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Blog>Guides>Careers in the Food Industry: How to Make a Career Change

Careers in the Food Industry: How to Make a Career Change

Article index

Overview

  • Explore steps to starting a career in food.

  • Learn about traditional and unique careers in this industry.

  • Discover skills you need to land the right job.

  • Find extensive job listings on Joblist.

Introduction

There are a lot of fascinating career paths in food. Depending on your preferences, education, and skills, you can go into food science, writing, sales, or cooking. How you start and develop your career determines where you'll end up.

If you work in a managerial role, you're responsible for overseeing employees and food preparation. This role also involves monitoring adherence to food safety standards, quality control, and other tasks. On the other hand, working as a chef involves setting up kitchens, food preparation, and planning recipes. Meanwhile, a career as a food technologist involves maintaining food safety standards and developing manufacturing processes and recipes.

The job outlook for careers in food varies, depending on factors like economic conditions and labor supply. For instance, employment opportunities for chefs are more likely to grow by 25% from 2020 through 2030.

You can kick start a culinary career as a line cook, vegetable chef, prep cook, or sous chef. Over time, you could end up as an executive chef or general manager. You can find extensive food job listings by checking out Joblist.

Below, we look at several traditional and unique career options in food. These full-time and part-time careers include:

  • Baker or pastry chef

  • Restaurant manager

  • Molecular gastronomist

  • Cookbook author

  • Food scientist

  • Chef

How to Start a Career in Food

When venturing into food and beverage, it's important to know exactly where to start. It helps to familiarize yourself with the careers available in the sector and what education or experience you need to join.

Below, we'll talk about the steps to start your career, including getting the right qualifications, developing your skills, gaining experience through volunteering, and finding a mentor.

Pursue the Proper Education for a Career in Food

A good education is invaluable if you go into the food industry. Whether you want to become a pastry chef, molecular gastronomist, cookbook author, restaurant manager, or food scientist, you need to know the right areas of study and have certifications to help you thrive.

Let's check out the educational requirements for careers covered in this article.

  • Food scientist. Depending on your specialty, you need to obtain a bachelor's or doctoral degree in food science or chemistry. These courses typically focus on food processing, analysis, and microbiology. Although states don't always compel food scientists to obtain certifications, getting one from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) can be beneficial.

  • Restaurant manager. You can become a manager with a high school diploma or a restaurant or hospitality management degree. Having a bachelor's degree boosts your earning potential. State authorities may require a food safety certification for you to work in a food service managerial role.

  • Molecular gastronomist. Some schools offer food science or chemistry degrees with a molecular gastronomy component. These courses prepare you for the role by teaching you how to conduct food experiments. The best approach is to take these courses as a postgraduate qualification.

  • Cookbook author. You can achieve your career goals in the food industry by acquiring a bachelor's degree in journalism or English. It's also important to take culinary arts classes.

  • Food scientist. Earning a bachelor's degree is critical to becoming a food scientist. Universities offer advanced courses focusing on food processing, safety, and nutritional analysis. Internships and extensive laboratory classes are part of your hands-on training. The Institute of Food Technologists offers professional certification to help boost your career.

Build Your Skillset Every Day

Hands-on experience is a great way to build your skill set. There's no denying that a combination of intellectual understanding and practice plays a critical role in improving your on-the-job performance, bolstering your career prospects in the food sector.

So, why does practice matter? Honing your skills requires regular practice, allowing you to receive feedback and change your technique while it’s still malleable. You make significant progress by making mistakes and trying again until you succeed. The key to learning through practice is stepping out of your comfort zone and challenging yourself.

If you work as a chef, you can fine-tune your food preparation skills by identifying and correcting your mistakes when preparing specific recipes. The feedback you get from your colleagues and customers allows you to identify shortcomings. The experience you get at work supplements everything you've learned in culinary school.

Volunteer to Gain Experience

It's easy and fun to volunteer, so you can improve your skills while contributing to a good cause. This is an especially shrewd way to access training you haven't been exposed to yet.

Depending on the projects and your chosen career, you can acquire skills like food preparation, team management, problem-solving, and report writing. On the other hand, there's also an opportunity to build your professional network. Opting to volunteer is particularly useful if you don't have any contacts in the food industry.

Find a Mentor

Another critical step in starting your career in the food industry is finding a mentor. With someone to guide you, learning the details of your chosen career will be much easier.

To find the right mentor, consider the people you already know or research other professionals with relevant experience. Picking someone from your existing network can be more beneficial because you get to choose from a pool of professionals who are already aware of your skills and qualities.

