Education for Catering: Training and Career Education Programs

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.

Essential Information

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.

  • Program Levels in Catering: Certificate programs, associate's degrees
  • Program Length: 6-12 months for certificate programs, 2 years for associate's degrees
  • Other Requirements: Strong customer service and communication skills preferred; have culinary and catering experience, may have to complete an internship

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's in Culinary Management

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

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS states that food service managers make a mean annual wage of $53,500 as of May 2014. The employment for this career is expected to grow 2% from 2012-2022, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education

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. 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.

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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