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Information on Culinary Arts Schools and Careers

Considering a career as culinary manager or chef? School may be a good choice for you.

Culinary Arts

It’s easy to list the reasons why anyone would want to start a culinary arts career. Do what you love for a living. Work with your hands. Make art.

Chefs and restaurant managers are integral to healthy, successful restaurants and food establishments. Chefs design menus and recipes, manage the operations within the kitchen, and maintain food quality. Restaurant managers maintain the business and the daily operation of a restaurant, coordinating activities across kitchen staff, keeping track of supplies, cost, and revenue, and maintaining customer and employee satisfaction. Both help hire and train new employees; in some cases, the head chef is also the manager or owner of the restaurant.

Gaining experience while on the job is necessary to learn skills. Culinary arts schools, however, can help launch the careers of new and growing culinary professionals.

Choose Among Types of Culinary Arts Colleges

Some big, some small; some in big cities, some in smaller towns; some with campuses across the nation, others local: it’s easy to see that culinary arts schools in themselves come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The types of institutions vary, too. Some of the most common institutions offering a culinary arts education are listed here, along with some basic characteristics:

  • Culinary Schools: An education from a culinary school is rich in culinary training. Many of these schools for culinary arts, depending on the program, can also teach students about business skills and scientific processes relevant to a culinary arts career.
  • Vocational schools with culinary arts programs: These schools are effective in training students to use a wide variety of culinary skills, and can also include fundamentals in related business practices and scientific processes. This is a practical choice for many students.
  • Colleges that have culinary arts majors, degrees and certificates: Public and private, these colleges offer culinary arts training appropriate for aspiring chefs and managers. Students can find a wide variety of culinary arts degrees in these schools.

Prospective culinary students should research the schools according to their location and degree offering appropriate for them. Some schools actually offer online culinary arts degrees. In the end, while experience is important in the restaurant business, a diploma from a top culinary arts school demonstrates the depth of culinary knowledge to employers.

Culinary Arts Degrees for Aspiring Chefs and Managers

Students in colleges for culinary arts may choose to pursue either an associate degree, bachelor's degree, diploma, or certificate depending on their career goals.

Culinary arts certificates and diplomas in culinary arts usually take four months to a year to complete. Students in these programs learn fundamental culinary techniques, such as knife skills, sauce making, braising, roasting, beverage pairing, and seasoning. Alternative certificate and diploma programs in baking and pastry arts are also offered in most culinary arts schools.  

Associate and bachelor’s degree programs in culinary arts, on the other hand, are longer and offer more extensive training. An associate degree usually takes two years to complete, while a bachelor's degree takes four.  These programs may augment their included cooking training with basic human resources and culinary arts management, accounting, event management, and marketing courses—greatly needed skills for positions of leadership and for launching a new food business.

Some culinary arts colleges will include an externship as part of their chef training, which is a great way for culinary students to gain professional experience while still in school. A professional environment can help students practice speed, precision, and organization while making dishes. As a general rule, however, gaining experience in a professional setting with or without a culinary arts program is instrumental in a developing culinary arts career.

What are Typical Requirements and Cost of Culinary Arts School?

Most culinary arts colleges require an application and application fee, which some schools waive for financially-strapped students. Additionally, some culinary arts schools may ask for a short essay or personal statement, GPA, recommendations, and an official high school transcript as part of their application. Some require students to have previous food service experience under their belt; others allow students to start brand-new. Altogether, schools vary in their entrance requirements.

Costs also vary according to the training program, the school, the desired degree, and whether the program is taken at full or part time. Culinary arts programs are offered at a number of price points—so students should find one that fits their needs. It's also worth noting that schools and private institutions, as well as government sources, can offer a variety of financial aid options including culinary arts scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study to help finance a culinary arts education. Researching options pays off. Like any post-secondary training, a degree in culinary arts is an investment.

What Career Skills Are Essential for Culinary Arts Students?

In a nutshell, important chef skills (aside from the chopping, basting, marinating, and mixing) include: practice, persistence, ability to follow directions, setting priorities, communication, and leadership.

