CCS, MS

I think you have just created an awesome question for networking meetings. For all those PhD Food Scientists out there looking for career options.  I’d suggest you look to LinkedIn to find heads of R&D in companies within driving distance of your home (unless you feel comfortable doing these meetings via phone), send them an InMail (yeah, you have to pay for them, but it’s money well spent if it helps get you where you want to go) and ask for 30 minutes of their time to talk about their views on the food industry.

During the conversation go ahead and ask them straight out what they think the barriers are for PhD’s in the food science industry to finding a meaningful career path. Not only will you get thoughtful answers, but the impression you will leave with these people will supercharge your career search. They might even hire you themselves! Kurt C Schneider, CFS

Always remember that labs are not the only places to work. As an engineer I must say that a lot of problems and technical issues can be troubleshooted outside lab level. Sometimes real life and process challenges can only be handled by applying common sense and having analytical thinking Alejandro Bustamante Muriel

In a Kitchen cooking and making recipes or food styling for a publication. Back to the roots… Rebecca Faez

I absolutely love your desire to leave the confines of a laboratory. It indicates a certain confidence in your ability to present and validate your work in the hurly burly of ‘business’ lifeTushar Trivedi

There are great options out there such as technical sales, business development and innovation managers. Elizabeth Bolanos Zeas

Process engineers, plant managers, tech sales reps, consulting and entrepreneurshipAlejandro Bustamante Muriel

Agreed! Our Food Ingredients team employs Application Development Specialists to provide R&D support to our customers above and beyond what our technical sellers can do. Julie Bean

We are a teaching university looking for PHD’s if they are interestedDarryl Holliday

More like a Food Research Technologist and being a part of the senior management is where their skills can be put to full potential. Their analytical thinking skills can also be used for creating new formulations and recipes. Siddharth Suresh, MSc

Various choices and career paths such as developing processes for efficient manufacturing of food products by analyzing technical functionality of ingredients, product development, developing food safety programs to minimize risk from various hazards (HACCP program implementation & development).

Furthermore, if you have a really keen eye and enough well rounded experience you can go into six sigma to reduce variances, work on potential business impacting problems and thus predict business performance in terms of cost, profits etc. Chitkanwal Randhawa HACCP, B.E.

As a dynamic regulator in the animal health, plant health and food safety space, we employ a number of very bright minds to shape food safety programs, provide science advice and help inspectors deliver activities in the best possible way.  Consider this in your job search. Martin Appelt

Related: Why The PhD Is The New MBA


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