Careers Service Occupations

Food Science

Food Science

About

Food and drink is the UK's largest manufacturing sector, employing nearly 400,000 people with a turnover of about £76 billion.

Careers advice

Industry news

The Grocer contains food and drink retail information.

Just-food provides industry insight and company profiles.

There is also the Ingredients Network. 

Professional bodies

These represent people working in the sector, providing training and networking opportunities. They often provide careers support for students and graduates.

They also provide development for people already working in the sector. Follow them and sector skills bodies on LinkedIn, or visit their websites for news, contacts, work experience and vacancies. 

Professional associations/institutes

Research councils

The Medical Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council: Food Security work in this sector.

Government agencies

The Food Standards Agency protects the public and regulates food providers. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) deals with current and future food legislation.

Sector skills councils/industry associations

Making contacts

Talking to people working in the sector can give you an insight into roles and can be useful for networking and making speculative applications.

You could start with: 

Social media, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter, can also be useful for making contacts, finding employers and opportunities. The Institute of Food Science & Technology has a Facebook group for students.

Events

Recruitment fairs, open days, talks and events give insight and opportunities to make contacts.

Regular events for this sector include Food Matters Live – a three-day event on food, health and nutrition. It takes place annually in November, with more than 600 exhibitors ranging from large multinational companies to new start ups. It is free to attend.

There are also Employer Presentations and Recruitment Fairs. For more events for this sector see External Events.

Related sectors 

You may also be interested in HealthcareScience careers outside the lab or Agriculture

Or see our other occupational pages for more options.

Roles & Skills

There are lots of opportunities open to you with a degree in food sciences - from academic research and healthcare, to quality assurance and new product development.

A postgraduate qualification is not essential for some roles, although a Master’s can be useful. However, for other roles, such as in academic research, you may need either a research Master’s or PhD.  

There are also vocational courses for roles such as technical brewer. Brewlab in Sunderland, for example, offers training and analysis services for the brewing industry.

The following job profiles include descriptions of typical duties and entry requirements. For information on roles in nutrition and dietetics, visit our Healthcare page.

Food scientist/technologist

Product/process development scientist

Nutritionist

Technical brewer

Quality assurance manager

Quality control inspector

Toxicologist

Skills employers look for

Employers in this section look for roles including:

  • an interest in science and how it applies to food and cooking
  • an ability to follow strict hygiene rules and have high standards of cleanliness 
  • strong written and verbal communication skills, with excellent attention to detail
  • an ability to lead and work effectively in teams and have a logical approach to problem solving
  • flexibly, being able to prioritise your workload and having strong organisational skills
  • commercial awareness

Gaining Experience

Getting into food science is competitive. Work experience can be invaluable in developing relevant skills and demonstrating your interest and commitment to recruiters.

Finding work experience

Several large employers, such as Bakkavor, Nestlé, Mars and Unilever, offer internships and industrial placements. Applications generally open around September, with closing dates as early as October and November. See below for advertised opportunities. 

Newcastle University food and human nutrition students have also had placements at:

  • Marks and Spencer
  • Food Nation
  • Kraft
  • Mondelez
  • Masterfoods
  • the MRC Human Nutrition Research Unit in Cambridge

You can also choose to take your work placement abroad via the Erasmus scheme (UK and EU students). 

Smaller companies often don’t advertise opportunities. You may need to contact them with a speculative approach. Do this early, as it can be very competitive. 

Professional bodies and research councils also advertise opportunities, including research, funding and studentships. See About for a list of organisations.

Internships and placements

You can also find work experience by contacting university departments and research institutes. The Ranks Prize Fund offers summer vacation studentships for research projects in human nutrition, animal nutrition and crop husbandry.

Finding companies

Find organisations that interest you and get in touch - always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for.

Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.

You can get help with finding companies by looking at:

Other ways to gain experience

All work experience is valuable so if you can't find lab-based work experience, why not try some of these alternative ideas for gaining skills and experience:

For more advice on gaining experience in a non-lab based environment, see Science Careers Outside The Lab.

Finding Jobs

Food science graduates work in a wide range of organisations - from food manufacturers and retailers, to government departments and agriculture.

Opportunities are also available in research and scientific sectors, and also within the NHS and private healthcare, as dietitians or nutritional therapists.

Use the following resources to find advertised vacancies and also research employers for speculative applications.

Professional bodies and research councils also advertise graduate positions. See About for a list of organisations.

For further sources of vacancies in universities and research institutions, see Research in Academia

Vacancy sites 

Specialist recruitment agencies

Recruitment agencies sometimes advertise placements and internships. They also have a wealth of industry knowledge.

Finding companies

Not all jobs are advertised. You could also approach organisations directly or find work through networking and making contacts in the industry.

Find companies that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for.

Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.