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Education and Career Overview for Culinary Arts

Are you interested in pursuing a career in culinary arts? A profession in this field may be ideal for individuals who have a passion for making food and creating new dishes. Culinary careers aren’t only for cooks, however; there are a number of other related occupations available, including:

  • Chef
  • Food and Beverage Director
  • Food Scientist
  • Executive Sous Chef
  • Food Service Director
  • Food Safety Supervisor
  • Restaurant Manager
  • Nutritionist
  • Caterer
  • Pastry Chef
  • Baker

Degree Options

Generally speaking, very few food preparation and serving occupations require a degree beyond a high school diploma or equivalent. That doesn’t mean there aren’t higher education options available to those who are interested in them, however. While potentially unnecessary for entry-level positions, certificates and degrees give candidates an edge when being considered for top culinary jobs. Student can enroll in associate, undergraduate, or graduate level culinary arts programs, as well as receive training certificates.


Because formal education isn’t required for many entry-level food preparation and serving jobs, many professionals in the field prefer to enhance and expand upon their skills by enrolling in certificate programs. These offer either basic information relevant to the field as a whole or more intensive training in a particular area. Most certificate programs are designed to be completed within a year.

Associate Degree

Many culinary arts professionals seek an associate degree in order to help them qualify for entry-level chef positions or to prepare them for further education in the future. These programs are often hands-on and focus primarily on preparing classic dishes. Full-time students can expect to complete a 60 credit hour degree within about two years.

Undergraduate Degree

Those interested in hospitality management generally benefit greatly from earning an undergraduate degree in culinary arts. These programs often focus less on cooking and more on budgeting and staff management. An undergraduate degree also entitles professionals to higher pay and career mobility opportunities. Most programs are comprised of 120 credit hours of coursework and can be completed by full-time students in four years.

Graduate or Doctoral Degree

Culinary arts degrees at the graduate and doctoral level are quite hard to find. In most cases, professionals who want to continue their education will opt for a degree in hotel and restaurant management instead. Most master’s degrees consist of 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework and take two years to complete, while doctoral degrees can consist of 60 to 120 credit hours and may take three to five years to complete.

Fields of Study

Those seeking a career in culinary arts may not have as many program options as some other occupations, but there are still a few degrees to choose from. Depending on your specific interests, you may be interested in the following fields of study:

  • Culinary Arts
  • Baking and Pastry
  • Food Service Management
  • Culinary Nutrition

Career and Salary Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the food preparation and serving occupation is expected to grow by nine percent between the years 2016 and 2026. This increase in job availability is likely due to the nation’s continually growing population and an anticipated demand for food variety. Salaries for professionals in this field, however, are quite low. In fact, food preparation and serving occupations is the lowest paid group reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a median annual wage of only $21,910. (Based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary)


Health Occupations. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved on August 9, 2018 from:

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