If you are a food service professional looking to take your career to the next level, then you might consider earning a catering certificate. This pathway is also beneficial for those looking to enter the food service industry for the first time.
A certificate in catering is an academic program that teaches you many necessary skills within the industry, like how to plan a menu and how to safely handle food.
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This type of certificate program could also help you develop versatile skill sets in communications, marketing, and business management.
Online Catering Certificate Programs
An online catering certificate program is an academic program that focuses on the catering industry, covering skills and education that translate to a range of food service and hospitality roles.
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Students coming into these types of programs are often motivated by cooking, working with a team, and providing the best service to customers. The curriculum in catering certificate programs reflects these areas. Your courses will likely focus on many aspects of catering as well as food service management in general.
Common topics covered in a catering certificate program include:
- Catering basics
- Menu creation
- Inventory upkeep
- Food service management
- Food safety
- Business accounting and finances
Many of these classes are rather hands-on and focus on practical skills. Many graduates of online catering certificate programs go on to work for catering companies as workers or managers, ensuring that their operations run smoothly. Some students aim to start their own catering businesses.
There are also opportunities to work in other sectors of the food service industry. For example, some graduates find employment working for any eating establishment as a cook, chef, or food preparation worker. Some professionals in this field go on to become private chefs for households or specific clients.
On top of helping you develop versatile skills in business and food service, a catering certificate program could also help you prepare for industry certification. Some certifications are optional, allowing you to demonstrate your proficiency to potential clients or employers. Others, such as a certification for safe food handling, are required for certain food service positions.
Catering Careers & Salaries
There are many careers and positions that you may pursue using the skills you developed in a catering management program. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for food service managers overall is $59,440.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Food Service Managers — Accommodation||$73,650|
|Food Service Managers — Special Food Services||$70,160|
|Food Service Managers — Restaurants and Other Eating Places||$58,500|
|Chefs and Head Cooks||$50,160|
|Food Preparation Workers||$28,780|
|Food Servers (Nonrestaurant)||$28,720|
|Dining Room and Cafeteria Attendants and Bartender Helpers||$27,160|
|Waiters and Waitresses||$26,000|
Some companies may prefer you to have earned a bachelor’s degree when applying for these jobs, such as an online degree in hospitality management.
Aside from working for a catering business or starting their own business, professionals can also use their catering certificate training in a range of positions related to the food service field.
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Some pursue work as private chefs for clients or as cooks or food preparation workers for restaurants, hotels, and other eating establishments. Others pursue additional credentials like a restaurant management certificate online or on campus. As you gain experience, you can also work your way toward management positions.
Catering Certificate Curriculum & Courses
Typically, programs focusing on the same area will have similar courses, though the names and specific material they cover may differ.
As a student in an online catering certificate program, you may take some of the following courses:
- Catering Basics: This course introduces you to the foundational aspects of the catering business and profession.
- Catering Theory: This course covers various aspects of catering, including its history, requirements, and different approaches.
- Food Safety: This course teaches about the importance of handling food with care to prevent spoilage or foodborne illness.
- Menu Design: This course teaches about the intricacies of designing a menu.
- Food Service Management: This course serves as an introduction for you to learn about food service management practices and best procedures.
- Kitchen Management: This course looks at the management of a kitchen, including inventory and other requirements.
- Cooking Basics: This course overviews basic cooking practices and recipes.
- Accounting for Catering: This course teaches basic financial and accounting practices for running a catering business.
- Purchasing and Procurement: This course looks at the essential practices for purchasing inventory and limiting costs.
- Facilities Management: This course looks at the management of facilities, such as catering venues.
Your university may offer different courses depending on its curriculum and faculty areas of expertise.
Each college and university will set its own admissions requirements for students, though programs covering the same subject may have similar requirements. Here are some common criteria for catering certificate programs:
- High school diploma or GED equivalent
- Online application and potential application fee
- Proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing English
- Resume or CV
Admissions criteria for certificate programs are often less stringent than degree programs, but verifying that you meet a prospective school’s requirements could increase your chances of admission.
To ensure that you can use your degree as a qualification for future employment, it’s strategic to attend an accredited university.
Attending an accredited school is also a common eligibility requirement for financial aid opportunities. Accreditation is a process whereby an accrediting agency reviews a school’s educational practices and measures the quality of an institution’s faculty, educational offerings, and student services.
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To see if the colleges and universities you are applying to are accredited by credible organizations, you can visit the US Department of Education’s website.
