Food chemists are food scientists who specialize in studying the way that the chemical components of food impact its taste, quality and nutrition. Most food chemists work for food manufacturing companies, making tastier products that are more attractive to consumers, or finding ways to improve food processing. However, food chemists also find work in colleges and universities and with the federal government.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay for all types of food scientists and technologists as of 2012 was $64,140 per year, and half of all food scientists reported a salary range of between $43,170 and $79,100 per year. A salary survey conducted by the Institute of Food Technologists reports that food scientists with the title of chemist earned an average of $75,000 per year as of 2011.
Pay by Experience and Degree
The Institute of Food Technologists notes that food scientists with bachelor's degrees earned a median salary of $44,000 during their first year on the job, and a median of $94,500 with 21 to 25 years of experience. Those with a master's degree started at $60,000 and made a median of $110,000 after 21 to 25 years on the job, and those with a Ph.D. started at $74,500 and made a median salary of $120,000 by the time they had 21 to 25 years of food industry experience.
Geographical Pay Variations
The BLS states that the average pay for food scientists varies considerably by state and region, with most high-paying jobs located in the Northeast and the lowest-paying in states located in the Southeast. Lowest average pay in the U.S. was reported by food scientists working in Mississippi, who earned an average of $48,050 per year. The highest-paying areas in the U.S. were the District of Columbia, at $78,540; Massachusetts, at $77,500; and Maryland at $72,490.
Salary by Industry
Food scientists working for the federal government reported the highest average salary in 2012 -- $91,850 per year. Those employed by scientific research and development firms averaged $75,160 a year. In manufacturing, salaries varied by specific industry. For example, scientists in dairy manufacturing averaged $56,530 per year, those in grain milling averaged $58,860, and those in animal product manufacturing averaged $62,100. Food scientists employed by colleges and universities reported one of the lowest average salaries, at $52,390.
2016 Salary Information for Agricultural and Food Scientists
Agricultural and food scientists earned a median annual salary of $62,670 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, agricultural and food scientists earned a 25th percentile salary of $47,880, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $84,090, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 43,000 people were employed in the U.S. as agricultural and food scientists.