Food Science

If you enjoy basic sciences such as chemistry, physics and biology, you’ll like the Food Science major! Food Science is the application of science and engineering to the production, processing, distribution, and evaluation of food. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a long and distinguished history of instruction, research and public service in Food Science.

As part of the world’s largest industry, Food Science offers many challenges. Food scientists work to discover a new food source, develop a new method of food processing, develop foods to travel into space, unravel the complexities of a foodborne disease, or identify some of the chemical compounds responsible for a special flavor. Meeting these challenges requires determination and special training in the basic sciences. If your interests correspond to one or more of these areas, food science is for you.

About 60 undergraduate and 70 graduate students are currently enrolled in the Department of Food Science. Undergraduates enjoy the benefits of being in a small College within a major university. Food Science faculty advisors provide students with individual mentoring in all aspects of their degree program.

Choose from Undergraduate Options within the Food Science Major

  • Natural Science Track – Consider this option if you’re interested in the ways physical, chemical and biological sciences relate to food. This option is especially appropriate if you are interested in basic or applied research or graduate-level study.
  • Business Track – Choose this option if you are interested in the interaction of business management and food science. You will take at least 15 credits in the School of Business and prepare for a variety of careers in food processing and distribution, government regulatory activities and technical sales.
  • Food and Bioprocess Engineering (ALS and ABE) – If you are interested in engineering and Food Science, this option leads to a double major or a double degree in the Department of Food Science and in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering. Increased hiring of engineers has been a trend in the food industry. This option combines the core courses of an engineering degree with the biological and food processing courses of a Food Science degree.

Employment Prospects

Employment in the food industry is growing because of the need to improve the quality, quantity, variety and safety of foods. Starting salaries are at a level comparable to those of mechanical, chemical and other engineers. The Department of Food Science, over the past five years, has placed 100% of its graduates. Companies that frequently hire Food Science graduates are: Chiquita Processed Foods, Dean Foods, Foremost Dairies, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Land O’Lakes, Leprino Cheese, M & M Mars, Miller Brewing, Oscar Mayer, Pillsbury, Rhodia, Schreiber Foods, Suiza Foods, Unilever (Ben & Jerry’s), Van der Berg Foods, and state and federal regulatory agencies. Common areas of employment are: product development, quality assurance/control, processing and engineering, technical sales, business/management, basic research, sensory analysis, and food law and regulations.

Starting Salaries:

  • Bachelor’s Degree: $30,000-$40,000
  • Master’s Degree: $40,000-$50,000
  • Doctorate Degree: $50,000+

Experience Outside of Class

Outside activities will enrich your education in Food Science. Join the Food Science Club, an active student-run organization. Participate in undergraduate research projects, investigate novel control of foodborne illness, study bacterial genetics, help purify natural plant chemicals that benefit health, or assist in optimizing a food process.

Consider a summer internship with the food industry your sophomore and/or junior years. You might work to develop a new food product, quality assurance tests, or evaluate food samples using chemical, physical and sensory techniques.

Financial Assistance

Numerous scholarships are available through the Department of Food Science. Contact the Department for information on professional and industry scholarships. Scholarships and loans are also available to qualified students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. University-wide scholarships, loans and employment information are available at the Office of Student Financial Services, 432 N. Murray Street, Madison, WI 53706.

For more information contact the Department of Food Science:

Prospective Student Services: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Office of Academic Affairs

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is an AA/EEO institution. University policies create additional protection that prohibits harassment on the basis of cultural background and ethnicity. Inquires concerning these policies may be directed to the appropriate campus admitting or employing unit or to the Equity and Diversity Resource Center, 179-A, Bascom Hall, (608) 263-2378, TTY (608) 263-2473.