Catering Certificate, Diploma and Certification Program Overviews

Catering certificate programs and associate degree programs can prepare students for positions in specialized events, such as weddings, conferences and banquets. Both programs teach culinary skills, as well as business skills, and include courses working in live catering environments.

Essential Information

Training in catering is available at the certificate and associate degree levels. The curricula of these programs typically combine classroom instruction with internships for hands-on training experiences in food service establishments. Cooking and baking techniques are studied and practiced, usually in lab settings. Food sanitation, safety and nutrition are among the topics covered in class discussions. General certification is not required to become a caterer or run a catering business, though food safety certification is sometimes needed.

  • Program Levels: Certificate of Achievement in Catering; Associate Degree in Catering
  • Prerequisites: Applicants to certificate and associate's degree programs require a high school diploma or the equivalent; Some associate degree programs require the submission of ACT or SAT scores; some certificate programs require applicants to have prior food service experience and or a food safety certification, such as the ServSafe Sanitation Certification
  • Program Specializations: Some certificate programs will include an internship or practicum for students to gain hands-on experience working in a live catering environment; in some associate's degree programs, students receive hands-on training while working with a local catering company or hotel

Certificate of Achievement in Catering

Catering certificates are intended for students interested in the food service and hospitality industries. These programs provide students with basic culinary skills. Additionally, students learn business skills relevant to the food service industry, such as management and marketing. It is common for programs to include an internship or practicum for students to gain hands-on experience working in a live catering environment. Catering certificates include courses in cooking, service and business techniques. Common courses include the following:

  • Introduction to professional cooking
  • Introductory baking
  • Basic sanitation and food safety
  • Business planning in food service
  • Cooking in quantity
  • Catering practicum

Associate Degree in Catering

A catering diploma is available at the associate degree level, either directly in catering or in culinary arts with a catering concentration. These programs provide comprehensive training in the skills required to establish a catering business. In addition to culinary skills, students learn business practices relevant to the field. Students often receive hands-on training while working with a local catering company or hotel. Catering associate degree programs include courses on food preparation, service and business, such as the following:

  • Introduction to professional cooking
  • Basic sanitation and food safety
  • Baking and pastry arts
  • Introductory business skills
  • Management theory
  • Wines and spirits

Career Outlook and Salary Information

As a primary component of the broader special food services category, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that caterers accounted for about 5.12% of the individuals employed in the food and beverage service industry in 2014. Job opportunities for non-restaurant food servers were expected to grow 20% between 2012 and 2022. The median annual salary for caterers and others in non-restaurant food service was $19,900 in 2014. Cooks, on average, earned an annual median salary of $24,970.

Popular Career Options

Associate degree programs in catering prepare graduates for a variety of careers that involve food service in hotels or special events, including the following:

  • Catering business manager
  • Event planner
  • Hotel banquet manager
  • Catering supervisor

Continuing Education Information

Upon completion of a catering certificate or associate degree in catering, graduates may go on to pursue a bachelor's degree in food service management, hotel management or restaurant management. These degrees provide advanced training in both the world of cooking and the food services industry. Individuals interested in starting their own catering business may pursue business degrees, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

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