woman shopper looking at wall of products

Applied Sensory and Consumer Science Certificate Program

Program at a Glance

  • 12 months
  • 4 online courses
  • $8,925
  • Eligible for VA Benefits

An Innovative, Online Program for Sensory Science Professionals

UC Davis Division of Continuing and Professional Education is the industry-recognized leader in the education of sensory science professionals. Approved by the UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology, our online program is the only one of its kind and is continually updated to reflect current and innovative methods in the area of sensory science and consumer testing. Join our global community of sensory science professionals.

Who Is This Program For?

  • Early-stage sensory scientists who want practical skills to advance their career
  • Business people who need foundational knowledge to communicate effectively with sensory scientists
  • Mid-career professionals seeking the academic background to complement their work experience
  • Experienced professionals looking to learn the latest methods, techniques and business applications

What You’ll Learn

Designed for working professionals, this program combines academic and real-world expertise and explores new techniques, as well as the foundational theory behind current methods of sensory evaluation for both edible and non-edible products. You'll learn:

  • Physiological and psychological bases for sensory evaluation and consumer testing
  • Methods, theories and approaches used in sensory evaluation and consumer testing
  • Tools for managing sensory evaluation resources and activities and their interaction with other business units
  • Research techniques and frameworks for understanding consumer behavior
  • Applied business skills to advance sensory initiatives and develop successful new products

What You'll Get

  • Flexible online learning that won’t interfere with your job
  • Opportunity to learn new sensory evaluation techniques
  • Sensory science theory, tools and techniques for on-the-job application, backed by UC Davis Food Science and Technology
  • Academically rigorous, graduate-level courses that offer a career-focused alternative to a master’s degree
  • A professional network of instructors and peers from global brands such as Pepsi, Nestle, L’Oreal, Constellation Brands and Mondelez
  • The skills and confidence to move into new roles, take on bigger projects and advance your career
  • $82,004 average salary for sensory scientist (Payscale.com)
  • 6% projected job growth for food scientists and technologists from 2019-2029 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • States with the highest employment level for food scientists and technologists: California, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Top paying states for food scientists and technologists: District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Vermont (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Prerequisite: One college-level statistics course.

The program consists of graduate professional-level courses approved by the Academic Senate at UC Davis. Courses must be taken in sequential order as each course builds upon the concepts and skills developed in the previous course. A letter grade of C or better is required to earn the certificate. Upon successful completion of the program, you will have completed 160 hours of instruction and earned 16 units of academic credit. Unlike an industry short course that lasts a few days, these months-long courses offer you enough time to apply the material learned to instructor-evaluated assignments designed to test your mastery of the concepts and applications.

The courses combine synchronous and self-paced learning styles. Students will progress through the course together and will be expected to complete particular lessons and assignments by specific dates. Course materials are published and distributed by Cognella, Inc. and each course pack is designed specifically for each class. The course packs include all of the required reading materials in one place, including journal articles, essays and case studies, and can be purchased in both print and digital formats. As long as you complete the course assignments and review lesson materials and course readings within the broad time outlines of the course, you can pace yourself through the material.

Courses two and three will utilize R, a system for statistical computation and graphics. Tutorials will be included in the courses, should you run into any issues. R is available for use on all platforms (Linux, Mac, Unix, Windows). For information on the technical requirements for this online program, including more on R, visit our FAQs page.

Required Courses

Course outlines are subject to change

Foundations of Sensory Science

Taught by Rebecca Bleibaum, M.A.

Scope and objectives: Physiological and psychological bases for sensory evaluation and consumer testing.

Lesson 1

Introduction to Sensory Science

  • Introduction to Sensory Science Definition, history, the senses, methods, and differences from other research methods.
  • Basic Sensory Research (medical, categories, nutrition, communication between processors).
  • Roles of Sensory Science in marketing, product development, quality assurance, etc.

Lesson 2

The Senses: Taste–Gustation

  • Gustation (Taste)–primary tastes, anatomy, physiology, and chemistry of taste. Transducer and neural effects including receptor types, stimulus- receptor transducer mechanisms, neural channels, neural codes, and cortical cell types and mechanisms; taste modifiers; adaptation of taste.

Lesson 3

The Senses: Olfaction and Tactile

  • Olfaction (Smell)–anatomy, physiology and chemistry of smell, transduction, adaptation, classification systems, illusions.
  • Tactile (Touch)–tactile sensations, temperature, mouthfeel, pungency, heat, trigeminal pain.

