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Food Handler Certification

We asked 113,703 job seekers about their Food Handler Certification. This is what they told us:

  • 59% of job seekers said "required for my current job" was the biggest reason for earning their Food Handler Certification
  • 58% said earning their Food Handler Certification helped them make more money
  • 78% said earning their Food Handler Certification helped them get a job
  • 95% said they would recommend a family member or friend earn their Food Handler Certification

Food Handler Certification, Requirements and More

The food handler certification–or safe food manager certification–involves learning the proper techniques for safely handling foods in retail and restaurant settings to prevent foodborne illnesses and food spoilage. Food safety training and certification is required on some level by nearly all states, with additional restrictions in some municipalities, for workers who prepare, handle or serve food to the public. Some employers have their own requirements for employee food safety training and certification to reduce the risk of customer illness.

What are the different types of safe food handler certifications?

There are a variety of training and certification programs for a food handler certification. There are two primary types of food safety training and certification – one is geared toward all food service employees while the other is geared toward managers, supervisors and owners of food service establishments. The types of food safety certifications include:

  • Food Handler Certification – The Safe Food Handler Certification is designed for any employee or volunteer who handles food in a retail or restaurant setting. Through Food Handler Certification training, food service workers learn about contamination and cross contamination, safe food temperature and temperature control, personal hygiene, cleaning and sanitation, potentially hazardous foods and pest control. A Food Handler Certification is usually referred to as a Food Handler Card in the industry.1
  • Food Safety Manager Certification – Food Safety Managers are charged with overseeing safe food preparation and handling in food service establishments. They are usually responsible for creating food safety plans, training food-handling employees, looking for safety problems, addressing food safety concerns and handling health department inspections.2

Who is required to receive a food handler certification?

Nearly all states follow the US Food and Drug Administration Food Code, which outlines regulations for food safety training. Under the FDA Food Code, food service establishments are required to have at least person in charge who can prove food safety competency. That competency can be proven, according to the code, with a Certified Food Protection or Food Safety Manager designation.

Many states, or local municipalities, go beyond the FDA guidelines. Some states require all food service workers to earn Food Handler Cards or that food service establishments have a Certified Food Protection Manager on duty when the business is in operation or when food is being prepared.

Some employers, as a way to guard against foodborne illnesses and prevent food spoilage, will have all employees undergo food safety training either in house or through one of the major food safety training organizations.

How do you earn food safety certifications?

Food safety certification–whether it’s a Food Handler Card or the Certified Food Protection Manager designation–is earned through taking a food safety training course and passing the related exam. Some states will require the additional step of submitting an application to receive a government-sanctioned food safety certification. Classes are offered in person, and there are many online training options.

The simple steps involved in obtaining food safety certification include:

Step 1. Determine what type of certification you need

Ask your employer and research local laws to determine exactly what type of food safety certification you are required to obtain.

Step 2. Take a certification course 

Once you understand what certification you need, you can choose the training and exam option that best fits your schedule. Training courses are available online or in person. Courses may take anywhere between a few hours to several days depending on the certification you seek. 

Step 3. Pass the certification exam

Some certification training programs include the cost of your exam while others require an exam fee. Your employer may cover the cost of your training and exam. While each exam is unique, they all draw questions directly from the training. You will either immediately receive your certification or it will be mailed to you. 

Step 4. File your certification

If your state requires proof of your certification, you or your employer may need to file it with the local health department. 

What are the food safety certification requirements by state?

References

1. “Food Handler Certificate”. National Registry of Food Safety Professionals. Retrieved on January 15, 2020.
2. “Food Safety Manager Certification”. National Registry of Food Safety Professionals. Retrieved on January 15, 2020.


Editorial content last updated: April 2020

What are people saying about getting a Food Handler Certification?

Did this certification help you make more money?

Based on 113,649 responses

58% said earning their Food Handler Certification helped them make more money

Did this certification help you get a job?

Based on 113,651 responses

78% said earning their Food Handler Certification helped them get a job

Would you recommend this certification?

Based on 113,652 responses

95% said they would recommend a family member or friend earn their Food Handler Certification

Why did you decide to earn your Food Handler Certification?

Based on 113,703 responses

Required for my current job

59%

Make more money

18%

Changing careers

7%

Get an edge over other candidates

12%

Help my career progression

33%

Other

18%

What was your job title after earning this certification?

Based on 81,452 responses

Cook View jobs

10%

Server View jobs

10%

Prep Cook View jobs

6%

Bartender View jobs

6%

Food Service Worker View jobs

5%

What do people wish they knew before earning their Food Handler Certification?

73,058 people answered

“At the time I wish the process was more clear, I had to complete both online and in-person assessments at separate times and it took longer than I would've hoped.”

Jan. 18, 2021

“I wish I would have known that with this certification, it gives me a wide variety of different job”

Jan. 17, 2021

“The time limit in which this certification lasts and how much it costs.”

Jan. 17, 2021

“The time limit in which this certification lasts and how much it costs.”

Jan. 17, 2021

“MANY EMPLOYERS ARE LOOKING FOR THIS CERTIFICATION.”

Jan. 17, 2021

What advice would you give to someone interested in earning their Food Handler Certification?

80,697 people answered

“Do the research/training, don't just assume you know what Food Safety guidelines are.”

Jan. 18, 2021

“The test is very complex and requires a lot too remember . Stay focused .”

Jan. 17, 2021

“Making sure they ultimately listen to everything the test is saying.”

Jan. 17, 2021

“Making sure they ultimately listen to everything the test is saying.”

Jan. 17, 2021

“THEY WILL KNOW ALL AFTER THEY TAKE IT.”

Jan. 17, 2021