Food Science: A Rewarding and Lucrative Career Path - Results from the IFT Annual Employment and Salary Survey

February 16, 2010


CHICAGO –Despite the recessionary climate, the median salary for food scientists polled by Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) increased by 4.4 percent over the past two years according to the recently released IFT Annual Employment and Salary Survey.

All business sectors have been affected by the economic downturn; however, the food science profession managed to break the mold by increasing the median salary to $87,700 from $84,000 in 2007. According to food science academics and recruiters, interviewed for the February Food Technology magazine article that accompanied the release of survey findings in the publication, the industry may be a bit sluggish but it is stable.

The IFT Annual Employment and Salary Survey produced a 25 percent return rate with over 2,500 responses to a 33-question national survey last fall. This survey is conducted every two years and is sent to IFT members in the United States.

Highlights from the survey include:

    • Survey participants were split almost equally between men (51 percent) and women (49 percent), but among respondents under age 30, more than three-fourths (76 percent) were women.
    • 60 percent of the respondents are under the age of 50.
    • The starting salary for both sexes combined—considered here as the median salary for those with one year or less of professional food-related work experience since receiving their BS degree—increased by 9.2 percent to $50,000 from $45,800 in 2007. 
    • Approximately one-third (34 percent) of the respondents have had 10 or fewer years of professional food-related work experience since receiving their BS degree, and well over one-third (42 percent) have had more than 20 years of experience .
    • Nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of the respondents have worked for more than one employer, and more than half (54 percent) have had two to four employers.
    • Slightly more than half (52 percent) of the respondents work for companies with fewer than 1,000 employees; about one-fourth (26 percent) work for companies with more than 5,000 employees.
    • More than two-thirds (67 percent) of the respondents work in the R&D/scientific/technical category, while 10 percent are employed in Sales/Marketing, nine percent in Education, eight percent in Management, two percent in Consulting, two percent in Government, and one percent in Purchasing.
    • More than two-thirds (70 percent) of survey respondents work for food and beverage companies and ingredient suppliers, with the next largest percentage (9 percent) working in academia.
    • Almost 60 percent of the respondents work in states east of the Mississippi River, nearly one-third in East Coast states; Of the U.S. Census Bureau’s geographic divisions of the U.S., the East North Central region—Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio—has the highest percentage of respondents.
    • The New England and South Atlantic regions had the highest median salaries.



    Median values of salary, cash bonus, and stocks by sex, all degrees, years of experience, and types of business combined


    Median, $ (No. of respondents)



    Both sexes combined








    Cash bonus















    Where Food Scientists Work




















    Gender in Food Science Field


















     To read the full results of the IFT Annual Employment and Salary Survey visit:



    The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a nonprofit scientific society. Our individual members are professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT's mission is to advance the science of food, and our long-range vision is to ensure a safe and abundant food supply, contributing to healthier people everywhere. 

    For more than 70 years, the IFT has been unlocking the potential of the food science community by creating a dynamic global forum where members from more than 100 countries can share, learn, and grow. We champion the use of sound science across the food value chain through the exchange of knowledge, by providing education, and by furthering the advancement of the profession. IFT has offices in Chicago, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit

    © 2010 Institute of Food Technologists

    Jeannie Houchins, MA, RD