Culinary arts is a field that involves a great deal of hands-on training. Many chefs and head cooks achieve their positions by working their way up through various kitchen positions. Some schools offer associate's and bachelor's degree programs in culinary arts that can provide aspiring chefs and cooks with a good amount of training and skill and can prepare them for entry-level roles. However, master's degree programs - which are often focused on research and writing - do not exist in this field. Individuals who are looking to earn a postsecondary education in culinary arts might consider enrolling in a program accredited by the American Culinary Federation.
Typically lasting two years, the associate degree programs often include hands-on training in kitchens and are typically offered by 2-year community colleges. A high school diploma or its equivalent is required, as well as relevant coursework. Most culinary arts programs require applicants to possess a strong background in reading, writing and mathematics. Some colleges may require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores.
Applicants for a 4-year bachelor's degree program must possess a high school diploma or the equivalent. Prerequisite coursework includes college preparatory math, English, science and social studies, and many bachelor's programs in culinary arts require students to submit SAT or ACT scores and meet minimum grade point average requirements.
Associate's Degree in Culinary Arts
Associate degree programs in culinary arts provide students with the skills and training necessary for work in the food service industry. Students receive foundational training in food preparation, guest services and restaurant management techniques. Course topics typically include:
- Safety and sanitation in culinary arts
- Menu planning
- Principles of nutrition
- Food and beverage cost control
- Essentials of baking and pastry arts
Bachelor's Degree in Culinary Arts
Culinary arts bachelor's degree programs are intended for students seeking leadership roles in the food service industry. These programs include training for those aspiring to lead kitchens or in managerial roles in restaurants, catering operations or related businesses, and combine classroom study, hands-on kitchen experience and real-world education through internships. Courses in culinary arts bachelor programs include a range of food service industry topics, including those regarding both food preparation, such as baking and pastry arts, and management issues. Course topics may include:
- Food purchasing and menu planning
- Wine and beverage management
- Professional service
- Food safety and sanitation practices
- Human resources management
- Principles of financial management
Popular Career Options
Graduates of associate degree programs in culinary arts can work in many roles in restaurants or other food service preparations, typically under the guidance of an experienced chef or manager. Possible job titles include:
- Sous chef
- Line chef
- Catering chef
A bachelor's degree in culinary arts prepares the graduate for a leadership role in food service. These graduates often work in restaurants or run their own businesses.
- Executive chef
- Restaurant manager
- Catering director
- Personal chef
- Kitchen manager
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Chefs and head cooks, for example, bring in an annual median salary of $41,500 as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov. From 2014 to 2024, job outlook is expected to see 9% growth, largely due to many restaurants using lower-level cooks to perform chefs' tasks in an effort to cut costs. Those who truly stand out in the field for their recipes and preparation, however, will still find their skills in high demand.
Students interested in culinary arts can earn an associate's degree to pursue entry-level jobs, or earn a bachelor's degree to pursue leadership jobs in the food service industry. Both programs use classroom and hands-on training to learn the necessary food preparation and management skills.