Persistence keeps a student in a cooking school focused while practicing, practicing, and practicing. The ability to follow directions is important when navigating complicated recipes. And when making multiple dishes at a time, it is good to know how to set priorities and have the coordination to adequately multitask. Communication is also necessary when working as a team; leadership is essential for chefs and managers who must keep a clean and efficient kitchen.

Not mentioned above, but obvious, is the sensitivity to taste, smell, texture, and appearance so essential to the creativity and performance during a culinary arts career.

Is a Culinary Arts School Really Necessary?

While it is true that many of the skills learned in culinary arts schools can be learned in jobs and internships, culinary school continues to be a unique educational experience.

Culinary arts school packs a wealth of experience and information into just a few years, allowing students to quickly gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the food industry. For those serious about turning a passion for food into a career, the depth of a culinary arts school education is hard to beat.

Culinary Arts Salary and Chef Career Information

Many graduates of culinary arts schools enter the workforce in entry-level positions. Students who pursue chef training may start as a line cook, while graduates of management programs may start as assistant restaurant managers. Full-service restaurants and traveler accommodations, like hotels and resorts, employ the largest number of professional chefs, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As in any other profession, gaining experience during a culinary arts career is integral in gaining positions of higher responsibility.

Ultimately, culinary managers and chef salaries vary by position and industry. More highly paid chefs work mainly in upscale restaurants and hotels, as well as in major metropolitan and resort areas. According to the BLS, the average annual earnings of chefs and head cooks nationwide in 2014 came to $45,880, with the top 10 percent earning $73,720. That same year, the average annual salary for food service managers came to $53,500, with the top 10 percent earning $82,360. Notable among all of the findings was that, understandably, the highest paying food establishments had the most competitive jobs.

For those who love making and sharing food and are looking for a different kind of job, pursuing a career in culinary arts may be the right thing to do. Culinary arts degrees can help the aspiring chef move ahead.

Additional Resources for Culinary Arts Careers:
Bureau of Labor Statistics information on chef and head cook careers
Bureau of Labor Statistics information on careers in food service management

Featured Culinary Arts Schools

Check out this directory of Culinary Arts schools and institutes to get started!

