Guide to Culinary Arts Degrees

By Jalise Ballon

When trying to choose a culinary school or program, it’s helpful to have a general idea of the area or specialty you’re most interested in. This will help you narrow down the type of education you need. There are three basic types of programs to choose from: Associate’s degree programs, Bachelor’s degree programs, and diploma or certificate programs.

Associate’s Degree Programs

Associate’s degree programs, which typically take two years to complete, are some of the most popular education options for the culinary arts profession. If you are not sure which area of the industry you’d like to work in, an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts might be a good starting point. The Culinary Arts associate’s degree program typically entails the basics, such as knife skills, nutrition, kitchen procedures, and presentation. Some programs may also offer more advance or specialized courses such as baking and pastry, international cuisine or dining room operations.

Associate’s degree programs in Culinary Arts are offered through The Art Institutes, several culinary schools, such as the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute and Scottsdale Culinary Institute.

As we mentioned before, the associate’s degree in Culinary Arts is a good starting point, partly because of the many career options available with this type of degree. Some of the opportunities for employment include: working at restaurants, hotels, private clubs, catering companies or institutions. The most common positions are in food production, shift supervision, and kitchen management. The associate’s degree in Culinary Arts can also be a stepping stone for transferring to a four-year bachelor’s degree program in a more focused area of study.

Other associate’s degree programs include:

Restaurant and hospitality management, which exposes students to the business aspects of culinary arts, along with intensive, practical, hands-on training, and prepares students for entry level careers in restaurant, hospitality and catering management. This degree is offered by select Art Institutes, as well as select Le Cordon Bleu certified culinary schools, and some community colleges such as Sullivan University and Gibbs College.

Baking and pastry, offers similar core courses to the Culinary Arts program, but also provides specialized training in baking and pastry techniques. This degree is offered by select Art Institutes, and a variety of community and trade colleges, such as Kendall College and Ivy Tech State College.

Professional catering, focuses on all aspects of the catering business, from food preparation to setting up a catering business. This associate’s degree is offered by only a few schools, such as Sullivan University.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

Bachelor’s degree programs in culinary arts tend to focus more on management level training; however there are also a variety of schools that offer bachelor’s degrees in Culinary Arts, such as Kendall College, Drexel University, require the B.S. in Culinary Arts be accompanied by a minor in business management. The purpose of the bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts is to prepare students for leadership positions within the hospitality and fine foods industry.

As we mentioned earlier, most of the bachelor’s degree programs in culinary arts center on management. The most common degree offerings include:

Food and beverage management, which entails a combination of theory and hands-on, project-based curriculums. The food and beverage management major also includes business courses such as finance, management, purchasing and accounting, and prepares students for entry-level management positions. Some schools offering the food and beverage management bachelor’s degree include Southern New Hampshire University and New England Culinary Institute.

Baking and pastry arts management, a program designed to focus on baking and pastry production skills as well as leadership and management skills. A bachelor’s degree in baking and pastry management should prepare students for a career as an assistant pastry chef or executive pastry chef trainee. A few of the schools offering this degree include Culinary Institute of America, and Johnson andWales University (Rhode Island campus).

Hospitality management prepares students for advanced positions in the hospitality industry. This degree is usually considered to be a business degree, and therefore the curriculum entails courses such as management, accounting, marketing and microeconomics. The bachelor’s degree in hospitality management is a popular degree and offered across the country at schools such as Sullivan University, University of Massachusetts, and Appalachian State University.

Culinary management, similar to the food and beverage management degree, the bachelor’s degree in culinary management is designed to prepare students for entry-level management positions in the food service industry. Courses of study include: human resource management, event, beverage and menu management, customer service management, marketing, leadership, and business. Examples of schools offering this degree include select Art Institutes, Baltimore International College, and Florida CulinaryInstitute.

Hotel, restaurant and institutional management, this degree program might be described as a combination of culinary management and hospitality management programs. It provides both hands-on and theoretical courses, along with a concentration of business classes. The bachelor’s degree in hotel, restaurant and institutional management prepares students for entry-level management positions within the hospitality and culinary arts industries. Some of the colleges offering this degree include Mercyhurst College, and the University of Tennessee.

Diploma and Certificate Programs

There is a huge variety of culinary arts diploma and certificate programs offered from culinary schools, technical/trade schools, community colleges, and even some traditional four-year colleges and universities. Some of the most common diploma programs include: professional cooking, baking and pastry arts, culinary arts and restaurant management.

Diploma and certificate programs typically take 8 to 10 weeks to complete. These programs can be good for students wanting to get a very basic education for entry-level work, or for students who already have a higher-level degree, but wish to incorporate some specialized training such as pastry arts.

Examples of schools offering these types of programs include select Art Institutes, select Le Cordon Bleu certified culinary schools, JNA Institute of Culinary Arts, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.