Graduate Careers Advice

Graduate Food And Drink Careers

James Thornhill

Got a chocolate bar or bag of crisps on your desk? Pick it up for a second and have a look. Every bit of it has been put together by professionals in the food and drink industry, from the recipe, seasonings, size and shape to the packaging and machines that produced the finished product.

There are a lot more career options in the food and drink industry than you might think. Whether you're interested in the science side that creates the magic, delicious food we all love, the procurement side that obtains the materials needed at the best possible costs, the food manufacturing side that maintains machines and production lines, the design side that makes sure it looks appealing from casing to crumb, or the sales and marketing side that promotes the product to the rest of the country, you can use your skills to their best advantage in this sector.

Because you're producing things people are going to eat and drink, the products need to be perfect. Mistakes can be very dangerous for all concerned, so it's important that you follow the rules and regulations attached to your role, and notice when there's an error.

You may have regular shifts you need to work, but you'll likely be paid overtime if you need to work longer hours.

Food and drink is a wide ranging industry with plenty of job options for students and school leavers. Although many think of waiters and bar staff when they think of the food and drink industry, there are plenty more entry roles than just in catering.

Some of the entry level jobs you can take in the food and drink industry include:

  • Food production assistant
  • Trainee food safety officer
  • Taste tester
  • Brewer

What Food and Drink roles can I do?

This industry covers everything from science and manufacturing to marketing and HR – so whatever your interests, the food and drink sector is likely to have a role for you. Here are just some of the areas that you could work in:

  • Food tasting
  • Food science
  • Procurement
  • Manufacturing
  • Quality control
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • HR
  • Finance
  • Buying
  • Management

If you want a role in the head office of a food or drink company – including some of the roles mentioned above – or if you want to work on the scientific side, producing the products, you will need to go to university. 

For roles in food science a degree such as biology, chemistry, food science or nutrition would be suitable, whilst for more office-based roles you should look to degrees in business, management or any humanities subject.

How much can I earn as a Food Production Assistant?

Trainees on a food production line or similar earn around £12,000, with supervisors earning around £20,000. A food safety offer can earn from £25,000-£30,000. Food scientists can start off earning over £20,000, and that salary can double as they gain experience.

Most head office roles across all sectors will start on around £20,000, more than doubling as you gain experience.

What Qualifications do I Need to be Food Production Assistant?


After a Bachelors Degree

The essential nature of food and drink business means there are always opportunities for graduates in this sector.

Areas within the food and drink industry that you could become involved in include:

  • Food processing
  • Product design
  • Manufacture
  • Sales
  • Transportation/ distribution
  • Marketing
  • Buying
  • Nutrition/ dietetics

There may also be the opportunity to get on a graduate scheme in the food and drink sector. Graduate programmes give you a structured pattern of work, set goals to reach, and often offer the chance of a permanent job after the completion of your scheme. Schemes are likely to last between 18 months and two years.

Schemes are likely to focus on one specific area of business, e.g. management, finance or marketing, or combine separate areas in order to give trainees a taste of all areas of work.

What Skills Do I Need to be a Food Production Assistant?

Most jobs in this industry require good teamwork and management skills, which will help you progress to higher roles. It’s also important to show a lot of motivation and self-discipline, particularly if you need to get further certificates and qualifications. Some jobs, such as becoming a food scientist, will require you to get a university degree.

Some of the skills that are useful for a career in food and drink include:

  • Teamwork
  • Self-motivation
  • Communication skills
  • Trendspotting
  • Leadership
  • Organisation

What Experience Do I Need to Get a Job in Food and Drink Roles?

Contact companies directly to see if you can go in for work experience or to shadow an existing member of staff. This will show employers that you are seriously about getting a job in the sector when you start applying. 

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