Cafeteria Worker: Employment & Career Info

Apr 07, 2019

Career Definition for a Cafeteria Worker

Cafeteria workers are a specialized type of food service worker employed in institutional settings, such as schools, hospitals, businesses and so on. Many cafeteria worker jobs are part-time and attract younger applicants due to their relatively low wages. Typical duties of cafeteria workers include serving customers, keeping serving areas clean, clearing tables, communicating with kitchen staff, restocking supplies and other duties as called for.

Required Education No formal education required; a high school diploma and basic English skills will increase the chances of employment
Job Duties Serve customers, clear tables, restock supplies
Median Salary (2017-2018)* $10.18 (all dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers)
$10.74 per hour (all counter attendants, including cafeteria workers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 7% growth (all dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

There are no specific education requirements for a career in food service. A high school degree will improve your opportunities in beginning a career as a cafeteria worker. Being able to read, write, speak and understand spoken English will also help you to succeed as a cafeteria worker.

Skill Requirements

Basic math skills, especially if your work includes cashiering, are important for a career in food service. A thorough understanding of food safety principles is also important for any career in food service.

Employment and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, expects 5% growth in employment of counter attendants, cafeteria, food concession, and coffee shop workers from 2016-2026, while the growth for dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers was anticipated to be almost average, at 7%. The median hourly wage of counter attendants, including cafeteria workers, was $10.74 in 2018, and dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers earned $10.18, according to BLS data from 2017.

Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:


Slower-than-average job growth of 2% was projected by the BLS from 2016-2026 for these workers who learn their skills on the job to mix drinks and provide them to customers. In 2018, the median hourly salary reported by the BLS was $10.84, along with a reminder that many bartenders earn extra income from tips.


Skills for cooks may be learned on the job, although some complete postsecondary training programs to improve their chances of finding employment preparing foods in schools, restaurants, hospitals or private homes. An average increase in positions was expected in the 2016-2026 decade, with 6% growth predicted by the BLS. The BLS also reported hourly median earnings of $11.52 in 2017.

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