Food Science Graduate Program

The Department of Food Science and Nutrition administers the Food Science Graduate Program. This program involves the application of the principles of chemistry, microbiology, processing technology, and consumer issues to the production of high quality, safe, and wholesome foods.

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Prospective Student Info

Our program prepares graduates for a wide range of career opportunities. Many are employed in food and related industries in the areas of product development, research, quality assurance, food safety, food biotechnology, regulatory aspects, packaging, and manufacturing. Additionally, some graduates accept academic positions.

There are many options open to individuals graduating with a food science degree, including specializations in the following areas:

  • Product development involves creating new food products for the market, extending a current line of products (e.g., adding new flavors or shapes, or creating reduced fat or healthy versions of existing products), and improving product by evaluating the use of new ingredients, packaging, or reformulation.
  • Quality assurance (QA) involves routine product analysis in addition to troubleshooting in food manufacturing, isolating and eliminating sources of consumer complaints, and occasionally providing technical assistance in legal cases.
  • Regulatory work is commonly associated with assuring that a company’s products meet all legal requirements locally, nationally, and internationally. This position requires knowledge of all aspects of food formulation, stability, analysis, and the law. 
  • Packaging is a growing field in the food industry. While most liquid foods were once packaged in glass or tin, the advances in polymer science have created a myriad of new options. Packaging today may be used to heat or cool a food, absorb oxygen from the food, or simply be chosen to address shipping considerations. Each new application comes with problems that must be addressed through research.
  • Every aspect of food science geared to local or national markets must be expanded to include the global market. This is true of market taste preferences, cultural and religious influences, ingredient availability, storage conditions, distribution structure, legal regulations, and language barriers. The global challenge extends to academics as well as industry. This has created a vast new and ever expanding role for the food science graduate.

While students in our Food Science Graduate Program may specialize in any one of the specific areas given above, they are also required to have a comprehensive knowledge of other areas.

  • Food chemistry is concerned with the analytical, biochemical, chemical, physical, nutritional, and toxicological aspects of food and food ingredients.
  • Food microbiology focuses on food safety (the prevention of foodborne disease and biosecurity), microbiological aspects of food production, food spoilage, food fermentations/biotechnology, genomics, processing, preservation, and storage.
  • Food processing deals with the application of scientific, engineering, and economic principles to food processes and food processing equipment.
  • Food technology involves the application of modern scientific and engineering principles to the preservation and distribution of food.
  • The consumer issues area is concerned with the attributes of a food that influence its success or failure in the marketplace.

Admissions and Funding

*Graduate program applications for admittance in Fall 2024 are due December 15, 2023*

The Graduate Admissions Committee reviews each graduate program application beginning in January for fall intake and in August for spring intake.

Advisors and funding are limited and not guaranteed to all admissible applicants. Department funding is restricted and offered through a competitive process based on applicant qualifications and program resources. While it may occur concurrently in some instances, the funding process is entirely separate from the admissions process. If available and offered, funding usually takes the form of a research assistantship (RA), teaching assistantship (TA), or combination of the two. Funding is usually obtained through a student's advisor.

Assistantships include an hourly wage, full or partial tuition coverage, and reduced-cost healthcare benefits. See Graduate Assistant Employment for more information about assistantship compensation and benefits. Follow this link to learn more about Graduate Student Employment at UMN.

Additional funding opportunities may be available through the University of Minnesota Graduate School.

International students can also find more information at the International Student and Scholar Services Office.


Example Graduate Student Fees

  • Graduates students must pay fees every semester that they are enrolled. These are separate from tuition and not covered by an Assistantship. This is a non-binding document with a recent list of fees that students were charged during the 21-22 academic year for reference.

Food Science Program Admission

Follow this link to begin an application

Follow this link to download the Food Science and Nutrition Graduate Application Checklist

Degrees Available

The Food Science Program offers the following graduate degrees:

  • Master of Science (M.S.); Plan A, research-based
  • Master of Science (M.S.); Plan B, writing project-based
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Admissions Process

The application deadline to be considered for Fall intake is January 15th of every year. Applicants will be informed of their admission decision by March 15th. Admitted applicants will be expected to accept or decline their offer of admission by no later than April 15th. Admitted applicants who do not accept or decline by the April 15th deadline will have their offer rescinded.