Catering Licensure and Certifications
Professional certification is a credential that’s granted by an industry organization. Certification typically demonstrates your proficiency in a certain skill set or field to employers or clients.
Some catering certifications include:
- ServSafe Manager Certification: Administered by the National Restaurant Association, this credential focuses on food safety knowledge to prevent foodborne illness.
- Certified Professional in Catering and Events: The CPCE is given by the National Association for Catering and Events for catering competency.
- Certified Food Manager: This credential focuses on food management and is granted by the International Food Service Executives Association.
There may be other certifications available for you to consider as well.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
There are many sources of financial support you can explore to help fund your studies. Student loans from the federal government is one of the most common forms of aid. To determine whether your eligible for student loans and other forms of need-based federal aid, you can submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
States may have their own student aid programs as well. In addition, you can research scholarship opportunities available through your school, professional organizations, or public institutions. Some employers also provide financial support or professional development programs to assist in their workers’ educational pursuits.
What Can You Do with a Catering Certificate?
The knowledge and skills you could develop through a catering certificate program are applicable to a range of roles within the food industry.
Many of these jobs are found at restaurants, hotels, and other eating establishments and locations. Professionals with a certificate in catering often go on to become food service managers, ensuring that the daily operations of an eating establishment run smoothly and efficiently.
Some go on to start or grow their own catering business. Other food service professionals work as private chefs, executive chefs, cooks, or food preparation workers. Those who enjoy customer service may find that bartending or waiting on tables is more to their liking.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Catering Certificate Online?
The time it takes to complete a catering certificate online depends on many factors, such as the number of credits required in a specific program.
Most certificate programs in catering are meant to last 6 months to 1 year. Some even offer accelerated tracks that let students earn their certificate in 3 months. If you choose to spread out your classes and study part-time, it will likely take you longer to finish your program. One benefit to an online catering certificate program is the schedule flexibility it can bring.
Is a Catering Certificate Worth It?
Yes, a catering certificate is worth it for many students. The curriculum for catering certificate programs is designed to teach you what you need to work as a competent food service professional.
An online catering certificate program can also cover useful skills for managing or owning a business, such as communication, marketing, and business management skills. Many graduates go on to become owners or managers of catering businesses or food service managers of various eating establishments.
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10% job growth is projected for food service managers over the next ten years, which is faster than average.
Universities Offering Online Catering Certificates Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer programs online or in a hybrid format.
Kennesaw State University offers a Cooking and Catering Professional Certificate online. In addition to developing culinary skills, the program aims to teach skills in business, marketing, and communications. The program is usually self-paced and commonly allows for starting at any time. The courses are typically available for 12 months after enrolling.
Kennesaw State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Nicolet College offers a Technical Certificate in Catering. Potential courses include Food Theory, Food Production Principles, Catering, Sanitation and Safety Basics, and Garde Manger Basics. The 13 required credits of coursework typically take 2 terms to complete, and there are usually 3 start dates every year.
Nicolet College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
North Carolina Central University offers a professional training course in catering online. Typical topics of study include food production practices, food safety, sales and marketing, accounting principles, and human resource planning. There are commonly no prerequisites to enroll, and the course can usually be started at any time.
North Carolina Central University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Colleges Offering Online Catering Certificates Programs
In addition to the regionally accredited universities listed above, the following nationally accredited universities offer online catering and related programs:
Ashworth College offers an online program for a Career Diploma in Gourmet Cooking and Catering. Potential courses include Dynamics of Catering, Cooking Basics, Baking and Pastry, Garde Manger, and World Cuisines. Courses tend to be self-paced. The program also typically includes preparation for the National Restaurant Association ServSafe Food Handler Certification Exam.
Ashworth College is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.
Penn Foster College offers an online Gourmet Cooking Certificate. Classes are usually self-paced, but the program takes an average of 7 months to finish. Classes are designed to be interactive, typically providing access to simulations and videos and to experienced faculty. The program may prepare to sit for the National Restaurant Association ServSafe Food Handler certification exam.
Penn Foster is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.
Getting Your Catering Certificate Online
If you are someone who enjoys working with food, interacting with customers, and providing delicious experiences, then you might consider earning a catering certificate online.
This training may help qualify you for a wide variety of jobs within catering, food service management, and general food service roles. A certificate program in catering can also help prepare you to pursue professional catering certification online.
You can find more information on specific catering programs and their offered courses on each school’s website. The sooner you start exploring online certificates in catering from accredited schools, the sooner you may find the program that best matches your schedule and goals.