Students in both associate's and bachelor's degree programs in cooking and culinary arts receive education in a classroom along with kitchen instruction. Additionally, students gain work experience through internships or working at a school dining facility. Some programs allow students to concentrate their study in a particular subfield such as nutrition, baking or pastry arts.
Individuals interested in enrolling in a culinary bachelor's degree program might need practical cooking experience, which can be achieved through volunteer or work experiences. A recommendation letter may be needed, and students may also have to take an educational placement test before enrollment. Both the associate's and bachelor's programs require applicants to have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Associate Degree in Culinary Arts
Associate degree-seeking students gain practical cooking skills by participating in labs and internships. Students take core and elective courses in liberal arts, science and mathematics, in addition to learning about sanitation and cleanliness standards, food preparation, kitchen mechanics and cooking principles. Topics of study include:
- Sauces, broths and stocks
- American, classical and global cuisines
- Fish and meats
- Garde manger
- Brunch and breakfast cooking
- Desserts and baked goods
Bachelor's Degree in Culinary Arts
In a bachelor's degree program, students learn the same techniques as in an associate degree program. They also examine topics in business and restaurant management. Additionally, culinary arts majors gain a general education foundation, which often covers business, mathematics, communication, computers, science, composition and psychology. In a bachelor's degree program, cooking students learn to speak Spanish, French or Italian, and they might participate in a travel abroad experience. Additionally, they may be able to take part in up to three internships while learning about concepts such as the following:
- Gastronomy and food history
- Restaurant legalities and regulatory concerns
- Cost control and purchasing
- Menu planning, and wine and food pairings
- Floral arrangement design
- Personnel management
Popular Career Options
Graduates of the culinary degree programs are qualified to work in restaurants, hotels, medical facilities or schools, or they can choose to go into business for themselves as professional caterers or personal cooks, or find employment as one of the following:
- Line cook
- Sous chef
- Kitchen supervisor
- Food and beverage manager
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), first-line supervisors of food preparation workers can expect a 10% increase in jobs during 2014 to 2024. Their median annual wage was $30,340 in May 2015. That same year, head cooks and chefs earned an median of $41,500. The agency also noted that a 9% employment growth was predicted for chefs and head cooks from 2014 to 2024.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
After earning a cooking degree, graduates can decide to participate in a paid apprenticeship program, which may last for a few years. They also might pursue certification through the American Culinary Federation (www.acfchefs.org). This professional organization offers over 10 credentials, including the entry-level Certified Culinarian. In order to qualify, applicants must meet education and work experience requirements and pass practical and written exams. Certifications are valid for five years and are renewable with continuing education credits.
Although master's degree programs in cooking and culinary arts are not available, training in the culinary arts is available at the associate's degree and bachelor's degree levels. Both programs offer students a general educational background in addition to their culinary studies. After earning a cooking degree, graduates can go on to earn certifications through private organizations or work in paid apprenticeships to increase their experience and knowledge.