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5 Program(s) Found
Le Cordon Bleu Schools of North America , Online (campus option available)
  • Its first location, in Paris, officially opened its doors as a culinary school in 1895.
  • Teaches students by having them spend significant time in the kitchen practicing precision techniques.
  • Provide hands-on training from instructors who are certified, master chefs.
  • Offer flexible schedules and online programs.
  • Has 30 schools worldwide, spanning 5 continents, including 17 campuses in the U.S.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
1 Program(s) Found
  • Provides students the opportunity to train at home in their spare time to get their high school diploma, train for a new career, or enhance current skills.
  • Offers programs in psychology/social work, business management, medical billing, criminal justice, and more.
  • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
  • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
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  • Online Courses
1 Program(s) Found
  • Offers more than 150 self-paced, career-relevant programs that are connected to a supportive 24/7 online community of students and faculty.
  • Profiled in many publications such as The Boston Globe, Fox Business, and  Inside Higher Ed.
  • Nearly 25,000 graduates each year.
  • Accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
  • Founded in 1890 in Scranton, Pennsylvania    
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  • Online Courses
  • Founded in Southern California in 1998 by dog training expert Steven Appelbaum.
  • The largest independent dog training company in the United States.
  • Offers 11-stage programs that feature an in-home study component along with a hands-on training module.
  • A member of the MyCAA Financial Assistance program, which offers eligible military spouses up to $4,000 of tuition assistance that can be used towards any of their courses.
  • Helps graduates find employment and coaches those who are looking to start their own business.
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  • Online Courses
  • Students can complete an entry-level technician program in about a year, and manufacturer training and graduate in as little as 18 months.
  • Provides technical education training programs for automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle, and marine technicians.
  • Partners with many well-known manufacturers, including General Motors, Porsche Cars North America Inc., and BMW of North America LLC.
  • Offers internships to students and alumni for first-hand experience.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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  • Financial Aid
  • Dedicated to providing a hands-on, career-focused education since 1953.
  • Offers classes online, as well as at 14 campuses across California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois and Virginia.
  • Develops curriculum with input from employers, subject matter experts.
  • Has small class sizes to promote one-on-one, student-teacher interaction.
  • Makes no-cost tutoring available in every subject to every enrolled student.
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  • Accredited
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
UEI College , Fresno
  • Dedicated to providing  career training since 1975.
  • Has 13 campus locations in Southern California and a campus in Morrow, GA.
  • Provides flexible class times including weekends.
  • Offers curriculum that ranges from 8 month diploma programs to 16-month Associate of Applied Science degree programs.
  • Has admissions professionals available to help students decide which diploma or degree program they should pursue.
  • Gives job placement assistance strengthened by relationships with local employers.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology , Online (campus option available)
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Links students to hundreds of training opportunities ( beyond their traditional internships and practicum) at their many “partner agencies” in each of their local communities. 
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
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Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Has students attend one four-week class at a time and take their final exam before moving on to their next class.
  • Offers 24/7 online tech support, with a typical response time of 4 hours or less.
  • Has online help centers that offer assistance with writing, statistics, medical assisting, and more.
  • Provides job placement assistance to all its students and alumni.
  • Researches trends for growing fields to tailor a more effective curriculum.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
  • Gives students the option to choose from day, evening, and weekend classes to fit their schedule.
  • Offers public spa and salon services at all campuses for students to gain real-world experience.
  • Provides short specialty programs and workshops open to non-students as well.
  • Has 60 campuses across the United States.
  • Accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences (NACCAS).
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  • Accredited
  • Financial Aid
  • One of the largest massage therapy schools in the nation teaching since 1979.
  • First massage school in California to be nationally accredited.
  • Has a successful job placement record— 86% of graduates get placed into work in massage therapy.
  • Provides massage therapist education with multiple methods to ensure every student learns the material.
  • Offers lifetime career placement assistance and holds partnerships with a variety of employers.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
ABCO Technology , Los Angeles
  • An accredited computer training academy preparing students to enter the IT industry as Network Engineers, Software Engineers, Web Apps Developer, Website Designers, Programmers, Database Administrators since 2000.
  • Holds A+ certification from CompTIA.
  • Located in Los Angeles, approximately 10 minutes away from LAX.
  • Flexible class schedules offered during day times, evenings and weekends.
  • Helping students start a career in technology within 3 - 9 months.
  • Educates with the mission to serve the needs of the local community and graduates by matching opportunities to skills.
  • Military friendly school.
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  • Financial Aid
  • Offers training in various types of massage therapy, physical therapy/sports rehab, and personal fitness training & wellness.
  • Teaches in an environment that promotes learning and encourages empathetic and compassionate therapists.
  • Career service professionals work directly with students from the start of their program, and help them pursue employment in day spas, luxury hotels, cruise ships, and other locations.
  • Students can work in the SOCHI Massage Clinic to gain experience and build their career skills.
  • Financial aid representatives help students develop a personalized financial plan to finance their tuition.
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  • Financial Aid
  • A post-secondary school that offers a variety of degree and diploma programs including medical billing, nursing, and more.
  • Offers many programs that can be completed in 10 months or less.
  • Students take one class at a time, and can access their courses online 24/7.
  • Approved for the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) program.
  • Has a Clinical Placement department that works to place students in clinical sites throughout the country.
  • Institutionally accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
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  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
Milan Institute , Bakersfield
  • Offers career programs in accounting, cosmetology, massage therapy, physical fitness training, and more.
  • Provides hands-on training led by instructors who have relevant, on-the-job experience.
  • Each campus features a public salon and spa for student practice.
  • Campuses are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) and Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 11 campuses across California, Texas, Nevada and Idaho, as well as 8 additional Milan Institute of Cosmetology campuses.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid