Food Production Service Jobs: Career Options and Requirements

Education programs for food production and service jobs typically focus on culinary skills, food principles, nutrition, sanitation, and business and/or hospitality management. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for food production graduates.

The food production industry has a large scope of jobs to choose from, with little to no experience needed. There are educational options available to those who seek to earn a higher degree for a more advanced trade. In this industry, salaries, job growth rates, and work duties vary drastically for several food production service positions.

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Essential Information

A variety of production and service jobs exist in the food industry, ranging from cooking and culinary preparation to produce warehouse management. Food production service workers may be employed at full-service and fast-food restaurants, cafeterias, schools, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, storage facilities and farms. Training typically focuses on food and preparation, while advanced studies often equip graduates for supervisory positions. Specific occupational options may include cook, chef, food supplier, banquet manager, purchasing manager or food production director, among others.

Chefs/Head Cooks Food Service Managers Waiters/Waitresses
Required Education High school diploma and on-the-job experience High school diploma plus long-term work experience Entry level; Short-term on-the-job training
Other Requirements Culinary arts school or postsecondary education preferred Postsecondary education preferred No formal education necessary
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 9%* 5%* 3%*
Average Salary (2015) $45,920* $53,640* $23,020*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Food Service Certification Options

Food service workers at all levels have the option of gaining certification through professional organizations or government agencies, such as the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, the American Culinary Federation or a state's department of health. Directors, kitchen staff, sanitation workers and culinary professionals can earn credentials that demonstrate a level of knowledge and skill that meets industry standards. These certifications are not usually required for career entry, but could provide opportunities for advancement or greater income.

Food Service Education Requirements

Those looking to launch a food service career can find a number of educational options through public and private institutions. Many culinary schools or technical institutions prepare students for kitchen supervision, cooking or baking professions. Community colleges and universities offer degree options in hospitality, culinary studies or food service management at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Those interested in becoming a server, line cook or kitchen aide could earn a certificate in food service management through a college or vocational school, though some establishments hire high school graduates for several entry-level positions.

Food Service Technical Diploma

Diploma programs typically take a year to complete and offer the shortest route to start a career in the food service industry. Common courses include food principles, nutrition and food production.

Associate Degree in Culinary Arts

Associate degree programs typically provide a mix of food preparation and cooking skills for aspiring food service workers. These 2-year programs offer courses in business management and employee relations, as well as food preparation, sanitation and nutrition.

Bachelor's Degree in Food Service Management or Culinary Arts

A 4-year bachelor's degree program includes industry-specific education. Courses in a hospitality management program prepare graduates for supervisory positions in the industry, and teach business skills -- such as accounting and marketing -- aimed at restaurant, hotel and resort management. Culinary arts courses focus on food production, nutrition, purchasing and kitchen management.

Master's Degree in Food Science or Hospitality Management

Graduate programs at the master's level are sometimes offered either completely or partially online. Core and elective courses might focus on food research or restaurant management. Topics may include produce distribution and purchasing, food preparation, nutritional studies and employee supervision.

Salary and Job Outlook

Salaries in the field of food production and service can vary substantially by career. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chefs and head cooks made an average salary of $45,920 as of May 2015; whereas food preparation workers made an average yearly wage of $22,050 during that same reporting interval. Also as of May 2015, per the BLS, food service managers made an average salary of $53,640; while waiters and waitresses made an average of $23,020 per year.

Employment projections are equally varied. For instance, the BLS projected that the number of employed chefs and head cooks would grow by roughly 9% from 2014-2024, somewhat faster than average for all occupations. Meanwhile, the BLS estimated that the total number of food service managers was expected to change 5%, about as fast as the average within the same decade; while the number of waiters and waitresses was expected to grow by about 3%, still slower than average across occupations. Overall, the BLS projected that employment of food and beverage serving and related workers would grow approximately 10% from 2014 to 2024, generally faster than average across all occupations.

With a high school diploma or hands-on experience, you can enter into a career in food production services. For those who are looking for managerial positions or long-term careers, pursuing an advanced degree in culinary arts is optional but not required. The annual salaries for food production and service jobs vary in range, with some workers earning a little over $23,000 and others earning close to $54,000 each year.

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