What Qualifications Do You Need to Work in Hospitality?

You want to get a job in the hospitality industry, particularly the restaurant sector. If needed, you’re willing to go back to school to beef up your education. What kinds of qualifications are required to work in hospitality?

The qualifications to work in the restaurant sector of the hospitality industry run the gamut. If you’re starting as a busser or greeter, you need a high school diploma and minimal experience. Working as a chef at a high-scale sit-down restaurant would require a bachelor’s degree (or higher) and certifications.

In this article, we’ll talk further about what it takes to work your way up the hospitality industry ladder in the restaurant sector. Make sure you keep reading, as this is one article you’re not going to want to miss!

Want to Work in the Restaurant Industry? You Need These Qualifications

Host/Hostess Qualifications

Your first job in a restaurant might be as a host or hostess. As the name implies, it’s your job to greet people when they first set foot in the restaurant. You can help first-time customers form an impression on the restaurant, so your role is important.

The other job responsibilities of a host or hostess are to guide customers to their seats and give them a menu. You don’t take down their orders or serve the customers food though.

To work as a host or hostess, you need at least a GED or high school diploma. If you have other hospitality job experience, even outside of the restaurant industry, and it’s applicable to this role, that helps. 

You must possess certain skills as well. Your job will require you to stand for long periods, so you must be able to do that. You need to be friendly, personable, and upbeat whether talking to customers on the phone or dealing with them in person. 

Customer service experience can also come in handy for this job.  

Busser Qualifications

Bussers, which are sometimes called busgirls or busboys, are on their feet a lot too. Your job is to keep the restaurant clean. Whenever customers leave their table, you’d clear their plates and cups and bring everything back to the kitchen. You’d also wipe down the tables and benches. 

When you’re not out among the restaurant seating area, you’d be in the back washing dishes and tidying up the kitchen. 

Since working as a busser in a restaurant is another entry-level job, a GED is the highest education level requirement. It’s ideal if you’ve worked in a restaurant before, even in another role. 

You must be a proven team player with good communication skills. Being able to confidently handle multitasking is a must, as is time management and customer service.

Server Qualifications

Moving up the hospitality hierarchy now, in a restaurant, servers are very common. Your job is to take down the customer’s order, send the order to the kitchen, and then check that the customers received their food and that it’s to their satisfaction. 

You might help the bussers clean up the tables or at least clear them. You could also set tables.

As a server, you need a GED, but an associate’s degree might be required in some applications. Your educational background should ideally be hospitality management or food management.

You must know the restaurant menu well so you can make recommendations to customers. Communication skills are a big one, as you’ll talk with customers of all kinds throughout your shift. A background in food service or food management will benefit you as well. 

Bookkeeping skills are needed too, as is lots of stamina. Working as a server will require you to put in some long hours and stand on your feet for quite a while.

Bartender Qualifications

If a restaurant serves alcohol and spirits, then it must have a bartender. 

Also known as mixologists, bartenders take orders for alcoholic drinks and prepare them on the spot. It’s their job to determine if a customer should be carded, aka asked for their driver’s license so the bartender can verify their age. 

The bartender will also process payments and keep utensils and glasses clean. They can balance cash receipts as well.

To work as a bartender, you need at least a GED. Many aspiring bartenders enroll in a bartending school, which offers about 40 hours of instruction. Graduates earn a certification. Being certified could make it easier for you to find work in this area. 

Prior restaurant or hospitality experience can help, including roles such as front desk agent, hostess or host, and server. You don’t always need prior experience though. 

Your job will require you to stand for long periods, so you must have stamina. You also must have basic mathematic skills to process payments and track inventory. If someone breaks the alcohol consumption policy at the restaurant, you must be ready and willing to enforce the rules.

You need to have great communication skills, as you’ll chat with customers a lot, sometimes for quite a while.

Sommelier Qualifications

In the same vein as a bartender but regarded higher is the sommelier. Rather than prepare a variety of alcoholic beverages like a bartender, a sommelier specializes in wine.

A sommelier can tell a customer about any wine on the restaurant’s menu, including where it comes from and what it tastes like. They’re also available to provide wine samples to customers and recommend food and wine pairings so the customers have a delectable dining experience. 

Becoming a sommelier requires a lot of prep. You can enroll in a sommelier school such as Wine School Bordeaux in France, Wine Academy Italia, or the Peter Neptune School of Wine in California. 

