Food Science Salaries in the Spotlight Mary Ellen Kuhn | February 2016, Volume 70, No.2

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Table 2. Median Value of Salary, Cash Bonus, and Stocks by Gender, All Degrees, Years of Experience, and Types of Business Combined
Table 2. Median Value of Salary, Cash Bonus, and Stocks by Gender, All Degrees, Years of Experience, and Types of Business Combined
The fact that the percentage of women who completed the survey—55%—was higher than in any prior year is another likely contributor to the overall flat salary figure because women’s reported median salary of $79,000 in 2015 was the same as in the 2013 survey although the median for men—$105,000—was up 2.9%. (See Table 2 for details on salaries, bonuses, and earnings from stocks in 2015.)

With a salary gap of this size between males and females, perhaps it’s not surprising that 45% of the women survey respondents said they did not think that their opportunities for advancement and compensation in the profession were equal to men’s. (See related story about women’s careers and compensation.)

A Robust Job Market
Despite the fact that salary growth has been anemic, recruiters say that the job market was robust in 2015, and they expect a continuation of that in 2016. In fact, for midcareer food scientists with strong résumés, it’s clearly a candidates’ market, several recruiters told Food Technology.

Figure 1. How would you rate your level of job satisfaction?
Figure 1. How would you rate your level of job satisfaction?

“There are a lot of jobs out there right now,” says Tim Oliver, a Conyers, Ga.–based senior partner with food industry recruitment firm OSI. According to Oliver, many Baby Boomers who hung onto their jobs for a while in the postrecession period are starting to retire, which is opening up new opportunities. He believes that’s helping to nudge salaries up. “Within the past few months, companies finally seem willing to pay a little bit more,” he notes.

“This is a candidates’ market more than any time that I’ve seen in the past,” says Cathleen Allen, a recruiting contractor for Sparks, Md.–based McCormick & Co., who has worked in the recruiting profession for two decades.

Hyllberg agrees. “If you’re a top performer and you have skills in a particular product category or multiple product categories, you’re in demand and employers are seeking to attract you to their organization,” she says. “I would definitely say it’s candidate-driven right now.”

Figure 2. What factor contributes most positively to your job satisfaction? *Total does not equal 100% due to rounding.
Figure 2. What factor contributes most positively to your job satisfaction? *Total does not equal 100% due to rounding.

Moira McGrath, president of OPUS International, a food science–focused executive search firm based in Deerfield Beach, Fla., adds that she’s seeing opportunities across a broad cross section of the discipline. “It’s more across the board this year. Some years it was more food safety–driven. This year we’ve seen [job opportunities in] just about everything from regulatory to product development to quality assurance to food safety.”

According to McGrath, there’s a shortage of qualified candidates with about 10 to 15 years of experience who are well-positioned to ascend the corporate ladder into a managerial role. “What’s still missing is the young professional—that 30- to 40-year-old who is ready to move into a leadership position,” says McGrath, who attributes the gap to the fact that food science graduates were in relatively short supply a decade or so ago. Flavorists, flavor chemists, and food scientists with expertise related to the Food Safety Modernization Act are in particularly high demand, according to recruiters interviewed for this article.