An agriculture and food science technician works within all areas of food production. A scientist in this field will study and work to improve the processes and breeding for livestock as well as improving the yield and quality of agricultural output. These types of scientists will assist with animal breeding and find ways to prevent and cure illnesses in all manner of livestock. They will also help to develop packaging, quality control, and the technology used to produce and transport the food eaten by millions of people. A scientist in this field can expect to work in a lab or out of doors on farms or wildlife areas.
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There are many different areas of food production that a scientist could work in. Many will work with animals bred for consumption. This type of scientist will find ways to improve the health and longevity of cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and many other types of animals. A food scientist will work on creating vaccines and cures for diseases as well as improving the slaughter methods and the transportation and preservation of the animal product.
Other agriculture and food science technicians will work primarily with crops. The goal will be to improve not only the yield but also the quality of the plant. They will study the plants themselves as well as the weather, soil conditions, and pests that may hinder or help the production of crops. These types of scientist will also study the genomes of plants to attempt to create agricultural systems that can survive in extreme or otherwise untamable locations.
Improved technology and quality control are also vital aspects of this career. Agriculture and food science technicians will study and work to find new ways to use preservatives and additives to keep food fresh longer. These types of scientists will have to ensure that the products they work on meet the Food and Drug Administration’s regulations and standards. This will include conducting tests and compiling reports on their area of study and maintaining a safe workplace with clean equipment.
Scientists must be patient, diligent and have a high attention to detail and strong analytic thinking abilities. Scientists in this field must also have excellent communication skills including being able to strong reading comprehension and writing proficiency. They will have to report on their findings in a way that gets the information across while still being readable to people who are not scientists. Food scientists will often to have to work on teams for larger projects, so being able to work in a group setting is important.
Most people who want to become food scientists will have to have some form of post-high school education. While in high school, students who wish to be food scientists should take as many math, science, and computer classes as are provided. A solid understanding of physics and chemistry will be a great asset to anyone interested in this field.
Post-high school education can vary. Many towns and cities have community colleges and technical schools that offer two-year degrees in food science. These schools should also be able to offer hands-on learning and the opportunities for internships and on-the-job training. Burlington County College in New Jersey is one such community college that specializes in food sciences. Riverland Community College in Minnesota also offers a two-year degree and master’s degrees in food sciences.
Students often begin with two-year community college and than transfer to a four-year university to obtain their bachelor’s degree. Those who obtain their bachelor’s degree will major in agricultural and food sciences, chemistry, biology, or forensics sciences. Most technicians start as trainees at their place of employment and then gain hands-on experience that allows them to move up in their company. The University of California Davis, The University of Florida, and Kansas State University all offer four-year degrees in agriculture and food science.
Depending on the workplace many scientists will work in a laboratory. The hours will vary from a standard eight-hour workday to a more irregular schedule depending on the type of experimentation or study occurring. However, many scientists in this field, including those that work in environmental sciences and protection, will work out of doors and often in remote conditions. These types of scientists will study the effects and growth rates of vegetation all over the world and in any season.
Scientists in the lab will have to work with sensitive and sophisticated machinery. They will have to be experts in computers as well as other delicate lab equipment. Technicians will begin as trainees working under more experienced scientists until they have enough experience and education to conduct and lead their own work, which will often include supervising others.
The salary will depend on the type of experience and education a scientist has. A scientist in this field at the beginning of his career can expect to make around $11.00 an hour or $23,000 a year. As they continue to gain experience and education they will make more; the average salary for someone in this position is around $36,000 a year or around $17.00 an hour. An expert in this field can expect to earn $54,000 a year or around $26.00 an hour, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.