Food safety and defense

University of Missouri-Columbia
Graduate certificate
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Graduate certificate

Today, companies source fruits, vegetables, grains and meats from across the globe before processing them into the products sold in supermarkets and specialty stores. Along the way, these ingredients come in contact with several people and a wide range of temperatures, environmental conditions and potential pathogens. These aspects can compromise their integrity.

Through every stage, food safety professionals like yourself assess ingredients, identify potential sources of contamination, improve packaging and ensure consumers receive something safe and ready to use. Yet, as hazards change, so do the regulations influencing day-to-day safety and emergency response.

Upgrading your foundational knowledge, the online graduate certificate in food safety and defense program equips you to take charge of your company’s quality assurance processes. Offered through the University of Missouri (Mizzou), this program trains agriculture and food safety professionals to recognize and protect food and food products from accidental or deliberate contamination. In the process, you become familiar with hazards and bio issues arising during production, processing and preparation and science-based risk management and response methods. You, as a result, learn to perform more thorough and effective checks and develop broadly applied mitigation plans.

Quick facts

Official name

Graduate certificate in food safety and defense


University of Missouri-Columbia

Program type

Graduate certificate

Academic home

College of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources | Department of Food Science

Delivery mode

100% online


Higher Learning Commission

Credit hours


Estimated cost


*This cost is for illustrative purposes only. Your hours and costs will differ, depending on your transfer hours, your course choices and your academic progress. See more about tuition and financial aid.

Food safety professional wearing a hard hat and holding a clipboard.

Career prospects

The complexity of today’s food supply chains requires an in-depth understanding of contamination hazards and protective measures. In moving into a leadership or expert role, you’ll dedicate yourself to promoting safe food production and processing in line with current and future recommendations. 

Through your newly acquired knowledge, get ready to establish facility-wide quality control guidelines, develop more protective food packaging, create storage and handling procedures based on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, and launch training programs for new and existing employees. Reflecting ongoing demand, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that organizations will hire 6% percent more agricultural and food scientists through 2032.

Benefitting professionals in agriculture, manufacturing and quality assurance, the graduate certificate in food safety and defense program prepares you for the following career paths:

  • Agriculture and food scientist
  • Biochemist
  • Clinical laboratory technologist
  • Epidemiologist
  • Food science technician
  • Microbiologist
Burning Glass Technologies. 2021. Salary numbers and employment growth numbers are based on models that consider advertised job posting salary, Bureau of Labor Statistics data and other proprietary and public sources of information for multiple occupations.
Employment growth
Burning Glass Technologies. 2021. Salary numbers and employment growth numbers are based on models that consider advertised job posting salary, Bureau of Labor Statistics data and other proprietary and public sources of information for multiple occupations.
Median salary

About the online graduate certificate in food safety and defense

Food contamination can have a rippling effect. Following a report or word of mouth, consumers remind themselves to avoid a brand or product the next time they go to the store. At the same time, this incident often results in a recall and subsequent fines. These factors taint a company’s reputation and diminish its market share.

In response, all stages of the food supply chain — from sourcing to retail — seek professionals who are up to date on current regulations and prepared to implement effective protective measures. The online graduate certificate in food safety and defense program helps you grow into this role and enriches your existing skill set through concepts you can readily apply on the job:

  • Learn to develop, evaluate and increase awareness of food safety and defense strategies
  • Be able to identify and control various foodborne hazards, including allergens, pathogenic microbes and toxicants
  • Prepare to apply Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles and other food safety defense strategies
  • Delve into the scientific foundation of food safety and defense, including microbial and chemical risk assessment and analysis, and understand how to deploy these tactics in agriculture and the food supply industry
  • Expand your perspective of current food safety and security issues — from temperature concerns, packaging design and microbial resistance to terrorism through contamination

Creating a more unified, educated and responsive food safety workforce, the curriculum pools the resources, research and knowledge of the region’s leading agriculture training institutions, including the University of Missouri, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At Mizzou, the Division of Food, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences has a history of graduating professionals equipped to promote health and wellness on a larger scale, including through food production, nutrition, safety and packaging innovation. 

Program structure

The online graduate certificate in food safety and defense requires 12 credit hours, which are split between core courses (eight to nine credit hours) and electives (three to four credit hours). 

The program is ideal for food industry professionals with undergraduate training in food science or a related area who seek to advance their knowledge of food safety regulations and potentially pursue a master’s degree or doctorate. Students may earn the credential independently or alongside a graduate degree.

The graduate certificate in food safety and defense program is 100% online; no campus visits are required. All participating universities offer at least one course per semester.

Students typically take two classes each semester session, whether through their home or another participating institution, and finish the program in less than three years.

Course work covers

Understand why and how food contamination occurs through courses covering:

  • Food microbiology and toxicants
  • Food safety and security, including HACCP principles
  • Food laws
  • Risk assessment strategies
  • Food biotechnology
  • Rapid food microbiological methods
  • Food fermentation

Review all requirements for the online graduate certificate in food safety and defense.


100% online

Calendar system


Typical program length

3 years

Typical course load

2 classes per semester


The University of Missouri is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States.

Great Plains IDEA

Great Plains IDEA is a consortium of 19 universities offering fully online graduate programs and courses in agriculture disciplines. Students apply to and are admitted by one university, enroll in all of their courses through that university and graduate from that university. However, the online courses are taught by faculty in the discipline from several universities.

Learn more about Great Plains IDEA.


Learn more about this program

This program is administered by the Department of Food Science