Chef Degree Programs with Course Information

Degrees that teach culinary arts are most commonly offered at the associate's level. Bachelor's degree programs do exist, but are rare. During 2-year associate's and 4-year bachelor's degree programs, students examine the fundamental skills of the food service industry.

Essential Information

Chefs prepare, season and cook a wide variety of foods from snacks, soups and salads to side dishes, entrees and desserts, but the job entails far more than that. Chefs also must be familiar with managing a staff, planning menus and purchasing food, along with safety and sanitation rules in a kitchen.

Students pursuing a culinary arts degree learn through a combination of classroom and hands-on experiences and may have to complete an internship. Courses examine baking and the preparation of meats, soups, fruits and vegetables. Students also gain experience in cooking American and international cuisine. They learn about cost control, sanitation and computer systems in the hospitality industry. There are usually a few general education courses such as English composition and social studies.

  • Program Levels in Culinary Arts: Associate of Applied Science in the Culinary Arts; Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts in the Culinary Arts
  • Prerequisites: A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for entry into the associate's or bachelor's program.
  • Program Length: An associate's program takes two years; a bachelor's program takes four years.
  • Other Requirements: Internships are generally required; certification may be recommended.

Associate of Applied Science in the Culinary Arts

Associate of Applied Science (AAS) programs in the culinary arts provide students with the knowledge and experience necessary to become chefs. Students learn about many aspects of the food service industry, including food sanitation, baking, sauces and classical cooking. Programs also cover many business aspects of serving food, such as menu planning, food purchasing, nutrition and human resources. Many programs give students hands-on food preparation experience as part of the required coursework.

The coursework for an AAS degree in culinary arts blends classroom instruction with practical experience in a variety of food preparation areas. Students learn to cook and prepare cuisine from all over the world. The topics below are usually covered:

  • International cuisine
  • Food supply management
  • American cooking
  • Baking techniques
  • Cold food preparation

Bachelor of Science in the Culinary Arts

Culinary Arts Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) programs are relatively rare. These programs cover topics in food preparation, restaurant management and food science; practical, hands-on training is another key element to this type of degree. Programs often include instruction in biology, business, nutrition and hospitality management in addition to courses on food preparation.

Applicants to culinary arts B.S. programs need to submit official copies of their high school transcript and their score on either the American College Test (ACT) or the SAT Reasoning Test. A small number of programs require applicants to have previous culinary experience.

The coursework in culinary arts B.S. programs emphasizes culinary theory, cooking skills and the scientific and business aspects of the food service industry. Courses teach the skills necessary for a variety of food service careers, including restaurant management and advanced food preparation. The subjects mentioned in the following list are typically covered:

  • Nutrition
  • Food microbiology
  • French cuisine
  • American cuisine
  • Food preservation and storage
  • Cultural impact of food

Popular Career Options

People who earn an AAS in the culinary arts qualify for a number of food preparation careers. The competition for chef positions can be intense, so AAS graduates may need to start in entry-level positions and work up to being a chef. The careers listed below are popular options:

  • Garde manger
  • Caterer
  • Line cook

People who earn a B.S. in the culinary arts are prepared for an even wider range of careers related to food service. Aside from working as chefs, graduates can also work as food wholesalers or food researchers. Graduates interested in food preparation often choose the following careers:

  • Sous chef
  • Executive chef
  • Catering manager

Continuing Education Information

Many chefs choose to become certified by the American Culinary Federation. There are several designations available, from Certified Culinarian (CC) to Certified Master Chef (CMC), and each award has different requirements. People looking to earn a certification need to meet a minimum amount of culinary experience and must to pass a written test.

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