I oversee an executive search firm that specializes in placing food scientists in the food industries. In many of our searches, we are asked specifically for individuals who have food science degrees versus other scientific degrees. When we asked the universities how many students were graduating in the 33 universities approved by IFT, we received a variety of answers. So, in 2006 we started our Food Science Student Survey, asking the chairs of each of the departments to provide the answers to three questions: How many students are in the program, how many are seniors, and how many are pursuing a graduate degree. The survey has been completed every other year since 2006.
The good news is that the numbers have doubled. In 2006, there were only 462 seniors in 33 U.S. universities in food science programs. In 2018, there were 931. The departments vary in size, from UC Davis being the largest program with 249 undergraduate students in their program, to the smallest, Tuskegee University with only 15. The total number of undergraduates in 2018 exceeded 3400. This is good news for the food industry, as there has been a shortage of food scientists for many years, especially due to the baby boomers retiring. With stronger food safety regulations, and a constant need to innovate, the food industry needs more qualified food scientists. We appreciate the efforts of the universities to expand their programs.