Has it always been a dream of yours to prepare exotic, tasty meals for people? Do you practically know your way around the kitchen with your eyes closed? Are your friends and family always anxious to see what you have cooked? If you said yes to each of these questions, then maybe you need to think about obtaining a degree in culinary arts. Although a formal degree is not required in order for you to work in the industry of culinary arts, by obtaining some level of formal training you will be able to effectively compete for more lucrative positions.
It is quite common for individuals to begin by obtaining a certificate in this field, and then continuing their educational degree while they maintain employment. Keep in mind, some schools offer an intensive certificate program that will make it possible for you to finish in only one semester. Many individuals who work in the field of culinary arts become certified by the American Culinary Foundation; you must have at least two years of relevant experience before you can apply for this certification. To start your training request information from any of the culinary art classes below from the top schools.
This will require you to complete two semesters of work and will allow you to seek entry-level positions in this industry. A certificate program in this field of study will include many hands-on courses and you may even be required to complete an internship prior to completion. You can expect to be required to complete classes such as: international foods, the basics of baking, dining services, sanitation, and nutrition. Take a few minutes and check out any of the schools on our site that appeal to you. If you see any that interest you, feel free to request that they send you an information packet detailing what they have to offer you as you pursue your career goals.
With some level of formal training in the field of culinary arts you will also be able to seek employment as a catering manager, as a culinary or kitchen manager, or as a sous chef. In addition, if you have obtained your bachelor’s degree then you would also be able to consider opening your own business in the food industry, working in an educational capacity, or working in a television or magazine capacity related to food or cuisine. Should you decide to only complete a certificate program you will be able to seek positions like prep cooks, banquet cooks, or line cooks.
Culinary Arts Certificate and Diploma Level – If you are brand new and looking to get your feet wet with culinary arts then start with a diploma or certificate program. This type of training is great for those who are interested in becoming entry level cooks, line cooks or working in a kitchen and want a basic understanding of the industry. Many train to work as fry cooks and various jobs in the kitchen. Starting at the ground level gives you the ability to learn from others while expanding your knowledge of the kitchen and how it works. You’ll find a lot of schools offering a diploma program in cooking and culinary arts. If you are serious about becoming a chef then you shouldn’t take a certificate program and go right into a degree. The average salary for certificate level cooks ranges from $12-18 per hour.
Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts – The first degree level will allow you to start your professional training in culinary arts as you study hard to become a chef. During your Associate’s degree which typically lasts 2 years you’ll start to receive hands-on training in a wide variety of subject matters and start understanding different cultures and how important food is to them. You’ll also start to get introduced to other areas of cooking including, seafood, meats, pastry and even wine. You’ll start to learn not only about food preparation but also get trained on safety in the kitchen and demonstrate cooking principles. Salaries for those who have their Associate’s degree in culinary arts range from $24,000 to $36,000 on average. States like California, Texas, Florida and Nevada who are very competitive in their hiring of chef talent will pay more.
Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts – For those who inspire to become chefs and make a professional career as a chef. This degree level is also great for those looking to get into the management side of the business. You’ll take some courses in communication, marketing and even management to earn your Bachelor’s degree. This will give you the knowledge needed for more administrative duties such as budgeting and even HR. You’ll start to get into nutrition as well as take part in externships. Once you earn your Bachelor’s degree in culinary arts you’ll have a high enough degree to qualify for many of the positions available. This is where you’ll jump from an hourly employee to a salaried employee. Salaries range from $45,000 per year to over $70,000.
Master’s Degree in Culinary Arts – This advanced degree will give those who wish to study on an international level to prove they have what it takes to becoming a top level chef. Also if you goals are to run a hotel or perhaps a resort it is essential you have advanced knowledge of culinary arts since you’ll be dealing with so many aspects of the business including working with chefs.
Fundamentals of Culinary Design - During your training you’ll learn the basics and grow your knowledge and understand the history of food. Having a school teach you the basics in the proper storage of food including techniques as well as temperature control and importance of freshness.
Baking and Pastry – Many who don’t want to become a chef might want to learn about other specialties of the kitchen. Many want to learn about baking and desserts including artisan breads and cake decorating. Many work in baking and pastry to gain the knowledge they need before starting their own business.
Food and Beverage Management – This is essential that you learn and why almost every level of education you take (certificate, Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Master’s) all teach about the management side of the industry. It doesn’t matter if your intention is to be a chef or run your own restaurant, understanding everything from local laws and how to deal with your staff is key to your success.
Hospitality & Restaurant – Many decide that they want to work in hospitality and some of the courses include those in hospitality management. If you take a course early enough in your education you might decide to change majors instead of culinary design.
Food Safety and Sanitation – You’ll learn about sanitation and especially food-borne illnesses and how to safely prepare food. One of the most important aspects of training is food safety. These days failure to comply with local and state regulations can shut down your restaurant permanently. Also all levels of education you take will focus on sanitation and this will be a continued area of concentration and something that always need trained on as new techniques get developed.
HACCP Certification (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) – You’ll learn about food safety and how to identify hazards when it comes to processing foods.
Farm to Table – One of the more popular areas of study is the concept of farm to table. Basically growing your food organically, have it processed at the farm and prepared directly at the restaurant without doing any shipping or using any byproducts. It is a safe, fast and healthy way to cook. As a chef you always strive to find local sources for your produce and many of the culinary arts schools teach farm to table courses and a few you can even major in it.
Management – This might sound strange but employers are looking for cooks and chefs that also have management skills. When you work in the kitchen you’ll be exposed to so many different people that you can be in charge of. Many of the Bachelor’s degree programs in Culinary Arts teach management and HR related courses. It is recommended that you take a few of them even if they aren’t included in your curriculum.
Planning Skills – During your training you’ll learn how proper planning is the key to becoming a good chef. Employers will also expect that you have can plan a menu and coordinate things within the kitchen that you are responsible for.
Inventory Control – One of the biggest things you’ll hear any restaurant owner talk about is how to minimize shrinkage and food waste. Food waste can cause a restaurant to go under. Food is expensive and without the proper buying control and planning you’ll be wasting profits that eventually will close the restaurant. Some training programs offer zero waste courses teaching chefs how to avoid increase food costs.
ServSafe Certification – ServSafe offers 4 different types of certifications: Food Manager, Food Handler, Alcohol and Allergens. They offer both instructor lead as well as online self-study courses. If the college you are attending doesn’t offer these programs you can take then directly from ServSafe. The training programs are developed by the National Restaurant Association and are a certification that will make you stand out when it comes time to find a job.
Employee Development – As mentioned before, being able to understand management is key as to is the ability to help with employee development. Often you’ll serve as a mentor to others aspiring cooks in your kitchen. A top chef is only as good as the other people they work with.
Culinary Trends – The culinary industry is constantly changing. New ideas on food preparation are always being invented. Employers look for employees who can bring new and exciting ideas to their restaurant to attract customers. You’ll need to constantly stay on top of the latest trends and be able to show your employer that you stay current in the industry.
Specialization – Everyone has the ability to cook but not everyone is the best at everything. Master a few things and by specializing it just a few and doing them extremely well you’ll stand out, especially with establishments that specialize in a certain type of food.
Bilingual – This is a plus and of course if you are bilingual in a second language most commonly spoken at the restaurant. It not only helps with communication within the kitchen but also with customers whom might need special food accommodations.
Flexible - Especially when you are just starting out be sure that you have a flexible work schedule. Be available to work on weekends and holidays. Prove to your new employer that you’ll do whatever it takes to succeed and you’ll climb the ranks higher.