The application deadline to be considered for Spring intake is August 15th of every year. Applicants will be informed of their admissibility by October 15th. Admissible applicants will be expected to accept or decline their offer of admission by no later than November 15th. Admitted applicants who do not accept or decline by the November 15th deadline will have their offer rescinded.

Application Prerequisites

The following courses are prerequisites for the Food Science program:

  • General chemistry (lab required)
  • Organic chemistry (lab required)
  • General biology (lab required)
  • Physics (lab required)
  • Calculus

Prerequisite courses are considered successfully completed when documentation of a final grade of C- or higher is provided. With the exception of the calculus requirement, prerequisite courses taken in high school—even through programs such as PSEO—will not be accepted.  College-level calculus taken during high school will be accepted.

Application Requirements

Food Science graduate applications must be submitted through the University of Minnesota Graduate School’s central application system.

In addition to the standard identity and demographic information required by the Graduate School, all Food Science applicants must submit the following application materials to be considered for admission:

  • Unofficial transcripts
    The University of Minnesota will require an official transcript from every applicant’s BS- or MS-awarding institution prior to formal admission. Applicants are not required to submit official transcripts at the time of application, but are welcome to. Doing so may expedite future processes. Do not send official transcripts to the Department of Food Science and Nutrition. Official transcript submission guidelines can be found here.
  • English language proficiency exam scores
    The University of Minnesota requires some applicants to submit proof of English language proficiency. This is a UMN requirement that can result in a rescinded admission offer if not met. Additional information about English language proficiency can be found by following this link.
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores (*GRE requirement has been waived for 2022 Spring and Fall Applications*)
  • Personal statement
  • Diversity statement
  • Academic writing sample
  • Resume/CV
  • Extenuating circumstances statement (optional)

Specific information related to the above requirements can be found on the application itself and on the application checklist.

Ph.D. Admission without an M.S. Degree

Admission to the Ph.D. program is generally reserved for students who have already received an M.S. degree and display evidence of high academic achievement as determined by the Graduate Admissions Committee.

Exceptionally strong students without the M.S. degree may be considered for direct admission to the doctoral program. However, most doctoral program applicants without an M.S. are not admitted to the Ph.D. program and are instead considered for the master’s program.

Students currently enrolled in the University of Minnesota Food Science M.S. program may bypass the M.S. degree and apply for a Change of Status to the Ph.D. program. These students must have the support of their advisor and several conditions must be met.

The following criteria is required for admission to the Ph.D. program without first receiving an M.S. degree:

New Applicants

The applicant must have a 3.5 GPA or greater and provide substantial additional evidence of high academic achievement as determined by the Graduate Admissions Committee. Successful applicants will have undergraduate research experience with publications or abstracts at national meetings.

Current UMN MS Students

Current students may apply for a Change of Status after making sufficient progress toward their M.S. research objective (usually at least 15 credits) in addition to having a 3.5 GPA or greater.

Change of Status Application Process

Follow this link to begin the Change of Status application process

The current student creates a new Graduate School application profile and submits a new application. This process will be identical to the standard application, with the following exceptions:

  • The personal statement must explain the reasons a change of status is sought and a description of their research experience
  • One letter of recommendation must be from the student’s current faculty advisor summarizing evidence of the student’s aptitude and ability to do doctoral-level research
  • The student must contact the Food Science and Nutrition Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC) prior to submission so application requirements can be adapted for the Change of Status.

A $75 application fee applies to all Change of Status applicants.

Change of Status applicants will be informed of their application decision in March for fall intake or November for spring intake. Change of Status application decisions may be communicated earlier if time in the year’s admissions cycle permits.

Specific Objectives of the Program

  1. To provide graduate level education for post-baccalaureate students interested in applying science and engineering principles to the theoretical and practical aspects of the entire food chain - from raw material production to product utilization by the consumer.
  2. To provide a focus for graduate study and research in Food Science at the University of Minnesota.
  3. To aid in promoting interactions with other disciplines which relate to the study of food science. 

Why Food Science at UMN?

