Food science and nutrition

Get creative in the lab to meet society’s demands for safe, nutritious, and affordable food products.

As a food scientist you’ll apply scientific methods to solve challenges within our food system, including issues like affordability and sustainability. You’ll think about consumer and societal behaviour, as well as the fundamental chemical, biological, and physical aspects of food.

There are job opportunities for food science and nutrition graduates in sectors including manufacturing, retail, marketing, consumer research, food safety and regulation, policy development, research and development. You could also work as a nutritionist, helping the public or athletes with their diet and eating habits.

The market is healthy for new graduates, with 14% of the national workforce employed in the UK food and drink sector. You could also work towards Registered Scientist or Chartered Scientist (CSci) status. 

The impact you could make
  • Design ways to minimise waste for a large food manufacturer – using offcuts in recipes or composting leftover veg.
  • Come up with a plan for local regenerative crop rotation that protects the soil.
  • Develop a new way to keep food safely in jars without the need for preservatives.
  • Design balanced meal plans for those struggling with food allergies or conditions like Crohn’s disease.
What you could study
  • Quality and safety across the food chain
  • New product development
  • Sensory science
  • Human nutrition
  • Food chemistry and biochemistry
  • Sustainable agriculture and ingredient sourcing
  • Food microbiology
  • Food processing
  • Research techniques and final year project

Study options

Options to study in this field include:

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Example module
“I don’t think I could choose just one, but metabolism and how it affects every other process and interaction of food is super interesting and relevant.”
Second year dietetics student, Robert Gordon University
Example project
“My favourite project was developing a new and innovative ready meal. We started researching and gap analysis all the way to creating the finished product.”
Second year food and nutrition student, Sheffield Hallam University

Subjects it's useful to have studied first

Some food science and nutrition courses or apprenticeships will have requirements for previous qualifications in certain subjects. Entry requirements vary, so always check with the provider.

Food technology
Hard skills you'll develop
  • Analytical chemistry
  • New product development
  • Food processing and engineering
  • Physiology and nutrition
Soft skills you'll develop
  • Communication
  • Research
  • Problem-solving
  • Research
  • Innovation

Careers: Where it can take you

Find out more about your career prospects from studying food science and nutrition. The following information is based on a typical chemical scientist professional role.

Available jobs
23,352 vacancies in the past year
1.82% growth over next eight years
Average salary
Up to £60,492
76% of students
are very likely to recommend food science and nutrition to others, based on their experience of studying it so far
(UCAS subject guide survey 2023)

Career options

Food science and nutrition

Food scientist

Food technologist 



82% of students
were extremely or somewhat satisfied with their work placement
(UCAS subject guide survey 2023)

What is an… animal nutritionist?

You may be able to guess, but an animal nutritionist works with animals to research which is the best diet for them, according to things like their weight, overall health, and food they’d eat in the wild. You’ll work in a zoo, vets, or animal rescue centre, and it probably helps if you love animals! You could also develop new recipes that provide great nutrition for a particular breed or species of animal. 

Getting in: Entry requirements

Find out more about what you'll need to study food science and nutrition at university or as an apprenticeship.

Average requirements for undergraduate degrees

Entry requirements differ between university and course, but this should give you a guide to what is usually expected from food science and nutrition applicants.

A levels
Scottish Highers
Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma or SQCF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative

Considering an apprenticeship?

Applying for an apprenticeship is just like applying for a normal job. Here’s what you need to know:
  1. Deadline

    Apprenticeships don't follow the same deadlines as applying to uni, the deadline is down to the employer.
  2. Where to apply

    You apply directly through the employer.
  3. No limits

    You're not restricted to one apprenticeship application; you can do as many as you like.
  4. Apply to university and apprenticeships

    There's nothing stopping you applying to university through UCAS, while also applying for apprenticeship vacancies.

Let's talk about... science apprenticeships (Sponsored by Manchester Metropolitan University)

Listen to our brand new podcast all about degree apprenticeships in science. Find out about funding, what day-to-day life is like, making friends, and more from our expert panel.

Explore further

Go deeper into topics around food science and nutrition with the following:
  1. Institute of Food Science and Technology

    Follow the IFST on YouTube to find videos on all aspects of food science, from detecting pathogens in milk to research on the health benefits of polyphenols. 
  2. Food Matters Live podcast

    Listen to this podcast on all aspects of food, science and nutrition research, policy and innovation, with episodes on topics like sustainability, so-called ‘super foods’ and fortifying our food and drink. 
  3. Tasty Careers

    Use this website to find out more about potential careers in the food and drink industry. 
  4. Food Unwrapped

    This fun show on Channel 4 uncovers the secrets behind how all your favourite foods are produced.

Application advice

Whether it's personal statement tips or what to write in a cover letter for an apprenticeship application, our advice will help you get ahead in your food science and nutrition journey.
Skills, experiences, and interests to mention
  • Try and get across your interest for the subject, through talking about things you’ve seen or read, or experiments you’ve done at school or home that sparked your interest.
  • You’ll likely work in a lab or research facility so try and do some shadowing or work experience if you can, whether in a local factory, pharmacy, or hospital lab, or mention lab work you’ve done at school and what you learned.
  • How do you solve problems? Whether you’re into Maths, science, or Rubik’s cubes, can you give an example of something complex you’ve solved?
  • Show you’re a good team worker too, through projects you’ve done, or extracurricular activities like sport, Scouts, or even going travelling as a group.
  • Where do you see yourself working after studying? Show you understand the industry and the types of jobs you could do. Mention a specific area like environmental protection or creating affordable new foods if there’s something you’d like to focus on.

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