Cook Up a Storm with a Culinary Arts Degree

Culinary degrees prepare you for a career in the hospitality industry. Typical roles include chef, head chef, private chef, sous chef, pastry chef, cook, waitress, bartender and food service manager. This career is ideal for people who love to cook and enjoy the details of preparing food.

Chefs and head chefs generally supervise and coordinate activities of other food prep workers, select ingredients and ensure their quality and freshness, develop recipes and food presentation, plan menus, pricing and serving sizes, ensure work areas are clean, safe and sanitary. Head chefs may also train and supervise food preparation workers.

Chefs sometimes use software to keep records of recipes and event menus, or to purchase ingredients and maintain inventories. They also use many different cooking and food preparation appliances and utensils.

Executive chefs design the menu, review food and beverage purchases, and often train employees. Some executive chefs actually spend very little time cooking because their primary responsibilities involve managing the establishment and the activities of others on staff.

Sous chefs supervise the establishment’s cooks and prep meals. They are often second in command at an establishment.

Personal chefs plan and prepare meals in private homes. Personal chefs may be self-employed or work for a private cooking company.

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General Culinary Degree Information

Students can earn a Culinary Arts degree at the associates, bachelor’s or master’s level. There are also certificate programs available that focus solely on culinary topics and omit the liberal arts classes and electives that round out degree programs. Culinary students receive hands-on training in cooking techniques and the use of industrial-grade cooking and food prep equipment.

It is possible to get an entry-level job as a cook with a certificate. Chef, head chef or private chef roles, which pay the highest salaries, usually require either extraordinary cooking skills, a degree, or both.

Online Culinary Curriculum

The online culinary curriculum requires courses in food preparation techniques, sanitation, food handling and storage, baking and pastry making, and regional cooking. These courses can be supplemented with additional courses that reflect the student’s interests.

It is difficult to complete an entire culinary arts degree in an online program, since much of the education requires hands-on work.

Earning a degree online

Earning a culinary degree online might initially appear difficult, but just like reading up on recipes in order to prepare a meal, online classes tend to provide you with the tools needed for culinary, hospitality and restaurant management. Catering and baking are other options available to interested students.

If you have experience in the culinary field and an Associate’s degree, you can complete a Bachelor’s degree online.

Online education is a great choice if you have already started your career and want to branch out, or if you live very far away from schools offering the program you need. Before you commit to a program, just make sure that the school you are considering is accredited.


A bachelor’s degree will be required for roles as head chef or executive chef, especially in highly competitive areas like New York or Hawaii. Since much of the executive chef’s role includes administrative and managerial work, it’s a good idea to include business courses in addition to cooking courses if this is your goal. Many good schools offer Bachelor’s degree programs in culinary arts.

There are specialized bachelor’s degree programs that prepare you for careers in nutrition, hospitality, or entrepreneurship roles. You can complete a bachelor’s degree program online if you already have an Associate’s degree and experience in the food or hospitality industry. You can supplement basic culinary classes with concentrations in Sommelier studies, Wellness and Sustainability studies, Baking and Pastry Arts, Beverage Service and other specialties.


Many first-class restaurants prefer head chef’s to have a master’s degree. This degree provides credentials for your business skills as well as your culinary skills.

Further Education

A variety of certificate programs may equip you to work as a cook or a chef in some restaurants, hospitality or food preparation locations. You may also choose continuing education programs for specialties that interest you, for example, baking or regional cuisines.


In addition to basic food preparation techniques, safety, sanitation and nutrition, you may include courses on pastry, baking, chocolate, wine, plant-based cuisine, farm-to-table and many other specialties.

Career Opportunities

Culinary graduates can find work as a chef, head chef, cook, private chef, household cook, institutional food preparer and many other careers. Employment is expected to grow at about 8 percent per year, according to the US Department of Labor Statistics data. Competition for the highest paying jobs will require a degree as well as culinary skills.

Earning Potential

According to US Government Bureau of Labor Statistics salary surveys, chefs and head chefs earn between $25,000 and $75,000 per year on average. The highest salaries are found in New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, Nevada and Massachusetts, which also have the highest number of people employed in this category.

Salaries for cooks, bartenders, hostesses and other food preparation workers are in the $25,000 to $55,000 range, depending on the location and level of responsibility. As for chefs, salaries are higher in certain states with a high concentration of restaurants and hospitality establishments. The number of people employed in this field is expected to grow at about 8 percent per year, but higher growth will occur in certain regions.

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Culinary Degree FAQ

How Long Will It Take to Complete an Online Culinary Degree?

If one wishes to develop skills within management, then an MBA in the hospitality industry is needed and could take up to two years to complete. Learning classical cooking methods combined with the latest kitchen technologies might take considerably less time depending on the school offering the program.

What Can I Do with a Culinary Degree?

Roles as a top restaurant manager or chef beckon for the truly gifted. Managing a bakery for the pastry and patisserie inclined is also an option. Personal chef and household cook are 2 well-paying roles where opportunities are increasing faster than the industry as a whole. Both of these roles offer the opportunity to be self-employed, yet provide the security of having expertise that is in high demand.

Where are the best opportunities for someone with a culinary arts degree?

One of the best aspects of culinary education is that the skills are highly coveted anywhere in the world. You can work at local restaurants or bake shops, or move to desirable locations like Hawaii or New York where the skills you earn will be highly valued. You can also work on cruise ships, in museums, schools or institutions if that is where your interests lie.

Opportunities for self-employment include opening your own restaurant or food shop, becoming a personal chef or teaching private cooking classes.

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