Lesson 4

The Senses: Vision and Audition

  • Vision (Seeing)–eyes: design and anatomy; visual organization including rods, cones, detection, contrast effects, depth, color perception, after effects, adjustments to distorted vision.
  • Audition (Hearing)–mechanisms, anatomy, adaptation, delayed feedback, sound location.

Lesson 5

The Senses and the Brain

  • Tricks the senses may play, senses and the brain, information overload, attention and adaptation, context, illusions.
  • The Mind–how information is processed, analytical and affective components of sensation.
  • Humans as Sensory Instruments–physiological and psychological biases–what can we do?
  • Theory of Sensory Measurement–response bias, psychophysics.

Lesson 6


  • Level of Measurements
  • Purposes of scaling, methods of scaling
  • Ranking
  • What is happening cognitively when we do scaling?
  • What is hedonic scaling?
  • Acceptance testing

Lesson 7

Discrimination Theory and Testing Methods

  • Why some people do better (central vs. peripheral processing)
  • Thurstonian Modeling
  • Memory Effects
  • Creating more sensitive tests
  • Guessing Models for Discrimination Theory

Lesson 8

Signal Detection and the R-Index

  • Signal Detection Theory
  • John Brown's R-index

Lesson 9

Labs and Procedures

  • The Sensory Evaluation Laboratory–environment, test protocol, instructions to panel, palate cleansing, swallowing and expectoration, randomization and labeling, etc.
  • Virtual Tour of evaluation booths.
  • Testing Procedures–strategy, staffing, experimental design options, use of human subjects, selection and training, screening tests, performance assessment.

Lesson 10

Course Summary

  • A summary of lessons 1 through 9.
Sensory Evaluation Methods

Prerequisite: Foundations of Sensory Science

Taught by Jean Xavier Guinard, Ph.D.

Scope and objectives: Common basic methods, theories, and approaches used in the execution of sensory evaluation and consumer testing research.

Lesson 1

  • Review of Course 1 materials
  • Sensory Evaluation Methods (classification and purposes)

Lesson 2

  • Univariate Statistics
  • Measures of central tendency and dispersion; binomial and nominal distributions; Student's t-test; Chi-square; correlation and regression; analysis of variance; multiple mean comparisons

Lesson 3

  • Theory and measurement of thresholds
  • Types of thresholds
  • Applications
  • Methods for measuring thresholds

Lesson 4
Difference Tests

  • Types of difference tests
  • Applications of difference testing
  • Difference vs. similarity testing
  • Difference tests

Lesson 5

  • Types of scales
  • Applications of scaling
  • Uses and abuses of scales
  • Psychological biases in scaling

Lesson 6

  • Multivariate Statistics
  • Basic principles, types of methods and applications
  • Regression methods (RSM, PLS), factor analysis methods (PCA, GPA) and classification methods (Cluster analysis)

Lesson 7
Descriptive Analysis

  • Descriptive Analysis
  • Purposes, applications, principles
  • Panel selection and screening
  • Term generation and scorecard development
  • Panel training
  • Judge performance (criteria and assessment)

Lesson 8
Descriptive Analysis Methods

  • Descriptive Analysis Methods
  • The Flavor Profile Method, The Texture Profile Method, Quantitative Descriptive Analysis (QDA), Spectrum Method, Free-Choice Profiling, etc.

Lesson 9

  • Time-Intensity Measurements: purposes and principles
  • Training for Time-Intensity Profiling
  • Analysis of time-intensity curves

Lesson 10
Instrumental Measures

  • Instrumental Measurements of Sensory Properties
  • Color
  • Texture
  • Flavor (taste and aroma)
  • Relation with sensory measurements
Consumer Testing Methods

Prerequisites: Foundations of Sensory Science and Sensory Evaluation Methods

Taught by Jean Xavier Guinard, Ph.D.

Scope and objectives: Management of sensory evaluation and consumer testing resources, activities, and their interaction with other business units; exploratory research techniques.

