What Are the Top Schools for Culinary Arts Associate Degree Programs?

An Associate's degree (AA) in Culinary Arts will teach you how to identify basic culinary language, create recipes, instill leadership success, and to how to handle, prepare and store food safely. Compare and contrast the number of degrees conferred and graduation rates from three of the top schools that offer culinary programs. Schools offering Baking & Pastry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Should I Look for in a Culinary Arts School?

When looking for a Culinary Arts program, consider those that will allow you to explore different types of cuisine, has excellent instructors, and solid graduation rates. In culinary school, you'll do more than learn to cook: you should expect to learn things like culinary math, supervision and marketing. Finally, most schools should boast their student success by listing the names of graduates who are living out their dream as Executive Chefs or private restaurateurs, so contact the schools for more information.

What Are Three Top Culinary Arts Schools?

Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY

This campus of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) has the highest graduation rate of the three top schools, at 74% for students who started their degree programs in 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This school awarded 1,152 associate's degrees in culinary arts in 2013-2014, based on NCES data, the most of any of the schools on this list. Hyde Park is the main campus for the CIA and features a café and restaurant on campus.

In addition to the school's Associate of Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts, you can also find an associate's degree program for students who already have experience in the field, as well as a baking and pastry arts associate's program. Along with your classroom training in nutrition, food safety and culinary basics, you'll also be able to participate in an externship. The 18-month externship program includes real-world experience at an approved restaurant or organization. Some of the courses you can expect to take in the culinary arts AOS program include: High-volume production, American cuisine, and Mediterranean cuisine.

  • Associate of Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts

Johnson & Wales University - Providence in RI

The Providence campus of Johnson & Wales University College of Culinary Arts offers several associate's degree programs for students interested in culinary arts. In 2013-2014, this university awarded 1,121 associate's degrees in culinary arts, according to the NCES, the second highest number of awards of the top schools listed here. The school's graduation rate is 57% overall for students who started in 2008, and it was tied in 58th place among regional universities in the North by U.S. News & World Report in 2015.

Along with an Associate in Science in Culinary Arts program, you can find a combined culinary arts and food service management program and a baking and pastry arts program. The AS in Culinary Arts program features lab courses that cover healthy cooking methods, plating skills, international cuisine and pastry and baking. Students are required to complete an internship, and the college offers an international student exchange program and a teaching assistant program to qualified students. Classes include: European cuisine, Dining room methods, and Meat cutting.

  • AS in Culinary Arts

Mitchell Technical Institute in Mitchell, SD

Coming in third is Mitchell Technical Institute in South Dakota. This school had a graduation rate of 68% for students who started in 2011, according to the NCES, and 13 students graduated from the culinary arts associate's degree program in 2013-2014. A military-friendly school, Mitchell Technical Institute is home to the Culinary Academy of South Dakota, which features an on-campus restaurant and a diploma program in culinary arts, as well as the Associate of Applied Science program.

You can enroll in the diploma program and get training in customer service, food production, hospitality and sanitation then enroll in a second year of classes to complete the AAS program. In addition to an internship, AAS program courses include:

  • AAS Degree in Culinary Arts
  • 1-Year Diploma in Culinary Arts

Top Culinary Arts Schools

College/University Institution TypeLocation
Columbus State Community College 2-year, Public Columbus, Ohio
The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) 2-4-year, Private Hyde Park, NY
El Centro College 2-year, Public Dallas, TX
Faulkner State Community College 2-year, Public Gulf Shores, AL
Florida State College at Jacksonville 2-4-year, Public Jacksonville, FL
Indian Hills Community College 2-year, Public Ottumwa, IA
Kapi'olani Community College, University of Hawaii 2-year, Public Honolulu, HI
Kendall College School of Culinary Arts 2-4 year, Private Chicago, IL
Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts-St Louis 2-year, Private St. Louis, MO
Lincoln Culinary Institute 2-year, Private West Palm Beach, FL

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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