Education for Catering: Training and Career Education Programs

Caterers prepare and deliver food to customers and need some level of culinary training. Additionally, some caterers own their own businesses and require business and management knowledge. Certificate and associate's degree programs in catering and culinary management provide a solid foundation for those who are seeking catering careers.

Catering Programs

Most companies hiring caterers seek candidates who have some postsecondary training, although they may hire applicants with less education and extensive professional experience. Candidates can earn certificates and associate's degrees in catering, culinary management or hospitality. Training for catering can also be obtained by assisting an independent caterer or working in a catering business.

Employers seek caters that have strong communication and customer service skills, work efficiently and perform well in stressful situations. All applicants must have culinary and catering experience, which can be obtained through internships in formal education programs.

Formal Education

Culinary schools, community colleges and technical schools offer certificates and associate's degree programs for students interested in catering careers.

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs provide students with the basic catering and business skills needed to work in the food service industry. Programs can take 6-12 months to complete. Certificate programs include an internship where students can acquire hands-on catering experience with a local company. Typical coursework includes:

  • Food preparation
  • Sanitation and safety
  • Catering

Associate of Science Programs

A 2-year culinary management program typically focuses on food preparation, food service and business principles. Students also complete internships with local catering agencies or other food service establishments, where they receive culinary training. Examples of courses within a culinary management program include:

  • Nutrition
  • Pastry arts
  • Food purchasing
  • Menu design
  • Hospitality supervision

Job Experience

Most employers seek applicants who have several years of experience, although some employers operate their own job-placement and training programs. Catering managers must have 3-5 years of experience as a catering supervisor, in addition to possessing a culinary degree. Some companies require candidates to have valid driver's licenses, proof of insurance and clean driving records.

Licenses and Certifications

The National Association of Catering Executives (NACE), the largest and oldest catering organization in the world, issues professional certification for caterers. Applicants can become Certified Professional Catering Executives (CPCE) once they pass a comprehensive examination, which focuses on seven important aspects of the event management and catering industry. Re-certification must be completed every five years.

Workshops and Seminars

Catering workshops may be provided by employers wishing to train their own employees. These types of workshops teach caterers how to plan menus, store food and take inventory. National associations, such as the NACE, offer annual conferences for on and off-campus caterers, where professionals can learn from experts in the catering world, network with others in the field and study new catering trends.

Professional Development

Caterers working for an employer may decide to venture out on their own and open their own catering businesses. Applicants need to obtain a business license and a health department-approved facility to house their business. All other equipment may be rented if needed.

To further their education, students can opt for a bachelor's degree in culinary arts|. These 4-year degree programs teach students how to prepare different types of cuisines and how to make use of different cooking techniques. Most programs include a 1-2 year paid externship.

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