Culinary Arts College Program Information

Apr 23, 2020

Essential Information

Culinary arts students not only learn about food selection and purchasing, menu planning and preparation, but also about the business of running a kitchen and restaurant. Additionally they might learn about local and state standards for sanitation as well as labor regulations.

Certificate programs prepare students for entry-level work in food service, while associate's and bachelor's degree programs may prepare students to become head cooks and chefs. These programs can last from less than a year to about four years and require a high school diploma or equivalent. Culinary arts professionals can become certified by the American Culinary Federation.

Certificate Degree Programs in Culinary Arts

Certificate programs in culinary arts focus on the skills necessary for entry-level positions in the food service industry with commercial or institutional food service operations. Students learn basic techniques as well as food service management. Typical courses may include:

  • Basic food preparation
  • Basic nutrition
  • Food safety and sanitation
  • Menu planning
  • Food and beverage purchasing

Associate's Degree Programs in Culinary Arts

An associate's degree in culinary arts prepares students for careers as cooks, chefs, caterers and food service managers. In addition to the culinary arts curriculum, associate's degree programs include general education coursework. Students spend time in the classroom as well as in demonstration kitchens and hands-on cooking labs. Courses might include:

  • Garde manger
  • Beverage service
  • Table service
  • Baking fundamentals
  • Catering

Bachelor's Degree Programs in Culinary Arts

Bachelor's degree programs in culinary arts provide a greater depth of study. Students learn culinary techniques as well as the theory and science of cooking. Many programs also provide management or business training. Students receive hands-on training in addition to classroom study. Many programs include internship opportunities. Topics of study include:

  • Menu planning and cost control
  • Wine and beverage management
  • Regional cuisine
  • Legal issues in hospitality
  • Meats and seafood

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Employment for chefs and head cooks is expected to rise by 11% from 2018-2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( The median yearly salary for chefs and head cooks was reported at $51,530 as of May 2019.

Continuing Education

Individuals who complete an associate's degree program may be eligible for voluntary certification from the American Culinary Federation ( Applicants initially test for the Certified Culinarian designation. With additional work experience, individuals can achieve certification at higher levels, such as Certified Sous Chef and Certified Executive Chef. Continuing education is required for recertification.

Aspiring chefs can find culinary arts programs at the certificate, associate's, and bachelor's levels. These programs look into various aspects of food preparation and restaurant management, preparing students to become professional chefs, a career expected to grow healthily over the next decade.

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