Coming To Your Senses, And A Career In It!

Written by on January 9, 2014 in Career - No comments | Print this page



Most of us leave high school with starry eyes and bright ideas. We see ourselves succeeding academically or earning our stripes as apprentices in our chosen industry.

We tend not to consider tasting pet food for a living as a viable career. Yes. You read that correctly. Your dog’s beloved  bone shaped biscuits that you avoid touching for longer than you can stand the smell for was most likely tasted and tested by a human being.

The scents in your perfume were meticulously compiled by a perfumer who used their superior sense of smell to do so. And, less glamorously, your deodorant works because an odour tester (an actual human being) smelt the armpits of multiple people during testing. It is possible to forge an entire career on developing your sense of taste or smell!


It might sound a bit novel, but food tasters have been around for centuries! They were primarily associated with monarchs who had their food tasted before consumption in case of assassination attempts by means of poisoning.

Roman Emperors used to have slaves fulfill this potentially life threatening role, and if the poison was slow acting and only resulted in death a few days later, the fact that both slave and emperor died would at least have proven foul play. It is commonly known, but never confirmed or denied by the Secret Service, that recent presidents of the USA had and continue to have food tasters who travel all over the world with them!

Another career in food tasting that doesn’t involve risking your life is that of pet food taster. It turns out that the developers and manufacturers of pet food really care what Whiskers the cat experiences when eating his food. Pet Food tasters check flavour, consistency and texture. In the US, dog food tasters can earn up to $40 000 per year!

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the job of food tasting was given to rats! Small portions of the food that was served to athletes and delegates were given to rats first the day before. Rats show symptoms of food poisoning within 20 hours so officials would know if they were feeding athletes food that might make them ill.


Perfumers train for many years as apprentices to learn the basic characteristics and ingredients as well as the composition of hundreds of different fragrances. This allows them to best to exploit the unique aesthetics that can be achieved when combining fragrances or their ingredients to varying degrees.

Traditionally, apprenticeships were offered only to interested parties who were known to the perfumer and who was deemed fit for the role by him/her. In 1970 ISIPCA, the only school of perfumery in the world was established in France.  Students are expected to study courses in organic chemistry and are offered apprenticeships when they finish their degree.

Odour testers also use their sense of smell to make a living. While an average day could entail improving the smell of beauty products or even microwave meals (they are fully qualified chemistry majors), their jobs could at times include smelling armpits to test the efficacy of deodorants. I guess it is true that every great job has its downside.


A special device, the olfactometer, is used to help experts test the strength of the odour present in certain gasses. An olfactometer produces both clean and odorised air in blocs so that the tester can compare the quality of the odour being produced This is particularly useful in the gas industry as gas companies are required by law to sell gas that have odorant that is detectable at one fifth of the flammable limit of the gas.

Who knows? Perhaps your senses and a degree in chemistry can offer you a career one day!

Louisa Theart is a freelance musician and writer. She enjoys writing about the complex career landscape for sites like


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