How to Land a Career in Catering With the CPCE Designation

Why Catering Managers and Business Owners Should Consider Catering Certification

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Along with event planners, catering professionals play one of the most important roles in planning and executing events today. Hospitality catering jobs, in particular, account for a significant portion of employment in this industry. Whether your interest is to land a great catering manager position or starting your own event catering business, it might be worth considering distinguishing yourself from the competition with a relevant professional designation or certification. That's where the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE) comes in with its CPCE designation.

Certified Professional Catering Executive (CPCE) Designation

The Certified Professional Catering Executive (most often referred to in the business as simply CPCE) is the professional designation that is administered by the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE). “Earning the CPCE designation communicates professionalism, gives you instant respect and strengthens your earning power,” says Leslie Jones, former director of education and certification at the National Association of Catering Executives in Columbia, MD.

What the CPCE Designation Offers

The Certified Professional Catering Executive (CPCE) exam, which professionals are required to complete to earn the designation, has expanded over the years to now focus on eight core catering competencies:

  1. Accounting
  2. Beverage Management
  3. Catering Services
  4. Contracts and Agreements
  5. Event Management
  6. Human Resources
  7. Food Production
  8. Sales and Marketing.

Jones says that the CPCE program elevates not only the individuals who earn it, but the profession as a whole in the following ways:

  • Establishing a nationally recognized standard of competence in catering.
  • Promoting professional commitment to excellence in catering.
  • Endorsing active participation in educational offerings that support the continued competency of Certified Professional Catering Executives.
  • Aiding employers in identifying qualified catering personnel.
  • Enhancing the professional image of the catering executive.
  • Providing a sense of personal achievement for the advancement of one’s career.

Who Gets the CPCE

While it’s difficult to determine a specific designee profile, most catering professionals who earn their CPCE typically have 10 or more years of experience in the industry and work as a director of catering, catering sales manager, director of food and beverage, or director of sales and marketing, according to Jones. The curriculum is focused primarily on the management of catering businesses and services, making it a great designation for managers, executives, and business owners in the catering industry.

How to Get Your CPCE

The Certified Professional Catering Executive designation is earned with a passing grade on the CPCE exam. Those interested in sitting for the CPCE exam must apply online to become a candidate at the NACE website. The detailed application process awards points for a variety of career-oriented accomplishments: education and continuing education, membership in recognized organizations and associations, leadership positions offered within those organizations, and speaking engagements. There is an application fee of $395 for NACE members and $495 for non-members. The fee includes a study guide.

NACE offers CPCE candidates either an online pre-recorded training course to be used for independent study or a 7-week web-based training program to assist in preparation for the CPCE exam. In addition, NACE offers a one-day in person fast track training that reviews the entire course material. Once candidates feel they are prepared to sit for the 175 multiple choice question exam, they can register online. The only requirement is that candidates must take the exam within one year of their application approval date. Exams are generally offered twice a year.

CPCE Continuing Education

Once the CPCE is earned, the work is not over. Those who receive their CPCE are required to earn 60 continuing education points every 5 years to keep their certification active.