Lesson 1

  • Introduction
  • History
  • Terminology
  • Consumer testing vs. market research
  • Types of consumer tests
  • Settings for consumer tests
  • Applications of consumer tests

Lesson 2

Sampling, recruitment, and screening

  • Sampling and demographics
  • Sample size and power issues
  • Source of test subjects: employees vs. local residents vs. population at large
  • Databases and subject pools
  • Recruitment methods
  • Screening

Lesson 3

Quantitative tools

  • Preference testing
  • Measurement of liking
  • Just-right scales
  • Other acceptance rating scales
  • Other scales or tools used in quantitative market research
  • Questionnaire design
  • Special issues
  • Product optimization applications of hedonic ratings by consumers

Lesson 4


  • Demographics, psychographics, attitudes, usage and genetics
  • Understanding consumer language–the Repertory Grid Method
  • Segmenting consumers based on preferences for product or service features–Conjoint Analysis
  • Segmenting consumers based on sensory liking–Internal Preference Mapping and Preference Clustering

Lesson 5


  • Definitions of "context" and context variables
  • History of context research
  • Documented effects of context variables on consumer behavior and responses
  • Use of Robust Design Methodology to study context effects
  • Implications of context research on consumer testing methodology

Lesson 6

Laboratory, central location, home-use and other field tests

  • Surveys
  • Online market research–Testing through the Internet
  • Internal laboratory tests (with employees or local residents)
  • Central Location Tests
  • Home Use Tests
  • Other field tests (e.g., mobile laboratory, simulated-supermarket setting, etc.)
  • Testing with special populations
  • Contracting a consumer test to a market research agency

Lesson 7

Qualitative methods

  • What is "qualitative"?
  • Idea generation methods
  • Focus groups
  • In-depth individual interviews
  • Projective techniques
  • Ethnography
  • Using the Internet for qualitative research

Lesson 8

Relating consumer and sensory data

  • The regression method
  • Response surface methodology
  • Principal component analysis of sensory attributes and hedonic ratings
  • Internal preference mapping with projection of sensory data
  • External preference mapping
  • Drivers of liking

Lesson 9

Market research methods

  • Consumer trends research
  • Usage and attitudes studies
  • Means-End Chain Analysis
  • Conjoint analysis
  • Simulated Test Markets
  • Advertising research

Lesson 10

Consumer-driven innovation

  • Chronemics Method
  • The Gemba Method
  • The Quali-Quanti Method
  • Customer-Defined Quality
  • Empathic design
Applications of Sensory Science and Consumer Testing Principles

Prerequisites: Foundations of Sensory Science, Sensory Evaluation Methods and Consumer Testing Methods

Taught by Rebecca Bleibaum, M.A.

Scope and objectives: Current business applications of the foundations, principles, and methods taught in the first three courses, for sensory evaluation and consumer testing.

Lesson 1

Product Development Principles

  • Stages of Product Evaluation and Product Life Cycle
  • Brand Control, Competence Structure, and Sensory/Consumer Testing Activities
  • Basic Assumptions of Product Development
  • Steps in Product Development
  • Aspects of Marketing Specificity
  • Aspects of Product Specificity
  • Product Development Activities Related to Specificity

Lesson 2

Quality Control and Stability Testing

  • Overview and Background
  • What is Quality?
  • Implementation of a Sensory Specification
  • Special Issues with Sensory Specification
  • Measuring Product Stability–Shelf Life
  • Final Thoughts

Lesson 3

Product Improvement

  • Why Do We Improve Products?
  • Where Do Line Extensions Fit into Product Improvement?
  • Discrimination Methods in Product Improvement
  • Descriptive Methods in Product Improvement
  • Affective Methods in Product Improvement
  • Qualitative Methods in Product Improvement
  • Product Development Case History

Lesson 4

New Product Development

  • How Do Companies Get New Product Ideas?
  • The Hierarchy of New Products
  • Front End of Innovation
  • Concept Generation
  • Concept Identification
  • Consumer Driven Innovation
  • Product Development and Evaluation
  • Product Development and Validation

Lesson 5

Product Optimization

  • The "Optimum Product" Fallacy
  • Qualitative Evaluation in Product Optimization
  • Number and Selection of Products for Optimization
  • Descriptive Evaluation in Product Optimization
  • Analytical Evaluations in Product Optimization
  • Measuring Consumer Acceptance in Optimization Research
  • Selecting Variables to Predict Product Liking in Optimization
  • Reducing Redundancy in Descriptive and Analytical Variables
  • Statistical Analysis in Optimization
  • Segmentation in Optimization
  • Non Sensory and Acceptance Aspects of Optimization
  • Does Optimization Work?
  • Validation
  • Conclusions

