School Food Service Director Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for school food service directors. Get the facts about education requirements, salary and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Restaurant & Catering Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a School Food Service Director?

A school food service director is a food service manager who works at a school. These professionals run the operations of cafeterias in elementary and secondary schools. They are responsible for meeting government requirements for nutrition, food preparation and safety. They typically plan breakfast and lunch menus, and they order the ingredients needed to prepare these meals. They also hire cafeteria staff, schedule their hours and oversee their work.

The following table can tell you what education and training you'll need, as well as possible wages for this profession.

Education Required On-the-job training; postsecondary education preferred
Key Skills Leadership, communication, problem-solving, business, attention to detail
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 5% (for all food service managers)*
Average Annual Salary (2015) $53,640 (for all food service managers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education or Training Do I Need to Work in the School Food Service Industry?

Training for a food service director involves management experience in a restaurant or comparable setting within the food service industry. Because many establishments promote managers from within, it's likely that you'll need to start out in a server, cook or similar role within the organization before advancing.

To become a director in a school setting, you also might need a bachelor's degree in food service and hospitality management, nutrition or dietetics. Several colleges and universities offer programs that cover food preparation and sanitation, financial and operational management, menu planning, legal issues, nutrition, marketing and more.

What Duties Will I Have?

As a school food service director, you'll oversee the daily operations of the cafeteria and food service program. Specifically, you'll maintain an efficient and high quality program that meets federal, state and USDA requirements in regards to food preparation, nutritional requirements, meal patterns and sanitation. Additionally, school food service directors prepare and maintain the budget by managing all income and expenses related to the program. Other job duties might include:

  • Hiring and training food service personnel
  • Effectively managing and leading staff members
  • Regularly evaluating staff performance and program quality
  • Enforcing safety policies and procedures
  • Promoting school food nutrition to students, teachers and parents
  • Developing alternate menus for special diets

How Much Could I Expect to Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average wage of food service managers was $53,640 per year in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). However, the BLS also reported that the majority of food service managers are either self-employed restaurant and food establishment owners or salaried managers of limited and full-service restaurants. The small percentage of elementary and secondary school food service managers earned an average annual income of $56,060 that same year.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of working as a food service manager in a school, you could find a job at another type of dining establishment, such as a restaurant or a catering company. Outside of the food industry, you could get a job as the manager of a hospitality establishment such as a hotel or motel. Like food service managers, lodging managers only need a high school diploma, but postsecondary education can increase your job prospects. Alternatively, if you are passionate about food preparation, you could get a job as a cook, which requires no formal training, but you can hone your skills by completing a culinary arts certificate program. Cooks may find jobs at a wide range of dining establishments, including school cafeterias and restaurants.

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