Traditional Careers in Food

When you think of job opportunities in the food services sector, what do you picture? It's most likely that roles like chef, baker, and restaurant manager come to mind.

Below, we look at the job descriptions, applicable skills, and average salaries for these careers.

Chef

woman-chef

Working as a chef involves planning ingredient supplies and menus in restaurants, hotels, and other work environments. You're also responsible for overseeing food preparation and collaborating with kitchen staff to ensure efficiency and adherence to food safety standards.

Critical skills needed to thrive in this profession include good communication, creativity, leadership skills, and dexterity. It's vital to communicate instructions clearly to colleagues in the kitchen. Doing so ensures that the entire team prepares meals correctly.

When it comes to salaries for chefs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the median annual wage was $50,160 in 2021.

Baker or Pastry Chef

pastry-chef

Pastry chefs or bakers typically work alongside sous and executive chefs, preparing a wide selection of confectionery products in the pastry section. Other roles include planning new recipes and working with patrons to create custom cakes for special events.

When working in the pastry section, you need various skills to thrive — including interpersonal skills, creativity, in-depth knowledge of baking ingredients, and time management skills.

As of May 2021, the median salary for professionals in this field stood at $29,750.

Restaurant Manager

restaurant-manager-talking-with-chef

As a restaurant manager, you oversee day-to-day operations in an eatery. You handle staff training, create work schedules, ensure your team adheres to food safety standards, and resolve diner complaints.

Critical skills required in this field include strong leadership, budgeting, maintaining inventory, and excellent interpersonal skills.

The median restaurant manager wage was $59,440 as of May 2021.

Unique Careers in Food

Now that you know about traditional food jobs, it's important to look at more unique career options available. Read on to discover information about less conventional food careers, such as cookbook author, molecular gastronomist, and food scientist.

Cookbook Author

cookbook-author

Whether you're a culinary arts professional or an amateur chef, you can use your expertise to become a cookbook author. This job entails writing about interesting recipes and food reviews for online and print publications. You can also cover food trends and review restaurants.

To do well in this field, you need excellent writing skills and the creativity to come up with original content ideas. A combination of good writing skills and a passion for food can help you reap the rewards in a field with a median annual wage of $69,510 as of May 2021.

Molecular Gastronomist

molecular-gastronomist

If you find food science fascinating, you'll love a career in molecular gastronomy. In this field, you specialize in the chemical and physical aspects of food preparation to develop new food products. Experiments involve specialized techniques and equipment, such as vacuum chambers.

To become a successful gastronomist, you need good communication and leadership skills. You should demonstrate excellent problem-solving skills, a keen sense of taste, and advanced analytical skills. Once you get a job, you can expect a median annual wage of $74,160, projected in May of 2021.

Food Scientist

food-scientist

If you venture into food science, you'll be responsible for analyzing the basic elements of food to identify new food sources. You also research ways to make processed foods healthier and safer in this career path.

As a food scientist, you need to demonstrate critical thinking and superb communication skills. Duties include regular data collection and sample observation, so you should develop your data analysis and math skills to thrive in this field.

In May 2021, the median annual wage for professionals in the food science space was $74,160.

What Are the Top Skills Needed to Start a Career in Food?

It doesn't matter what food job you pick; success comes down to a few top skills. In some jobs, you may need to demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills, time management, and leadership skills. These capabilities help you perform at your best and improve your long-term career prospects.

Let's look at how specific skills impact different careers in food:

  • Creativity. If you work as a chef or baker, you'll need to showcase creativity when preparing food products. Employers expect you to be original when putting a menu together or decorating pastries. Creativity also applies to food science careers, like molecular gastronomy, to develop innovative new food items.

  • Teamwork. The ability to collaborate with colleagues is vital in most workplaces in the food industry. Kitchens are typically a hive of activity — as kitchen and non-kitchen staff work together to provide a superb dining experience for patrons. It's important to play your role as a team member, whether you work in a kitchen, office, or food-related lab.

  • Leadership skills. To keep your entire team working efficiently, you need good leadership skills. You should keep each team player well-motivated to get the best out of them and help them thrive.

  • Stamina. Some food jobs, like chefs, require considerable physical and mental fitness because you spend most of the time standing in hot and humid kitchen conditions. It’s also common to work long shifts.

Find the Best Careers in the Food Industry on Joblist

Now that you know about entry-level food career paths, it's important to understand how to start a job search. Thankfully, Joblist offers access to personalized listings so you can find the ideal employment opportunity. By answering a few questions on the quiz page, you'll see what options best suit you.

If you're ready to discover interesting new job opportunities in the food sector, start browsing Joblist today.

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