No matter where you enroll, you’ll get a Certified Sommelier Course if you successfully complete your schooling. This diploma lets you work as a sommelier globally. You’ll also need certification through the Worldwide Sommelier Association or WSA. 

You’ll start as an introductory sommelier before becoming a certified sommelier, then an advanced sommelier, and finally, a master sommelier. This requires the highest level of certification and education, which is usually a management or hospitality degree.

Line Cook Qualifications

Now we’re getting into where the restaurant’s meals come from, and that’s a team of line cooks. Other names for this role include chef de partie, line chef, or station chef. 

As a line cook, you’ll work at a fast food or casual service restaurant putting together meals. You’ll also ensure the kitchen is hygienic by maintaining kitchen protocols. You’ll clean utensils and dishware and put away equipment. You might also stock the kitchen. 

Working as a line cook requires a two-year associate’s degree or having graduated from a vocational school. You must excel at time management, be able to stand on your feet for long periods, and be ready to do heavy lifting of around 20 or 30 pounds. 

You must work well on teams and have prior cooking experience, usually several years of such experience to get a job as a line cook.  

Pastry Chef Qualifications

If people flock to a restaurant for its desserts, that’s usually because the establishment hired an excellent pastry chef or a team of pastry chefs. As a pastry chef, you’d make delicious culinary creations such as breads, tarts, cakes, and other desserts.

Should the restaurant offer cake or pastry tastings, you’d prepare the sweets for those tastings. You’d also track ingredients and inventory. You might work with the executive chef and sous chef (more on these roles coming up!) to have items added to the restaurant’s menu.

You need at least a GED but then plenty of highly specialized schooling to work as a pastry chef. You should attend a pastry chef school or college where you can earn a certificate in pastry arts. You’ll also obtain at least an associate’s degree in baking and pastry skills. 

Others go for their bachelor’s degree or even their master’s degree to advance their careers as pastry chefs. 

You must have a certain skillset too. You should be able to work well in a fast-pasted environment, be willing to work flexible hours, pay attention to detail, and be exceptional at making pastries and decorating cakes and desserts. Having at least two years of baking or food industry experience is also crucial.  

Sous Chef Qualifications

As a sous chef, you’re not the main chef at the restaurant, but you’re working your way there. You’d be an executive chef’s assistant. 

You’ll do essentially whatever the executive chef requires you to, whether that’s managing supplies, tracking or reordering inventory, and planning the menu. You’ll also set up the kitchen equipment and prepare meals. 

To become a sous chef, you should have a bachelor’s degree in a food-related topic such as culinary science. You should also have spent at least two years of formal training or have two years of prior job experience. 

Physically, you should be ready to work long hours on your feet, bending over and grabbing sometimes heavy ingredients or equipment weighing up to 50 pounds. You must be a good listener who interprets requests and instructions correctly. You might have to do math on your feet, even complex math, so that’s another requirement of the job.

Your language and communication skills have to be top-notch as well.

Executive Chef Qualifications

If you climb your way to the top of the hospitality ladder in the realm of restaurants, you’ll work as an executive chef. This is the most advanced and highest-paying role of all, but that also means your workload will be significant. 

As the kitchen commander, you coordinate all kitchen staff. You might prepare meals yourself or oversee their preparation. You’ll work closely with a sous chef or a team of sous chefs and assign them duties.

You’ll also train other kitchen personnel, supervising them as they learn the ropes. You’ll track restaurant food spending and adjust and otherwise control this area. You’ll buy ingredients and food supplies, help with food prep, create new recipes, make changes to the menu, upkeep food consistency, and price items on the menu.

You need to have a General Certificate of Secondary Education or GCSE and/or a bachelor’s in culinary arts to become an executive chef. Some aspiring executive chefs will undergo an apprenticeship that lasts between one and three years. 

You might also need specialized certifications, including the Grand Diplome and the Diplome de Cuisine. You must have seven or more years of experience in a kitchen as well, especially as an assistant head chef, where you can prove your leadership abilities.


The hospitality industry is a vast one. Even within the world of restaurants, you can work over a dozen jobs at various pay grades. Each role requires different levels of experience, including certifications and degrees.

I hope this article helped you better understand what it takes to hold a restaurant job!  

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