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How Do I Get a Culinary Associate's Degree?

A culinary associate's degree generally leads to a career in the hospitality industry.
Hands-on learning helps a chef gain valuable experience in the kitchen.
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  • Written By: Misty Amber Brighton
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 01 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Earning a culinary associate's degree is often the first step toward a career in the hospitality industry. Before beginning your studies, you will need to meet the pre-educational requirements and have good work or school attendance. Learning about the specialty areas offered in many programs can help you determine where to focus your training. While you are a student, you will likely perform much of your course work in a commercial kitchen, with periodic performance evaluations largely determining your progress. These evaluations normally lead up to a final project for you to complete before receiving your diploma.

When applying for admission to a culinary associate's degree program, you must normally be a high school graduate first. During the application process, an advisor may ask you for your high school diploma or employment attendance records. Schools are sometimes hesitant to admit candidates who have attendance problems, since each class session may build upon previous ones. Since you might often work in a team setting, an interview with the dean could be required to see if you have good interpersonal skills.

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A culinary associate's degree program may offer more intensive training during the second year so you can focus on meeting your career goals. You could specialize in baking, tourism, or catering, for example, and each one of these might involve different cooking methods. A college catalog normally lists each class required for a degree program and then gives detailed information about the subject matter. You can usually obtain this material from your college for free, so looking over this material can help you decide which path is better.

Most classes taken toward a culinary associate's degree involve hands-on exercises where you can gain practical experience. Some of the things you may learn include cutting meat, cake decorating, and chopping vegetables. You might also prepare different cultural foods or be asked to develop new recipes. Students are usually tested by performing certain tasks in front of a panel of judges who evaluate their techniques and then taste the finished product. Satisfactory completion of basic culinary skills is normally required before you can take more advanced training.

Many schools require culinary students to pass a final exam. This often includes hosting a major event, such as a wedding or a party planned by the school's faculty. By participating in one of these events, the administration can be confident you have the necessary skills to become a culinary arts professional no matter what career path you eventually choose.

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