Become a Certified Dietary Manager: Education and Career Roadmap

Oct 20, 2021

Learn how to become a certified dietary manager. Research education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career as a dietary manager.

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Should I Become a Certified Dietary Manager?

A certified dietary manager (CDM) is responsible for the day-to-day operations of a foodservice department. They can find work opportunities with restaurants and corporations, but most work in public facilities, such as hospitals, school cafeterias and senior living facilities. CDMs plan menus, order food, manage staff, ensure food safety and maintain quality control of the operation. In some instances, they work with dietitians or nutritionists. As recently as 2015, the Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals (ANFP) noted that the fastest growing area in dietary management was eldercare. Weekend and evening work hours might be required.

Postsecondary training programs range in length and include an associate's or bachelor's degree in fields such as culinary arts, food service management or nutrition. Aspiring dietary managers will then want to gain related work experience and prepare for the licensing or certification exams. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median annual salary of $54,240 for food serviced managers in May 2018.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate or Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Nutrition, foodservice management, culinary arts
Licensure and Certification Licensure/certification varies by state; the CDM credential voluntary but valuable
Key Skills Strong verbal/written communication and leadership skills; knowledge of food safety laws
Median Salary (2018) $54,240 (for food service managers)

Sources: Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals, State government websites, U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics

To become a certified dietary manager, you need an associate's or bachelor's degree in nutrition, food service management or culinary arts. You'll also need strong verbal and written communication skills, leadership skills and knowledge of food safety laws. Some states require licensure or certification. The CDM credential is voluntary, but it's sought after by most employers.

Steps to Become a Certified Dietary Manager

Let's see what steps you'll need to take to become a certified dietary manager.

Step 1: Complete a Training Program

To become eligible to take the CDM exam, one might earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in nutrition, foodservice management or culinary arts. Other options include completing an Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals (ANFP)-approved dietary training program or a military dietary management training program. These degree and training programs typically include courses in food safety, nutrition, human resource management and foodservices. They also might require an internship.

Step 2: Earn Certification

The CDM exam includes 200 multiple-choice questions covering such topics as food safety, personnel management, business operations, nutrition and food services, among others. If a candidate is not a member of the ANFP, he or she will need to apply for certification after passing the exam; ANFP members are automatically awarded certification. CDMs must maintain their certification through continuing education credits.

Step 3: Meet Any State Requirements

In some states, dietary managers must be licensed or certified as food service managers. While other states don't require a credential, they do require that certain healthcare facilities, such as hospitals and nursing homes, have a dietitian, nutritionist or qualified foodservice supervisor, such as a CDM, on their staff.

Step 4: Gain Experience

The greatest number of job opportunities are available to dietary managers with several years' experience in the food service field, often gained through working entry-level positions as a cook or dining room attendant. Upscale restaurants prefer to hire dietary managers with several years of experience and a bachelor's degree in culinary arts or nutrition.

To become a certified dietary manager, you have to complete a training program, earn the CDM designation and meet any state requirements.

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