Catering Certificate, Diploma and Certification Program Overviews

Get information about educational programs providing training in catering operations and practices. Read about levels of study, course topics addressed and admissions requirements for each program. Career and continuing education options and job outlook and salary statistics are also provided in this article.

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Essential Information

Caterers are food service employees specializing in events such as weddings, conferences and banquets. 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. General certification is not required to become a caterer or run a catering business, though food safety certification is sometimes needed.


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. It is common for programs to include an internship or practicum for students to gain hands-on experience working in a live catering environment.

Educational Prerequisites

Certificate programs in catering are typically offered at 2-year community and technical colleges. Applicants must possess a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some programs require applicants to have prior food service experience and or a food safety certification, such as the ServSafe Sanitation Certification.

Program Coursework

Catering certificates include courses in cooking, service and business techniques. Common courses include the following:

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

Career Outlook and Salary Information

As a primary component of the broader special food services category, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) reports that caterers accounted for about 5% of the 4,110,400 individuals employed in the food and beverage service industry in 2010. Job opportunities for non-restaurant food servers were expected to grow 18% between 2010 and 2020. The median annual salary for caterers and others in non-restaurant food service was $19,640 in 2012. Cooks, on average, earned slightly higher, with an annual median salary of $23,250.

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. In addition to culinary skills, students learn business practices relevant to the field. Students often receive hands-on training while working with a local catering company or hotel.

Educational Prerequisites

Catering associate degree programs are most often available at 2-year technical and community colleges. Applicants are required to possess a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some programs require the submission of ACT or SAT scores.

Program Coursework

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
  • Food purchasing

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 culinary arts, 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).

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Popular Schools

  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    • Eligibility and relevancy of sample programs below will vary by article and program
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Arizona (3 campuses)
    • California (16)
    • Colorado (3)
    • Florida (6)
    • Georgia (5)
    • Illinois (7)
    • Indiana (2)
    • Maryland (1)
    • Michigan (1)
    • Minnesota (1)
    • Missouri (2)
    • North Carolina (2)
    • New Jersey (3)
    • Nevada (1)
    • New York (2)
    • Ohio (4)
    • Oklahoma (1)
    • Oregon (1)
    • Pennsylvania (4)
    • Tennessee (2)
    • Texas (7)
    • Utah (1)
    • Virginia (3)
    • Washington (3)
    • Wisconsin (1)

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be 18 years of age or older
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

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Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Southwestern College include:
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate
    • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
      • Culinary Arts and Culinary Services
        • Catering and Restaurant Management
  • School locations:
    • Montana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at The University of Montana include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
      • Culinary Arts and Culinary Services
        • Catering and Restaurant Management
        • Chef Training
  • School locations:
    • Michigan (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Ferris State University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
      • Culinary Arts and Culinary Services
        • Catering and Restaurant Management
  • School locations:
    • Kentucky (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Sullivan University include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
      • Culinary Arts and Culinary Services
        • Baking and Pastry Arts
        • Catering and Restaurant Management
        • Chef Training
  • School locations:
    • Wisconsin (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Milwaukee Area Technical College include:
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate
    • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
      • Cosmetology and Related Services
      • Culinary Arts and Culinary Services
        • Baking and Pastry Arts
        • Catering and Restaurant Management
        • Chef Training
      • Funeral Related Services
  • School locations:
    • Colorado (1 campus)
    • Florida (1 campus)
    • North Carolina (1)
    • Rhode Island (1)
    Areas of study you may find at Johnson & Wales University include:
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
      • Culinary Arts and Culinary Services
        • Baking and Pastry Arts
        • Catering and Restaurant Management
        • Chef Training
  • School locations:
    • Michigan (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Baker College include:
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
      • Culinary Arts and Culinary Services
        • Baking and Pastry Arts
        • Catering and Restaurant Management
        • Chef Training

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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