How to make it in your chosen career: Food Technologist

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The Independent Online

Job description (what it says): The application of science to the practical treatment of food materials in order to produce safe, wholesome, nutritious and attractive foods

Job description (what it says): The application of science to the practical treatment of food materials in order to produce safe, wholesome, nutritious and attractive foods

Job description (what it means): On the scientific side you may be testing foods for quality and safety, or supervising a production line or factory. You could bring to birth a new product, or monitor snaps, crackles and pops. You may have to liaise with suppliers and customers, and purchase ingredients. There are opportunities to move into management and marketing.

Qualifications: Two A-levels from chemistry, physics, biology and maths are usually required. While a degree in food technology is preferable, many employers will accept other science graduates.

Way in: Perhaps owing to the spate of recent health scares, the popularity of the industry is in decline. There is thus a high demand for graduates. Some companies will sponsor you through university. Most food science degrees are sandwich courses (ho ho) and involve a significant amount of time on industrial training placements, which can often result in a job offer. The big firms, including Northern Foods, Sainsbury's and M&S, participate in a milk round, and jobs are advertised in the national and trade press.

Starting salary: The average for a graduate is £18,000.

In five years: A high-flyer could now earn up to £40,000.

Benefits: Worldwide opportunities exist. With the falling number of applications, it's an employee's market: graduates may get the pick of several jobs.

Downside: The public hold you personally to blame for BSE, E-coli, GM foods, salmonella...

More information: The Institute of Food Science and Technology publishes booklets. See its website at www.ifst.org, or phone 020-7603 6316.

Role models: The man from Del Monte, helicoptered into jungles to affirm the quality of orange juice. Nor should we overlook Margaret Thatcher, who is credited with a part in giving Mr Whippy ice-cream to a grateful world.

Need not apply: Anyone not of a scientific disposition. If you're the dieting type you also might want to think twice before immersing yourself in the world of food.

Prospects: Graduates can reach the higher echelons of management surprisingly quickly. Creative foodies can go on to set up their own companies and develop new products.

Do say in interview: "I think someone's overdone the butylated hydroxynisole in this cheese sandwich."

Don't say in interview: "A little bit of dirt never did anyone any harm."

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