Hi everyone, I've been pursuing a career in food for a long time, and I'm feeling very stuck right now in regards to which direction I should take my career. I would greatly appreciate any recommendations and insight from all of you experts here. Below is a brief summary of my career history and what I'm hoping to get out of the rest of my career.
After a first career of 5+ years as a journalist for a food science magazine, I have spent the last 5 years pursuing a career in which I can work more closely with foods and plants. I completed a yearlong horticulture certificate at a local university's extension program and have since taken jobs as a hydroponic lettuce farmer and a buyer for a specialty produce company along with a lot of random volunteer positions for farms, beekeepers, etc. I feel like fresh produce is an industry in which I'm able to find meaning, purpose, and the potential for a profitable career. At the recommendation of a few people on this forum, I obtained PCQI certification several months ago.
I want to continue building a career in fresh produce (or minimally processed health food manufacture), but in a role that is highly engaging and in which I'm not spending all of my time in an office calling and emailing people and never even seeing or interacting with the food my company sells, grows, or manufactures. The idea of becoming a food safety manager for a farm, grocer, or health food company appeals to me. It sounds like I can spend some time on my feet, make decisions that immediately impact consumers, and continue learning about produce business and produce science in a very intimate way. But I'm not sure how to get there nor what the literal day-to-day reality actually entails.
In summary, can anyone explain (or suggest a resource on) what a food safety manager's day-to-day work is like, what the pay potential is, and how I can one day get there? Do I need to go back to school for a masters in food science/microbiology and then start back in a lower level position or can I work my way up without higher education, perhaps with the help of obtaining some independent certifications? I have more than 10 years of experience and knowledge in food procurement and food science, but it unfortunately is not streamlined in food safety specifically. I feel stuck in this endless cycle of not being qualified for the precise food jobs I want, and instead I'm getting placed in loosely related roles that lead me in different directions and don't prepare me for the jobs that really interest me, despite employer reassurances that crossing over is possible.
Thank you sincerely for any insight and/or resource recommendations. My apologies for how tangential this post is. Any thoughts are welcome about any of the points I mentioned above.