How Can I Earn a Food Handler's License?

Working in a restaurant, grocery store, concession stand or any public place that serves food entails complying with state and local regulations. Read on to learn about the licensing and training required for food handlers. Schools offering Art of Cooking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Definition of a Food Handler's License

In most cases, the term 'food handler's license' refers to a permit or card required to work with food. Food handlers may be regulated by the state, but regulation is often administered at the county or city level. Requiring a food handler's card or permit is a safeguard for the public that helps the government ensure safe food-handling practices are being followed. Safe food handling regulations help to reduce the transmission of food-borne illnesses and diseases.

Important Facts About Food Handlers

Continuing Education Food safety employee training, food allergen training
Work Environment Restaurants, cafeterias, grocery stores, hospitals
Online Availability License programs are available online
Possible Careers Chef, line cook, food and beverage server, bakery assistant
Median Salary (2018)$23,730 (Food Preparation Workers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)8% (Food Preparation Workers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)


Anyone working in the food industry that handles unpackaged food or works with food preparation equipment or in areas where food is prepared may be required to have a food handler license. This license is issued by a local health department agency. Although the requirements for obtaining a food handler license, such as the initial cost, vary by each state, all applicants are required to take a licensing exam. Some states also require the completion of a food handler course before allowing an applicant to take an exam.

Types of Programs

The completion of a food handling course is optional, yet it does prepare an applicant for taking the food handler's examination. Courses are offered online through a local health department or government agency and can typically be completed in one day. A course covers safe food-handling practices, personal hygiene, equipment sanitation and potential hazards. During the course, you may review handbooks, watch videos and attend lectures. After completing the course, you may take or schedule a licensure exam.

These programs may be offered online or in a classroom setting at a local community college, restaurant or cafeteria businesses. You might also seek courses through your state's health department.


Food handler cards or permits often must be renewed on a regular basis. A typical license period is for three years; however, the length of time a card is valid depends upon the individual agency issuing the food handler license. License renewal typically includes updating personal information and a passing score on an exam. License renewal agencies provide testing options online via their website, on computers at their office and through an examination class, also at their office.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • Wiregrass Georgia Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Georgia: Valdosta
  • West Virginia Northern Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • West Virginia: Wheeling
  • West Georgia Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Georgia: Waco
  • Waukesha County Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Wisconsin: Pewaukee
  • Washburn Institute of Technology

    Campus Locations:

    • Kansas: Topeka
  • Vincennes University

    Campus Locations:

    • Indiana: Vincennes
  • Spartanburg Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • South Carolina: Spartanburg
  • Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center

    Campus Locations:

    • Virginia: Fishersville
  • Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

    Campus Locations:

    • New Mexico: Albuquerque