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Catering Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Those who wish to enter into the field of catering can choose to complete either a diploma or associate's degree program. Programs at the associate's degree level are often bundled with hospitality or hotel management programs. Students take courses on meal planning and preparation, banquet operations, culinary arts and computer applications.

How to Choose a Catering School or College

Prospective catering students have the option of enrolling in either a diploma or an associate's degree program. While community colleges offer both programs, they can also be taken at a hospitality college. Students should apply to schools that offer their catering program of choice. A diploma program can be completed in a short period of time and focuses on meal preparation and banquet management.

An associate's degree program covers these same topics, but also includes instruction in accounting, software applications in the hospitality industry, labor cost control and hospitality law. These additional subject areas qualify graduates to work in entry-level managerial positions. An associate's degree in catering takes two years to complete and requires that students enroll in various general education courses, such as algebra and English composition.

Both programs require that students complete hands-on cooking classes, but a diploma program may not offer an internship. An internship is typically part of an associate's degree program in catering. It can be completed in the summer between the first and second years or in the final semester of the second year. Internships are important to students who wish to transition smoothly into the job market.

Many hospitality and catering programs are offered by community colleges and universities in high tourist areas. Prospective catering students may only want to consider schools in these areas, because they provide internships and work experiences with large hotels, restaurants, casinos and resorts. Graduating from a school located in a popular tourist destination may make it easier to find a catering position.

Largest Schools by Student Population

College/UniversityStudent PopulationInstitution Type
Valencia Community College35,460 2-year, Public
City College of San Francisco34,868 2-year, Public
American River College34,6102-year, Public
Pima Community College34,1362-year, Public
Mt San Antonio College30,0262-year, Public
Long Beach City College26,9272-year, Public
Florida Community College at Jacksonville 25,903 4-year, primarily associate's, Public
College of DuPage25,6682-year, Public
Fresno City College 24,783 2-year, Public
Orange Coast College24,742 2-year, Public
Montgomery College 24,452 2-year, Public
Hillsborough Community College24,0372-year, Public
Cuyahoga Community College District23,2342-year, Public
Southwestern College22,030 2-year, Public
Nassau Community College 21,952 2-year, Public
Diablo Valley College21,205 2-year, Public
College of the Canyons21,0102-year, Public
Chaffey College20,3042-year, Public
Santa Rosa Junior College20,298 2-year, Public
Bakersfield College 19,287 2-year, Public

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