What qualifications do I need to have to work in food technology?
Published: 06 Jul 2016
If you want to have an impact on the future development of food and beverage products, then going the food technology route is definitely a great way to do it. As a food technologist, you will be testing and developing new ideas, as well as smoothing processes and conducting experiments to gather data. You may also be responsible for the data that goes onto food packaging. If you want in, you can apply for jobs through YourFoodJob.com – but first, let’s check the qualifications that you are going to need.
To start with, you will need certain basic qualifications from a school level. You will need to have good results in your science GCSEs, maths, English, and two other subjects, as well as at least two A levels – preferably relevant ones. These are the minimum requirements to get onto the kind of course that you need, but some courses may be stricter and require you to achieve more. If you do not have the appropriate GCSEs or A levels, you can use adult learning courses to fill in the gaps and get those exams that you missed in the past.
As for higher education, there are several paths to go. You could take a HND or HNC in food technology, or you could take a foundation degree. The most common option, of course, is simply to go for a degree in the field. You could also look up subjects such as food science and food studies, as they tend to be very similar and will give you the qualifications that you need.
If you already have a degree and it is not in the sector that you require, you can take a postgraduate course to increase your chances of employment. Consider food safety or food quality management as two areas which you could explore in this case.
If you are looking to do a short course only, you could consider related subjects such as food hygiene or meat safety. Your employer may also ask you to take on one of these courses when you begin your employment, as well as qualifications such as in sales and marketing.
Depending on the area that you wish to work in, you may also be required to take health and safety qualifications which are awarded by organisations such as the Royal Society for Public Health or the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. If you want to be aware of all the skills you need for your job, consider signing up to the Institute of Food Science and Technology, where you will find a continuing professional development scheme.
Experience always helps to make you a more attractive prospect for employers, but it may be difficult to gain this if you are focusing on your studies. You could work part-time or complete a placement at the same time as studying part-time if you wish to develop both sides of the coin at once. Completing at least one year in the industry is always going to improve your job prospects, and you can also consider shorter terms of work experience or internships as part of your course.
You could also head straight into the world of work if you prefer. Join as a lab technician and you may be able to work your way towards qualifications within your company. You can find the chance for promotion within the same company or by moving on after a year or two.
Finally, what are the personal qualities that you are going to need if you want to do well in food technologist jobs? You will need a strong basis in science and maths, as these are key components of the job and cannot be ignored. Strong attention to detail is also important if you are going to conduct experiments and record data accurately.
You will need to be able to work to strict rules about health and safety as well as hygiene, and you should have an overall interest in food production to remain motivated. Communication skills are required for discussing ideas and new products, and teamwork should be one of your key skills as well.