Without enough food science professionals to fill jobs available, many scientists working in the food industry are chemists, microbiologists or engineers who have never been trained specifically in food science.
That's why Ohio State University's Department of Food Science and Technology offers an online series of five courses leading to a Certificate of Proficiency in Food Science. Jeff Culbertson, professor of food science, teaches the courses in addition to the classes he teaches on campus.
Across the nation, only about 70 percent of the food science and processing jobs requiring a degree can be filled. Attracted by the career opportunities and the program's quality, undergraduate enrollment in Ohio State's food science program has more than doubled in the last three years to 150.
Culbertson offers one certification course per quarter. Classes can be taken in any order, so professionals can sign up at any time. Participants don't have to take a class every quarter if their schedule doesn't allow for it; they can wait to take a class the next time it's offered.
In the three years since the courses have been offered through Ohio State, about 300 food industry professionals have taken online classes, and about 30 certificates have been issued in recognition of series completion.
The courses are:
- "Introduction to Food Processing," being offered currently.
- "Introduction to Food Science," to be offered this summer. Interested participants can sign up beginning June 1; the class begins June 22.
- "Food Biosecurity," offered in autumn 2009.
- "Food Safety and Quality," scheduled for winter 2010.
- "Food Chemical Safety," scheduled for spring 2010.
Culbertson has about 20 or 30 students a quarter from a wide variety of companies, including Cooper Farms, Smuckers, Procter and Gamble, Silliker Labs, Abbott Nutrition and Rudolph's Foods in Ohio, Gardenburger (Utah), Trident Seafoods (Seattle and Alaska), McCormick Spice (Baltimore), as well as Heinz, Starbucks, Land o' Lakes, Pepsico/Frito-Lay and many others.
Each course is $500 with a discount offered for three or more employees from the same company. The department uses the funds earned in the course to upgrade technology used in online teaching, to support graduate students and for general department needs.
More information is available at http://fst.osu.edu/Certificate_in_Food_Science.htm or by contacting Culbertson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (614) 688-4219.