Choosing a graduate program of study can be a difficult task, but here are a few reasons why choosing the University of Minnesota will be one of the best choices for your future career:

  • Our prestigious faculty members have received numerous accolades for their teaching, excellence in advising, leadership and academic performance.
  • We are unique in our integration of Food Science and Nutrition. By hosting two disciplines within our department, students have the opportunity to share discoveries in the same laboratories, attend many of the same classes, and share common goals. With the food industry trending towards healthier living, we can provide students a unique interdisciplinary learning opportunity. 
  • Most of our graduates accept positions in food or related industries. With Minnesota serving as the headquarters for several large international food companies including General Mills, Cargill, Land O'Lakes and many more, we are uniquely positioned to form close working relationships between students, faculty and industry professionals. These relationships prove invaluable in guiding research focuses, access to facilities and eventually post-degree employment.
  • We have a dynamic Food Science and Nutrition Club that is active locally and nationally. Locally, members help organize and participate in the Minnesota sections of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), American Dairy Science Association (ADSA), Minnesota Chromatography Forum, and American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC). Nationally, club members have served in and chaired the national IFT Student Association (IFTSA). They have won or placed near the top in the IFTSA Food Product Development and College Bowl competitions, and have received Chapter of the Year awards.

Degrees Offered

The Food Science program at the University of Minnesota offers both the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Qualified students with strong foundations in the sciences are eligible for admission. 

The Master's program offers two plan options: Plan A entails producing a thesis; Plan B substitutes a special project and additional coursework for a thesis. A M.S. normally requires a minimum of two years of full time effort to complete, dependent on the student’s preparation, course of study, motivation, and research program.

A Ph.D. is typically completed in about four years based on similar criteria. See the Food Science Graduate Student Handbook for complete program information.

Plan A - Master’s Degree with Thesis

All Plan A Master's students must meet the minimum Graduate School requirements of 20 credits in the major and 10 thesis credits. Specific course requirements are listed under Degree Requirements. The student must pass a final oral examination that includes the defense of an acceptable thesis and general questions in food science.

Plan B - Master’s Degree without Thesis

The general requirements for the Plan B Master's degree are the same as noted above, but 10 additional course credits are required in place of 10 thesis credits. The Plan B project is done in lieu of a Master’s thesis. It is equivalent to 120 hours of work of research and writing. The student must pass a final examination which may be oral, written, or both.

Ph.D. Degree

The Doctor of Philosophy degree is granted, not on the basis of successful completion of a definite amount of prescribed work, but rather in recognition of the candidate’s notable accomplishments and abilities in a specialized field in food science. This is shown, first, by passing the required examinations covering both the general and the specialized fields of the candidate and second, by preparing a thesis. The degree requires a minimum of 48 credits (24 course and 24 thesis) and a maximum of 72 credits.

Program Requirements

The Food Science Graduate Program requires the student to have breadth in food science and depth in an area of study within food science. The minimum graduate Food Science core course requirements for breadth in food science are as follows.

Core Requirements:

  • FSCN 4112 Food Chemistry and Functional Foods (3 cr)*
  • FSCN 4121 Food Microbiology (3 cr)*
  • FSCN 5334: Food Processing Fundamentals I (3 cr)
    FSCN 5335: Food Processing Fundamentals II (3 cr)

One of the following:

  • FSCN 5122 Food Fermentations and Biotechnology and FSCN 5123 Molecular Biology for Applied Scientists*
  • FSCN 5131 Food Quality*
  • FSCN 5312 Food Analysis *

*If a student has taken these course(s) or their equivalents they can take other courses but must take an additional 5 FScN credits at the 5XXX and 8XXX and rest are free to be used elsewhere.

Additional Courses:

  • FSCN 8318 Current Issues in Food Science
  • At least 3 FSCN course credits at the 5XXX or 8XXX level 
  • MS: Additional 5XXX and 8XXX credits to reach minimum of 20 course credits
  • PhD: Additional 5XXX and 8XXX credits to reach minimum of 24 course credits

Thesis Credits

Master's Plan A: 10 credits of FSCN 8777 Thesis Credits: Master’s

Master’s Plan B: 10 additional course credits are substituted for the 10 thesis credits. The courses to substitute are decided upon by the student and adviser. Only 4 credits of Independent Study or Research Topics are allowed on the Degree Plan and only 9 credits of 4XXX level courses are allowed on the Degree Plan.
PhD: 24 credits of FSCN 8888 Thesis Credits: Doctoral

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