Associate of Culinary Arts: Degree Overview

Oct 10, 2019

Essential Information

There are several types of associate's degrees available in culinary arts, including an Associate of Science and an Associate of Applied Science. The Associate of Science programs provide students with a solid foundation in cooking and culinary management and are an option for those who want to continue their education at a 4-year college or university. An Associate of Applied Science is a terminal degree, and these programs are anchored in culinary management and budgeting.

These programs may include an externship where students can apply their knowledge to real-life restaurant settings. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) accredits some culinary arts programs and provides guidelines for the curriculum.

Applicants for 2-year associate's degrees in culinary arts are required to have a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Associate of Culinary Arts Degree

Coursework in culinary arts associate's degree programs examine cooking methods, kitchen organization and food selection. Much of the coursework is completed in kitchen environments. Common courses may include:

  • Food safety and sanitation
  • Culinary management
  • Nutrition
  • Menu development
  • Culinary terminology

Popular Career Options

Graduates of culinary arts associate's degree programs may qualify for jobs in a number of foodservice and hospitality facilities, including restaurants, cafeterias or hotels. They may start as assistants or as food preparation workers before moving up to positions with titles such as:

  • Chef
  • Line cook
  • Food preparation supervisor
  • Pastry chef
  • Personal chef
  • Sous chef

Job Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has predicted that from 2018-2028, cooks as well as chefs and head cooks will see 11% growth, which is faster than average. The median salary of head cooks and chefs, as of May 2018, was $48,460, while the median salary of restaurant cooks was $26,530, and private household cooks earned $37,590.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Associate's degree holders may choose to gain entry-level employment or further their education through the completion of a bachelor's degree program. A 4-year program provides advanced culinary training in food styling, decorative works and restaurant operations.

Certification isn't mandatory, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), stated that certification may give applicants an advantage when seeking a job ( The ACF certifies culinary arts professionals at various levels. Students who successfully complete certain ACF-accredited associate's degree programs may be able to sit for certification exams to become Certified Culinarians ( With further education and experience, students can apply for other ACF distinctions, such as Certified Sous Chefs, Certified Chef de Cuisines and Certified Executive Chefs.

Several different associate's degrees in the culinary arts are available for students to choose from, based on the topics they want to study, such as kitchen management, menu development or food safety. Programs typically include hands-on experience in preparation for numerous careers or to get ready for bachelor's degree programs or voluntary industry certifications.

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