Caterer Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a caterer. Learn about education requirements, job duties, salary information and employment outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Hotel & Restaurant Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Caterer?

Caterers provide food service for private events and public functions. As a caterer, you may either own your own business or work for a catering company. The caterer works closely with clients to explain the types of food they are able to provide and helps the client choose a menu for their event. The caterer then is in charge of preparing the food, typically beforehand, transporting it to the event, and presenting the food in an aesthetically pleasing way. Because caterers may often provide food for events that are on a strict schedule, like weddings or conferences, they should be able to work quickly and in a sometimes stressful environment. The following chart gives you an overview about entering this field.

Education Required None required, though associate's degree in culinary arts is helpful
Certification Certification is optional
Job Duties Prepare food, provision linens and tableware, set-up dining for events, cleaning after events
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10% (for all food and beverage serving and related workers)*
Median Salary (2017) $33,766**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Is Catering?

Catering is a part of the food and beverage industry that provides food service for events and functions, both public and private. People, businesses and organizations holding events or parties might choose to hire a caterer for special occasions, such as weddings, conferences, birthdays or promotional celebrations. Caterers can offer limited and full-service options, including food preparation, linens and tableware provisions, dining set-up and post-event cleaning.

What Education Do I Need?

No formal education industry standards exist for the profession; however, if you have a high school diploma or a GED you might consider enrolling in an associate's degree program in culinary arts. College training could enable you to enter the catering industry at a higher position and pay rate. In a culinary arts degree program, you can expect to learn about cooking, sales, marketing, customer service and management. Some courses relevant to catering include customer and employee management, cooking and nutrition, purchasing, inventory, dining room organization and food presentation. In addition to a culinary arts degree, professional certification in cooking or administration from the American Culinary Foundation can demonstrate your proficiency in one or more aspects of the catering profession.

What Jobs Are Available?

Much like the restaurant business, a wide variety of positions are available in the catering industry based on your interests and areas of expertise. If you have solid skills in food preparation and presentation, you could choose to become a line cook, sous chef or executive chef. If you are personable and efficient, you might enjoy working as a server or bartender. You could qualify for a management position with some business training or launch your own catering business.

What is the Job Market Like?

According the projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of food and beverage serving and related professionals was expected increase 10% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). As of January 2017, Payscale.com reported that the median annual salary of professional caterers was $33,766. This number reflected a wide variety of positions, including event coordinators, banquet mangers, chefs and individuals in catering sales. The income that you can expect to earn depends largely on your experience, location and the position you hold.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in other jobs in the food service industry, you could pursue several with a high school diploma. Working as a bartender is an option. This job involves working at a bar, taking orders from customers, mixing drinks, and serving drinks. Bartenders also must be able to work in a fast-paced and sometimes chaotic environment. It is important for them to have good customer service skills as well. Another option is becoming a flight attendant. While this job is less food-oriented, it does involve providing service to individuals while they take flights. Flight attendants are responsible for making sure people are safe and as comfortable as possible during the flight. This career would require additional training after achieving a high school diploma.

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