Culinary Arts Associate's Degree

Learn about associate's degree programs in the culinary arts, including course topics and hands-on training. Continue reading for information on job options, salaries and professional certifications. Schools offering Baking & Pastry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Can I Expect From a Culinary Arts Associate's Degree Program?

A culinary arts associate's degree program trains you to work as a cook, line cook, sous chef or caterer. You can typically find culinary arts programs at community colleges, technical schools or for-profit culinary institutes. While enrolled in this program, you may spend your class time working in culinary labs or school-run restaurants. Some programs enforce a dress code for professional and sanitary reasons. Due to the hands-on nature of the culinary arts field, accredited online programs might not be available.

Program LocationsTechnical schools, for-profit culinary institutes and community colleges
Course TopicsMenu planning, cooking techniques, cultural cuisines and food sanitation; internships and study abroad options may be offered
Career OptionsLine cook, sous chef, personal chef or service manager
Optional CertificationsCertified Culinarian, Certified Executive Chef, Certified Sous Chef or Certified Chef de Cuisine
Median Salary (2018)* $48,460 (for chefs and head cooks)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)*10% (for chefs and head cooks)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Courses Will I Take?

Introductory courses in culinary arts usually cover cooking techniques, product selection, kitchen organization and food sanitation. You may also learn about various types of hospitality work, including tourism, lodging and convention planning. Nutrition, cost control and menu planning are topics that are also typically covered. Additional class topics cover food preparation equipment, contemporary cooking practices and cultural cuisines.

Much of your culinary arts work takes place in the kitchen. You develop skills in baking, garde manger, breakfast service, catering and other types of cooking practices. Additionally, you can take courses specific to wine and beverages, tableside food service and restaurant management. Internships are common components to an associate's degree program, and you may have the opportunity to learn through a study abroad program as well.

What Kinds of Jobs Can I Pursue?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment for chefs and head cooks should grow faster than average from 2016-2016, and faster than cooks in general. ( You might find work as a sous chef, line cook or service manager at a restaurant, hotel, catering company, in-patient treatment center or other food service business. Additionally, you might become a personal chef or start your own business.

Typically, culinary arts professionals work varied hours, including nights and early morning shifts, according to the BLS. The pay varies widely, as well. Restaurant cooks earned a median yearly wage of $26,530 as of May 2018, while chefs and head cooks earned a median annual salary of $48,460 during the same time.

How Can I Become Certified?

Although certification isn't necessary to apply to many culinary arts positions, it may give you an advantage when looking for jobs, reported the BLS. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) offers certification for culinary arts professionals at various levels ( If you attend an associate's degree program approved by ACF's accreditation board, you may apply directly to become a Certified Culinarian. You earn the designation after successfully passing a multiple choice exam and a cooking demonstration. With further work experience, you can apply for more prestigious ACF titles, such as Certified Sous Chef, Certified Chef de Cuisine and Certified Executive Chef.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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