You may choose any college to study basic cooking methods and food preparation, and many will offer enough education for a job in the food service industry. However, when you are serious about a career in culinary arts, you may want to explore and choose a culinary college that will take your career where you want it to go. A degree from a culinary arts college is not required to work in the culinary field, but it will vastly increase your chances of reaching your goal and living your dream.
Earning a degree in the field of culinary arts can take from about 15 months to more than two years. If you already have a degree in another field, the length of time is shortened. If you attend a culinary arts school, be prepared to take basic college classes in addition to the specialized culinary courses in order to receive your degree. You will be able to earn either a certification or to complete a degree at many culinary colleges. The programs are designed to prepare student chefs to work in top-rated restaurants or even to own their own restaurants.
Basic studies include baking, desserts, nutrition, safety, and kitchen preparation. You may also earn an associate’s degree in occupational studies that will take about 21 months to complete. This degree includes extensive hands-on preparation, fundamentals, safety standards, and nutritional studies. Some culinary programs offer an associate’s degree program that allows experienced professionals who have prior work or life experience to complete the studies offered in a shorter period of time. In addition, a bachelor's degree requires studies in theory, chemistry, psychology, management, and organization. A master's degree in culinary arts will require further extensively specialized training in the culinary arts field encompassing gastronomy, food techniques, science, finance, and restaurant management.
Culinary schools are similar to vocational schools in that they directly prepare students in the skills that they will need for professional careers. Therefore, specific skill sets are not typically necessary for entrance into general introductory level programs. Higher level degree acceptance usually hinges on successful completion of introductory certifications or degree programs. While specific skill demonstration is not a prerequisite for admission, most programs require that all applicants or admitted students work or volunteer at least 10-15 hours a week in some capacity at a non-fast food facility.
While chef might be the most obvious end career for someone with a degree in culinary arts, there are, in fact, a wide range of options from which to decide. Chefs themselves can specialize in various areas such as pastry, baking, or wine and beverage. Chefs also have various options in choosing their foundational education, from French style preparation to various other world preparation styles to focuses. Keep in mind that high-end restaurants or hotels will usually search for qualified chefs or managers who have graduated from prestigious culinary arts schools. Other career options include dietician, general management, research assistant, marketing manager, food writer, culinary services manager, food technologist, or food/science lab technician. Those degrees with a more scientific background can enter into the fields of food preparation and technique or food delivery systems.