Food Science: A degree for those fascinated by all aspects of food'

What are the entry requirements for this course?

Entry requirements vary between different universities, but offers typically range from EE to BBB at A-level, or 180-300 points. Subjects commonly required, or preferred, include one or more of maths, biology, chemistry and physics; some institutions offer a foundation year to get you up to speed if you don't have these A-levels.

Who applies?

Food is a topic that interests us all. From the worrying rise in childhood obesity to whether additives or GM products are safe, it is hard to go a week without seeing some sort of food issue in the news. And, with the current raised awareness about the links between diet, health and lifestyle, it doesn't look as if food will be off the public conscience's menu anytime soon.

The term "food science" may conjure up an image of home economics lessons in your mind but there's a lot more to the subject than that! People who study for a degree in this area are normally fascinated by all aspects of food: how it is produced, what makes it safe, how it reacts to various stimuli and how it can help combat a range of illnesses and diseases.

What does the course involve?

Food science degrees involve a mixture of learning in groups and individually. Subjects covered in lectures are often discussed in greater depth in tutorials and seminars, while practical classes and lab work let you put theory into practice. In the final year of most courses, students will be expected to carry out research into a topic of their own choosing to consolidate their learning.

The sort of topics covered include: human nutrition, origins and forms in food, food and cancer, solving food-processing problems, recipe analysis, consumer trends, marketing, and research and communication skills.

Food science courses tend to be quite practical in nature and virtually all offer students the opportunity to undertake a work placement as part of their assessment procedure. At the University of Leeds, for example, students spend six months in a major UK food company, while those at the University of Abertay, Dundee, spend 10 weeks in one of many settings including food companies, consumer advice centres and media centres. Some institutions can even help their undergraduates find a placement in a European country, if so desired.

How would I be assessed?

Most courses are assessed via a mixture of continuous assessments, such as coursework assignments, class tests and formal exams.

How long does it last?

Usually three years for full-time courses, or four years if a sandwich year in industry or a year studying abroad is taken.

Are there opportunities available for further study?

Some universities offer higher degrees in areas related to food science. Reading University offers either a two-year MPhil or a three-year PhD in such areas as food and bioprocessing sciences, human nutrition, and food microbial sciences. Graduates at the University of Wales in Cardiff can benefit from the Government-funded knowledge-transfer schemes, in which they can work on projects within the food industry while gaining further qualifications such as an MPhil.

What career options are there when the course is completed?

Over 500,000 people are employed in the UK's food and drink industry, which has a turnover of £70bn - 15 per cent of the manufacturing sector. Britain is a world leader in the fields of food science and technology but its success depends on being able to employ enough well-qualified food science graduates to work within the related fields.

Job vacancies typically exist in research and development, quality control, hygiene, packaging, food microbiology and food analysis. There are also opportunities in allied areas such as communication, marketing, retail management, health, dietetics and more general management fields.

Katy Hamilton, 20, has just finished the final year of her food science and nutrition degree at Northumbria University

"I did A-levels in biology, sociology and food technology. I have always loved food and knew I wanted to be involved in something related to it. The first year of the course was very practical in nature, to familiarise us with all the lab equipment we would be using.

Overall, the course was a good mixture of lectures and practical sessions. Assessment was more or less continuous; through essays, lab reports, group work, presentations and a third-year dissertation. I also undertook a five-week placement with the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. I'm hoping for a great mark in my finals and then plan to find some work in new product development, specialising in nutrition."

Donna Rutherford, 23, works as a food sciences teacher at Treorchy Comprehensive School in the Rhondda, South Wales

"After graduating in July 2005, I undertook a PGCE at the University of Wales in Cardiff and am now a full-time secondary school teacher. I teach home economics to 11- to 14-year-olds, GCSE catering to 14- to 16-year-olds, A-level health and social care, and BTEC early years.

My job is so enjoyable. It allows me to pass on my enthusiasm about food to pupils, although maintaining their interest can be challenging at times, as is encouraging them to continue with food sciences at higher levels. In July, I will have completed my first year of teaching and am happy where I am. In the future, I would like to become head of department, but not for a long time yet!"


Institute of Food Science and Technology

The professional body for food science and technology

Food science technology careers

Careers and course in the industry

British Nutrition Foundation

For healthy eating information and resources

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