Chef Colleges, Universities and Schools in the U.S.

A chef is a professional cook, typically working in a restaurant, hotel or catering business. Although many professional kitchens follow an apprenticeship system, most chefs begin their training by completing a culinary arts program. Culinary arts programs can take one to four years to complete.

How to Select a Chef School

There are many different culinary arts programs available in the United States to train aspiring chefs. When researching schools, students should consider the credentials of each program. Culinary arts programs can be accredited by the American Culinary Federation. Students may also want to look for programs designed to provide the necessary training to be certified by the American Culinary Federation after graduation.

Because apprenticeships play a large role in the education and advancement of chefs, the internship and career placement opportunities offered by chef universities can be a major consideration when selecting a program. Most culinary arts schools have test kitchen facilities on-site where students learn the basics of cooking. Often, these test kitchens serve a dual function as operating restaurants, allowing prospective chefs hands-on experience in a real professional kitchen environment. In addition, students may accept internships in professional kitchens. Consideration should also be given to the restaurants, hotels and catering companies in which program alumni have placed, because those educational connections can provide internship and employment opportunities for recent graduates.

Chef programs can vary in length and depth, and some schools may offer several options. When selecting a chef school, students should decide whether they wish to enroll in a certificate program, an associate's degree program or a bachelor's degree program.

Certificate Program

Certificate programs provide students with the skills needed to perform entry-level food service jobs. Classes focus on basic baking and cooking methods, knife skills and menu planning. Certificate programs typically require 30 credit hours for completion.

Associate's Degree Program

Associate's degree programs are 2-year training programs in the culinary arts. Students learn about various aspects of food service operations, including nutrition, meal planning, purchasing and food preparation. Graduates are prepared for entry-level positions as chefs, sous-chefs, bakers and station chefs.

Bachelor's Degree Program

Bachelor's degree programs give prospective chefs the chance to develop proficiency in both contemporary and classic culinary techniques and methods, including table d'hôte, à la carte and banquet settings. Advanced food classes in a variety of international cuisine are also offered. Aspiring chefs also learn how to be effective managers by attending courses on marketing, finance, computer and business management.

Largest Colleges, Universities and Schools by Student Population

College/University Student Population Institution Type
College of Southern Nevada 40,310 4-year, primarily associate's, Public
Utah Valley University 26,696 4-year, primarily associate's, Public
University of Akron Main Campus 24,119 4-year, Public
South Texas College 21,666 4-year, primarily associate's, Public
Drexel University 21,537 4-year, Private not-for-profit
University of Alaska Anchorage16,649 4-year, Public
Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus14,3104-year, Public
Brigham Young University-Idaho 14,276 4-year, Private not-for-profit
The University of Montana14,2074-year, Public
Idaho State University 12,653 4-year, Public
Universidad Del Este 12,291 4-year, Private not-for-profit
Vincennes University 11,590 4-year, primarily associate's, Public
Johnson & Wales University 10,488 4-year, Private not-for-profit
University of Alaska Fairbanks 8,575 4-year, Public
Olympic College 7,152 4-year, primarily associate's, Public
Seattle Community College-South Campus 7,095 4-year, primarily associate's, Public
Southern New Hampshire University 6,991 4-year, Private not-for-profit
Nicholls State University 6,916 4-year, Public
Pennsylvania College of Technology 6,510 4-year, primarily associate's, Public
Baker College of Muskegon 5,232 4-year, primarily associate's, Private not-for-profit

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