Lesson 6

Post Marketing Audits

  • Overview
  • Product Maintenance Strategies
  • Retail Audits
  • Product Procurement for Marketing Audits
  • Sensory Science and Consumer Testing Methods Used in Audits
  • Marketing Audit Example
  • Market Audit Business Effects
  • Case History–Chocolate Chip Cookies

Lesson 7

Extended Use Testing

  • Why Would a Product Change in its Acceptance Over Time/Repeated Use?
  • Which Products Should Undergo Extended Use Testing?
  • How Much Sample for Extended Use Testing?
  • Where Do Extended Use Tests Take Place?
  • How Many Evaluations Qualify for Extended Use?
  • What Types of Sensory/Consumer Evaluations Can be Used in Extended Use Testing?
  • How Does Monotony Relate to Extended Use Testing?
  • How Does Extended Use and Satiety Relate?
  • Purchase of Extended Use Evaluations
  • How Do Extended Use and Brand Loyalty Relate?
  • Conclusions

Lesson 8

Advertising Claims

  • Who Regulates Advertising Claims?
  • Schrank's Categories of Advertising Claims
  • Superiority Claims
  • Developing an Advertising Claim
  • Case Histories
  • Planning and Advertising Claim
  • Generic Deposition or Testifying as an Expert Witness
  • Defending Against a Competitive or Regulatory Activity Directed At Your Company
  • Conclusions

Lesson 9

Resources and Issues in Sensory Science and Consumer Testing

  • Strategic Management of Your Resources
  • Sensory Science Interaction with Market Research Department
  • What Does Sensory Science and Consumer Testing have to Offer Market Research?
  • Interaction of Sensory Science and Production
  • Why Use Outside Resources or Vendors
  • Choice of a Vendor
  • Partial Vendor List for the United States, Canada, and Parts of Europe
  • Partial List of Journals and Publications of Interest
  • Ethics in Sensory Science and Consumer Testing

Lesson 10

The Future of Sensory Science and Consumer Testing

  • Education of the Sensory Scientist
  • Tools for Data Collection
  • Digital Aroma Technology
  • Sensory and Consumer Testing Methodology
  • Taste Modifiers Research
  • Cross Cultural Research
  • Non-Food Applications
  • Final Send-off for Students

2024 Program Dates

Course Title Start Date
Foundations of Sensory Science September 30, 2024
Sensory Evaluation Methods January 6, 2025
Consumer Testing Methods April 7, 2025
Applications of Sensory Science and Consumer Testing Principles July 7, 2025
  • Program cost: $8,925 ($2,200 per course)
  • A one-time, nonrefundable certificate fee of $125 is included in the program cost.
  • Course reader packs will cost approximately $100-$150 per course (or $400-$600 for the program).

Group Discounts Available: Organizations sending three or more students are eligible for a 10% discount. Contact Student Services at (800) 752-0881 to request this discount.

For information about financing your education, please click here.

Ready to advance your career?

  • Apply for the certificate program  – Complete a short application describing your educational background (including the prerequisite), employment history, any current or past experience within the sensory and consumer science field, and your plans once you’ve completed the certificate. 
    • You will get an email from the program assistant in 2-3 business days to let you know of your acceptance into the program and next steps.
    • In order to ensure the appropriate level of interaction between faculty and students, this program is limited to the first 60 qualified applicants. Applications are always being accepted and once the current program is filled, a waitlist is then created to prepare for the next opening. The program is filled on a first-come, first-served basis. 
    • After entering the certificate program, you will coordinate enrollment with the enrollment coach.
  • Sign up for a free information session  – Learn more about the program by enrolling in a free info session. If an information session for this program is not currently open for enrollment, click on “notify me,” and we’ll contact you when the next one becomes available.

Questions? We’re here to help.

Contact our Enrollment Coach, Kristy Craig, if you would like to schedule an appointment. She can speak with you about our program, answer your questions and help ensure it’s the right fit for your goals. Schedule your 30-minute conversation with Kristy.

Access free career resources. Our students have free access to tools for career planning, resume writing, interview practice and more. 

If you’ve got a question, email us or call (530) 757-8777.

Sensory Student Reviews

Amanda Nobbe, Burt’s Bees (Clorox) 

“This program has ingrained in me the key sensory principles for conducting high-quality sensory research.”