Food Science Major

Love of science, love of food.

The science and practice of manufacturing food and beverages that are nutritious, delicious, and safe to eat. Students learn in a hands-on, small classroom setting and can step immediately into rewarding careers in industry and government or continue on to graduate and professional schools.

Small-school feel. Big-university opportunities.

Penn State Food Science is a tight-knit community united by the common passions of food and science. You belong here.  You'll get the personalized attention you need to thrive academically and excel in your career.

Our faculty conduct critical research across the spectrum of food science. We’re pursuing the safety and security of our food supply, finding innovative ways to use food waste, exploring the ancient history and cutting-edge technology of wine making, and deepening our understanding of what influences consumer choices. But cultivating your talent and producing the next generation of world-class food scientists is priority number one.

Employers want to hire Penn State Food Science grads.

The biggest and best companies routinely tell us that our graduates are prepared to step into leadership roles from day one. Regardless of economic ups and downs, people have to eat. The food industry is consistently recession proof, and food scientists are always in high demand.

Food Science is the right major if you’re:

  • a solid science student looking for real-world application
  • seeking an academic path with an extremely encouraging career potential
  • in search of practical, marketable credentials
  • interested in developing new food products, supervising manufacturing operations, or ensuring food quality and safety
  • aspiring to work for government agencies enforcing the regulations that keep our food supply safe

A premier academic experience.

Food scientists evaluate new ingredients and processesin the pilot plant.

Pilot plants

State-of-the-art production facilities where students gain hands-on experience with equipment and methods used in the food industry. Food Science students have extraordinary access to our on-campus pilot plants so they can put their learning to work in a setting close to actual manufacturing conditions.

Food scientists check how specific factors affect the sensory properties of foods.

Sensory Evaluation Center

Is it crunchy enough? Too tart? How does it look on the plate? Chemistry and biology alone aren’t enough to answer those critical food questions. At our modern, industry-inspired Sensory Evaluation Center, students learn the disciplines, vocabulary, and techniques to scientifically quantify and qualify the pleasure of eating and drinking.

Food scientist jobs include food quality management, processing, research, and marketing.

Career-driven curriculum

We are food leaders and followers. The curriculum is constantly updated to reflect groundbreaking research conducted by Penn State faculty and students, and to respond to evolving demands of the industry.

Example courses

  • Food Chemistry and Analysis
  • Food Engineering Principles
  • Food Microbiology
  • Managing Food Quality
  • Physiology of Nutrition
  • Science and Technology of Dairy Foods
  • Science and Technology of Plant Foods
  • Food Laws and Regulations
  • Sensory Analysis

Ag Journeys

“The students are the difference.”

–Lauren Wolf

Lauren Wolf

The classroom is only the beginning.

You’ll study with professors who are leaders in their specialties, but they’ll be the first to tell you that the classroom and lab are just the beginning of your Food Science experience. You bring the interest, and we’ll help find you a faculty-guided club, internship, externship, or hands-on research opportunity. The learning doesn’t stop on campus, or in Pennsylvania for that matter. Wine making in Napa Valley? Cheese production in France? We visit—and we learn.

Craft your experience.

Related clubs and teams

  • Food Science Club
  • Food product development competitions
  • Student research poster competitions
  • Beekeepers Club
  • Dairy Science Club
  • Dairy judging teams
  • Fermentation Club
  • Student Farm Club
  • See all clubs and teams

Recent internships

  • Food inspector
  • Microbiologist
  • Product development
  • Research and development, quality, and innovation

Popular study abroad experiences

  • Greek Culture and Food
  • Brewing and Malting in Europe
  • Comparing French and U.S. Food Systems in France
  • Exploring Food Production in Italy
Wine making is just one of the possible internships for Penn State food scientists.
Students study abroad in Italy and France to expand their education.

A practical, workforce-ready degree—and a college experience you’ll love.

Penn State Food Science alumni walk off the stage at graduation and step into stellar careers all over the world. You can harness the awesome power of a truly unique education at one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

Our alumni out in the world

  • Product development
  • Federal and state regulatory agencies
  • Graduate school
  • Sensory evaluation labs
  • Food processing operations
  • Quality assurance and inspection
  • Food safety
  • Manufacturing
  • Procurement
  • Trade associations
  • Universities and extension
  • Technical sales and service

Food Science Career Options

What can I do with a Food Science degree? Most graduates take a job in the food industry. Check out a few career examples below!

Food scientist

A food scientist applies core sciences like chemistry, biology, and math to ensure the safety, quality, nutritional value, and pleasurable sensory experience of food. They most often work in food production facilities, laboratories, and pilot plants, and in management roles.

What will I do?

  • Assure the nutritional content of food
  • Ensure compliance with government regulations
  • Research new and better ways of selecting, preserving, processing, packaging, and distributing food

Federal and state careers

Professionals work in various roles for state or federal governmental agencies, including state departments of agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  

What will I do?

  • Conduct inspections of food operations and enforce regulations
  • Develop policy and regulations affecting the safety and quality of the food supply
  • Conduct research and investigate issues affecting public health
  • Perform chemical and biological analytical testing on food

Food production manager

Managers play a key leadership role in food manufacturing facilities, and their work can span a wide variety of fulfilling responsibilities.

What will I do?

  • Plan operations and production
  • Ensure effective implementation of food processing standards
  • Manage day-to-day operations in a modern food factory
  • Oversee and guide the professional development of employees

Product developer

Professionals in this arena are involved in developing new food products or improving the quality, performance, and/or safety of existing products. Many product developers work for established companies, but others work for start-ups or start their own businesses.

What will I do?

  • Use creativity in formulating new culinary concepts
  • Apply sensory evaluation expertise to assess products
  • Work with others to solve complex problems and spark innovations

Food Science Students in the News

November 3, 2023

Food Science Club spotlight: A community-based program

The Food Science Club is a student-based group in the College of Agricultural Sciences that offers opportunities for students to advance their academic and professional careers.

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March 2, 2023

Heinz ketchup bottle innovator creates food packaging program endowment

After a successful career in food packaging, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences alumnus Doug Peck has committed $200,000 from his future estate to create the Douglas R. Peck Food Packaging Endowment in Food Science. The program endowment will support opportunities and efforts in the Department of Food Science related to food packaging programming.

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December 5, 2022

College of Ag Sciences minority alumni return to campus, discuss their journeys

Four graduates of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences recently returned to campus to discuss success in class to success in life as guest speakers on a minority alumni panel, hosted by the college’s Office of Multicultural Affairs.

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December 2, 2022

Internships earn awards for College of Agricultural Sciences students

Twelve Penn State students have been selected as College of Agricultural Sciences Alumni Society 2022 Internship Award winners. The award, which includes a $1,000 stipend, was established to encourage students to participate in a credit or noncredit educational internship program related to their field of study.

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