How to Become a Caterer

Caterer Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $23,670
Avg. Pay / hour $11.38
Education 2-4 Years
Job Outlook 11%

People gather around food for celebrations, events, weddings, parties or just a simple dinner party.

Being a part of these memorable events means that you will forever be a part of their memories.

If this sounds like something that interests you, consider what it takes to become a caterer.

If cooking for private clients, running a business and being your own boss is something that you picture yourself doing, then this is the right career for you.

Some may choose to work for an established catering company while others may operate their own business.

Whichever you choose there are always opportunities in every local market.

Education Requirements to Become a Caterer

There are not any strict education requirements to become a caterer.

In high school you should choose courses in math, cooking, science and business.

Some other classes that are helpful are those in accounting, communication and planning.

Since cooking is a large part of becoming a caterer, it is worthwhile to take some formal cooking classes.

Many community colleges offer basic cooking and food safety courses.

Private culinary schools are also another option to gain the much needed culinary experience for a career as a caterer.

Most culinary programs also teach about the managerial aspects of the business along with food safety.

Contact your local college to find out if they are offering any classes near you.

Food safety is a very important aspect of catering.

Good food doesn’t mean anything if it is not safe to consume.

Local health departments are responsible for keeping the public healthy by allowing only certified individuals to serve food to the public.

The best way to find out about the restrictions in your area is to contact the local health department and ask for information on a food safety course for food handlers.

There usually is a short class required before a license can be given to serve food.

At this point it is also important to educate yourself on the inspection requirements that will oversee your future business.

Caterer Job Description

In simple terms, a caterer is a person that brings food to a venue.

There is prep work that goes in prior to the event, cooking the day of the event, transportation and clean-up.

The many steps in the process means that it is hard work, but it also means that there is a lot of different tasks to do.

Here are a few common job duties for those who operate their own catering business:

  • Prepping and cooking meals
  • Purchasing food and supplies for events
  • Basic management duties including overseeing a crew
  • Client consultations
  • Designing marketing campaigns
  • Ensuring food safety for clients

A common job description for someone that joins a catering company includes:

  • Prepping and cooking meals
  • Cleaning kitchen equipment
  • Set-up and transportation of cooked food
  • Train other employees

The job description will change from venue to venue depending on the clientele and location.

Every event that a caterer does is another opportunity to let the culinary talents shine through.

Traveling alone or in teams is a common part of the job description, as is lifting heavy equipment on a daily basis.

Caterer Salary and Career Path

The salary of a caterer is around $28,000 to $35,000 a year.

The location, company, cuisine and event type are all important factors when determining how much a caterer can earn.

Those that work for an established company will be paid by the hour or by the event.

Some companies may give referral bonuses to employees that bring in new business.

Also, it is not uncommon to get tips as a caterer which brings up the average pay.

Those that operate their own business can earn much more as their business expands.

Some top catering company owners can make over $50,000 a year.

Some common places for a caterer to work are in resorts, casinos, event centers, golf courses, restaurants and stores.

In some tourist areas, a caterer may only work a few months out of the year when they are most in need.

This model means there is vacation time integrated into the working schedule.

There are many different jobs that can help to become a caterer which include:

Since there are so many different types of catering, there are also many different jobs leading to this career.

While it is important to remember that there is not a specific education requirement for cooking, there is a strict requirement for obtaining a food handlers permit.

Opening a catering business is probably one of the most rewarding careers out there as you control all aspects of the business and you are being a part of someone’s memories.

Start cooking your way to a career as a caterer today.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$40,220
New Hampshire$39,580
New Jersey$37,730
New Mexico$27,980
New York$40,880
North Carolina$28,610
North Dakota$34,690
Rhode Island$40,490
South Carolina$25,850
South Dakota$30,420
West Virginia$27,130
Puerto Rico$23,070
Virgin Islands$29,100

The top earning state in the field is Hawaii, where the average salary is $43,920.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Hawaii - $43,920
Alaska - $43,610
Massachusetts - $43,440
California - $41,530
Washington - $41,350
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Cooks, Institution and Cafeteria, OCC Code 35-2012, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a caterer?

A caterer provides food and drinks at parties or social events.

The caterer’s responsibilities may also include serving the food and cleaning up after the event.

Most caterers are chefs who work for a catering company or own their own business.

In order to be a good caterer you need, not only good cooking skills but you also need business and management skills.

As a caterer, you will supervise the staff and manage the business to ensure that it is profitable.

Caterers and food managers, in general, are also responsible for making sure that their business meets health and sanitary regulations and that the equipment is properly cleaned and secured.

As managers, caterers are also responsible for managing employee’s records.

How much does a caterer make?

The median annual wage for food service managers was $54,240 in May of 2018.

How much a food manager makes depends on many factors, including the region where they work and the specifics of their business.

The top 10 percent earned more than $92,410, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,580.

How much does it cost to become a caterer?

Most caterers are chefs who have their own business or work for a company specialized in providing food and beverages for special events.

Most chefs learn through hands-on work experience but many of them also receive training at a community college, culinary arts school, trade school or four-year college.

Culinary arts tuition varies depending on the institution; learning at a top school can cost up to $40,000 a year.

An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in food service management may also help you develop the skills needed to manage a catering business.

An associate degree in this field costs on average of around $24,500 a year.

What is the demand for caterers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of food service managers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Forecasters say this is caused by income and population growth which results in greater demand for businesses that prepare and serve food.

However, if you want to become a caterer you should expect serious competition.

In order to have a better chance of being successful in this business, you should have a combination of education and work experience.

Making delicious food is essential to succeed in the catering business but you also need management and business skills.

How long does it take to become a caterer?

The answer to this question varies depending on many factors.

Becoming a successful caterer requires a few years of training and work experience.

Caterers are usually chefs who have learned their skills through work experience and by attending a cooking school.

Professional culinary training can take from 2 to 4 years, depending on the program you choose.

After graduating from a culinary school you also need a few years of experience working in a restaurant.

In order to be a successful caterer, you also need management skills.

While the cooking school teaches you how to make delicious food, graduating from a two-year or four-year college program in food service management can help you learn more about the business side of catering.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *