Online PhD in Food Science

Students who earn an online Ph.D. in food science will acquire a wealth of knowledge in the study of all things food-related. Ph.D. programs in food science are designed to use applied sciences — ranging from engineering to biology — in the study of food production, cultivation, preservation, and analysis. For instance, depending on their area of concentration, a Ph.D. candidate in food science may study how to make the production of certain foods more efficient and less costly for companies. Or they may study how to curb instances of outbreaks that occur due to foodborne illnesses. Overall programs in food science seek to better the condition and availability of food supplies worldwide.

Most food science Ph.D. programs aim to prepare students for careers in food science, research, and development. Students enrolled in these programs typically want to conduct long-term research on one particular facet of food science in the public sector, or they want to work with a private food company to develop innovations in the industry. There are many career opportunities for those with a Ph.D. in food science, from government jobs in public health to consultant work with major food distributors.

About Online Ph.D. Programs in Food Science

Online Ph.D. programs in food science work by incorporating hands-on research and lab work with distance learning coursework, blending traditional learning styles with newer online methods. Many of the online programs are designed to accommodate professionals as they earn their Ph.D. while simultaneously working a job in a related field. There's flexibility to the online Ph.D. programs that can't be replicated in more traditional programs. For example, some online programs have live video lectures and online forums where fellow Ph.D. candidates can discuss their work as well as planned days for in-person discussions and tests. For specific examples of the classes offered in food science Ph.D. programs, check out the degree plan for Penn State University's program.

Year One:

  • Fundamentals of Food Science – Microbiology. This class goes through the basics of food science from the perspective of microbiology. For instance, students will learn about the chemical processes that occur within foods on a molecular level.
  • Fundamentals of Food Science – Engineering. This class approaches food science with an emphasis on engineering. The class may discuss how to synthesize new foods, or how to optimize modern food production using the basic tenants of engineering.
  • Research Methods in Food Science. Students will familiarize themselves with research tools and sources at their disposal in this class as they think about their forthcoming thesis topic.

Year Two:

  • Supervised Experience in College Teaching. Students will lecture, conduct labs, and lead class discussions among undergraduate students under the supervision of a professor.
  • Thesis Research. By year two, students should begin their thesis research in earnest, using the methods and strategies learned in Research Methods for Food Science.

Values and Criticisms of a PhD in Food Science

Earning a Ph.D. in food sciences comes with its fair share of advantages and disadvantages. Among the values of a food science education is that the field is constantly growing to meet the demands of a growing world population. People will always need food, so there's never a chance that food science will cease to be a critical, lucrative, and innovative area of study. The job market is promising for most applicants with a Ph.D. in food science simply because the field is so vast and diverse, not to mention in dire need of qualified professionals.

The criticisms of a Ph.D. in food science include that it's such a vast field that some candidates run the risk of becoming too specialized in their area of study. A person who studies food production as it relates to packaged foods might be relegated to that single aspect of food science for the duration of their career. Because there are so many disciplines within food science, most professors advise students that they should be absolutely certain of their concentration before beginning research on their dissertation.

Application & Admission Requirements

In order to be considered for a Ph.D. program in food science, a student should first have an undergraduate degree in some related field of science, such as a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering or Biology or a related field. Applicants typically have to submit transcripts from any and all previous colleges they attended, as well as a detailed CV and letters of recommendation. Most Ph.D. programs in food science require the submission of an application and a corresponding application fee which typically can be accessed through the university's website.

Career Options and Job Market

There are numerous career opportunities for professionals with a Ph.D. in food science. Potential careers include titles like Food Technologist, Quality Assurance Manager, or a Professor in Food Science. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals in food science earn on average an annual salary of $58,340. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also states that the projected growth of careers in food science over the next several years will grow at a rate of 3-9%.

Where to Find Information

  • Institute of Food Technologists This link offers students a comprehensive view of the top graduate programs in food science available in the US and in Canada.
  • FTSA FTSA is an online resource that searches the web for current research and innovations in the field of food science.
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics Information and statistics from the US government regarding careers in food science.

How to Get Funding

Students who want funding or financial aid as they earn their Ph.D. in food science have several resources at their disposal. They can apply for federal aid through FAFSA, which may grant loans and sometimes grants to graduate students if they meet the eligibility requirements. If eligible for aid, graduate students would receive funding through their university. Graduate students may also want to look at the department of food science for information on potential need- or merit-based scholarships that might be offered to eligible students.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan. This aid program offers students low-interest loans while they pursue their Ph.D. The maximum loan available is $20,500 per academic year, and there is a fixed interest rate of 6.80%.
  • Federal Perkins Loan. In the case of full-time students with the most need for financial assistance, the Federal Perkins low-interest loan can be awarded, offering an average of $3,500 per academic year — with a fixed interest rate at 5.0%.
  • Campus-Based Aid. Campus-based programs are managed by the financial aid office of your university. Of course, all schools actively participate in almost every program made available by the federal government.

Essential Advice

  • Deciding if you're making the right choice – Don't submit an application to a doctoral program unless you're sure that you 1) can afford to go to grad school 2) care passionately about food science and 3) have a plan for a career in food science after grad school. Get advice from those students currently enrolled in food science doctoral programs.
  • Once you've made the decision, submit your application with confidence. You won't be in this experience alone — you'll meet plenty of fellow students, professors, and advisors along the way who understand what you're going through.
  • Many graduate students lament the fact that they didn't take a break from school before they jumped into their doctoral program. If you feel at all burned out after undergraduate school, consider a stint at a job related to food science prior to enrolling in a doctoral program.
  • It's absolutely critical that you have your finances in order prior to beginning a Ph.D. program. Consult with financial advisors and the university's financial aid office to make sure that you won't be compromising your long term financial stability by earning a Ph.D. Most universities will help their doctoral students pay for grad school.