Success in the field of agriculture and food chemistry requires motivation and tenacity, along with a sense of purpose to serve society. For agricultural chemists, creativity and innovation are key, and a strong awareness of risk. Food and flavor chemists need excellent senses of smell and taste and good odor memory.
Typical Job Functions
The common goal of agricultural and food chemists is to produce sufficient nutritious food and feed to support the population while being responsible stewards of our environment and ecosystem. They delve into all aspects of crop and animal production, food safety, quality, nutrition, processing, packaging, and utilization of materials (including bioenergy).
- Agricultural and Food Chemists in Basic Research - Study the properties of proteins, fats, starches, carbohydrates, and microcomponents (e.g., additives and flavorants) to determine how each works in a food system.
- Agricultural and Food Chemists in Applications Research - Develop new ways to use ingredients. They also create new ingredients (e.g., fat or sugar replacements). This work is especially prevalent in the industrial sector.
Agricultural and food science touches many aspects of our lives. Specific areas for careers in agriculture and food science include:
- Agricultural Chemists - Develop new chemicals to increase crop production and yield, defend against pests, and protect the environment
- Animal Scientists - Conduct research concerning animal nutrition; study animal genetics, nutrition, diseases, etc.
- Flavor Chemists (“Flavorists”) - Create new and improved flavors
- Food Chemists - Look for ways to make food and drinks safe, economical, and appealing for consumers
- Nutritional Chemists - Perform research on the physical and chemical properties of nutrients
- Molecular Gastronomists - Apply scientific principles to the practice of cooking
- Soil and Plant Chemists - Examine soil composition and develops methods to conserve and manage it. (Closely aligned with environmental science)
Anyone interested in pursuing a career in the agriculture and food chemistry field should consider enrolling in a specialized food science program. Certification is only required in some states but is recognized and well-received throughout the profession. Certification in this field can be a long process.
- Certified Food Scientist Credential from the Institute of Food Technologists - Bachelor’s degree in a related science, plus six years of full-time work experience, required. (Advanced degrees reduce the number of years of experience required.)
- Society of Flavor Chemists - A five-year apprenticeship with a flavor house is required for membership
- American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists (ARPAS) and the Soil Science Society of American (SSSA) certifications - Require education, experience, and passing an examination