Food scientists, sometimes called food technologists, conduct research and experiments with the aim of improving the nation's food-processing systems and food products. Entry-level positions in the field require at least a bachelor's degree, and advancement often requires a master's degree or Ph.D. While food scientists at all levels of experience reported an average income of $64,140 per year to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012, food scientists just starting out in the field tend to earn less.
Median Starting Pay
According to a salary survey conducted by the Institute of Food Technologists, or IFT, food scientists with a bachelor's degree reported a median starting salary of $44,000 a year in 2011. This represented a notable increase from the $28,200 median starting pay reported in 1993. However, there was a significant pay difference between men and women, with women starting at a median pay of $43,000 a year and men starting at $52,000 a year.
Starting Pay by Degree
The 2011 IFT salary survey also revealed that starting pay tended to be higher for food scientists who had higher-level degrees. While those with a bachelor's degree earned a median of $44,000 per year, those who graduated with a master's degree reported a median annual income of $60,000 a year. Unsurprisingly, food scientists with a Ph.D. reported the highest starting pay, at $74,500 per year.
Once they have several years of experience, food scientists can expect an average income of $64,140 a year, according to 2012 BLS statistics. Average salaries varied considerably by state, with Massachusetts reporting the highest average income of $77,500 per year, and Mississippi reporting the lowest of $48,050 a year. Food scientists employed by the federal government earned the highest average income by employer, at $91,850 per year. Those employed by scientific research and development firms averaged $75,160 a year, while those employed by specific industries reported average salaries ranging from about $55,000 to $65,000 per year.
According to the BLS, food scientists can expect a relatively slow job growth rate between 2010 and 2020 of about 8 percent. This amounts to only about 1,100 new jobs. By comparison, the average rate of job growth in the American economy over the same period is projected to be 14 percent. The majority of job openings are expected to occur in private industry.