A degree or certificate in culinary arts can lead to careers in restaurants, hotels, schools and an assortment of other institutions, making it a highly popular degree choice. Some programs are focused on the art of cooking itself, while others concentrate on restaurant management. Culinary degree programs also vary based on the level of degree students are eligible to earn.
While the culinary arts are most often associated with the preparation of food, culinary degree programs may also help to prepare students for other types of careers. Some programs focus on restaurant management, a career path which requires extensive knowledge of business and customer service in addition to the food itself. Specializations in restaurant management are possible at all levels of culinary education, but more common in higher level degree programs.
Some culinary schools offer certificate-based training programs that do not lead to a degree. These programs may last from a few days to several months. This is the quickest way to gain some training and experience in the culinary field, but some employers may require training beyond a certificate.
The next shortest type of culinary degree program is an associate's degree. An associate degree usually takes two years of full-time study, or around four years of part-time study. Applicants to associate-level culinary degree programs must usually have a high school education.
A bachelor's degree in culinary arts is usually a four-year program of study that includes both general education courses and specialized courses in food preparation. This type of degree may be required by some employers, as it provides a broader range of knowledge and more practical experience than lower level culinary degree programs. Degrees at this level often require one or more internships.
Master's and Ph.D. culinary degree programs are less common than bachelor's programs. In addition to cooking courses, they may also include classes in nutrition, restaurant management or pedagogy. A graduate-level degree is not needed for most chef jobs, but can be useful for those desiring to teach culinary arts or open their own restaurants.