Catering Certificate, Diploma and Certification Program Overviews

Catering certificate programs and associate degree programs can prepare students to serve food and beverages at events like weddings, conferences and banquets. Both programs teach culinary and business skills and include courses working in live catering environments.

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Essential Information

Training in catering is available at the certificate and associate degree levels. The curricula of these programs typically combine classroom instruction with internships for hands-on training experiences in food service establishments. Cooking and baking techniques are studied and practiced, usually in lab settings. Food sanitation, safety and nutrition are among the topics covered in class discussions.

Admission to these programs may require a high school diploma as well as the submission of ACT or SAT scores and prior food service experience. A food safety certification, such as ServSafe Certification, might be required as well. This credential is also generally needed to become a caterer or run a catering business.

Certificate of Achievement in Catering

Catering certificates are intended for students interested in the food service and hospitality industries. These programs provide students with basic culinary skills. Additionally, students learn business skills relevant to the food service industry, such as management and marketing. Common courses include the following:

  • Introduction to professional cooking
  • Introductory baking
  • Basic sanitation and food safety
  • Business planning in food service
  • Cooking in quantity
  • Catering practicum

Associate Degree in Catering

A catering diploma is available at the associate degree level, either directly in catering or in culinary arts with a catering concentration. These programs provide comprehensive training in the skills required to establish a catering business. Catering associate degree programs include courses on food preparation, service and business, such as the following:

  • Introduction to professional cooking
  • Basic sanitation and food safety
  • Baking and pastry arts
  • Introductory business skills
  • Management theory
  • Wines and spirits

Career Outlook and Salary Information

As a primary component of the broader special food services category, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that caterers accounted for about 5.12% of the individuals employed in the food and beverage service industry in 2014. Job opportunities for non-restaurant food servers were expected to grow 13% between 2014 and 2024. The median annual salary for caterers and others in non-restaurant food service was $20,420 as of May 2015. Cooks earned an annual median salary of $26,350.

Popular Career Options

Associate degree programs in catering prepare graduates for a variety of careers that involve food service in hotels or special events, including the following:

  • Catering business manager
  • Event planner
  • Hotel banquet manager
  • Catering supervisor

Continuing Education Information

Upon completion of a catering certificate or associate degree in catering, graduates may go on to pursue a bachelor's degree in food service management, hotel management or restaurant management. These degrees provide advanced training in both the world of cooking and the food services industry. Individuals interested in starting their own catering business may pursue business degrees, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Catering programs can lead students to positions in cooking and hospitality. They involve a combination of culinary studies and business management practices.

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