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Online culinary schools

Maybe you're a Food Network fan or love thumbing through cooking magazines. But have you ever thought about studying the culinary arts as a profession?

Those in the field say it's demanding work, but it's also rewarding for high-energy and creative people. The chart below takes a look at some of the college degrees you can earn in the culinary arts. As you can see, management and general culinary arts degrees continue to be the most readily available but some schools also offer specialized instruction in niche areas.

Occupation

Certificate

Associate Degree

Bachelor's Degree

Baking and Pastry Arts

206

110

3

Bartending

8

N/A

N/A

Culinary Arts

366

297

17

Culinary Science

1

1

4

Food Preparation

80

6

N/A

Restaurant Management

91

110

44

Meat Cutting

5

1

N/A

Sommelier

5

1

N/A

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

While not all of these schools offer their programs online, you may be surprised to learn online culinary arts schools exist. These schools may have some programs fully online, but others may allow students to take theory classes online while still requiring on-campus labs.

Entry-level culinary arts programs

Those who are entering the culinary arts field for the first time have a couple different education options. These include the following.

  • Certificates: At the undergraduate level, certificate programs can be an intense way to introduce students to all aspects of the culinary arts. For instance, the certificate program at Boston University was co-founded by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin and includes 400 hours of hands-on instruction from a line-up of distinguished chefs. Upon completion, certificate holders should be well-prepared to step into any number of roles in the kitchen.
  • Associate degree: While certificates may focus mainly on hands-on skills, two-year associate degrees provide a mix of culinary arts theory and practical experience. Some schools, such as the Culinary Institute of America, will place students into externships to help them gain real-world experience and land an entry-level job after graduation.
  • Bachelor's degree: At one time, associate degrees were the main level of education for many culinary arts professionals, but employers today may prefer to hire those with a four-year degree, particularly when it comes to management positions.

At the entry level, it may not be possible to earn an entire culinary arts degree online. Since cooking and baking are hands-on activities, most schools require students attend at least some lab classes taught in a campus kitchen. However, you may be able to take some classes on culinary arts theory online. Even if the entire program isn't online, take some classes virtually can provide flexibility in your schedule and may save money on commuting, parking and other expenses.

Advanced-degree culinary arts programs

Culinary professionals who want to go from being the sous chef to the head chef may find they need to expand their skillset. In addition, those who want to teach typically need an advanced education. There two main ways people can get ready for these jobs.

  • Master's degree: For those with a bachelor's degree and experience in the field, a master's degree in the culinary arts or a related subject can open the door for promotion or high-level management responsibilities. However, it may be most often used by those who hope to go on teaching positions. Some culinary arts professionals may opt to earn an MBA with a concentration in hospitality, an education that could give them the skills to successful open their own restaurant or business.
  • Graduate certificate: A second option for advanced culinary arts programs is a graduate certificate. These programs are available to those who already have a degree and focus on a specific aspect of the culinary arts. In most cases, they are completed in less than a year.

Unlike entry level degrees, many online culinary arts schools will let professionals with work experience complete their education without setting foot inside a classroom. At this point, students already have hands-on experience, and advanced-degree culinary arts programs are intended to increase the depth of a student's knowledge on topics such as sanitation, management and regional cuisines.

Q&A with an expert

Chef Albert Schmid has been working in the culinary field for 30 years. He has authored four best-selling cookbooks and has received three Gourmand World Cookbook Awards as well as an Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals. He also teaches both on-campus and online classes for Sullivan University in Kentucky.

Q: Why should someone consider a culinary arts degree?

A. If they like the preparation of food, if they see a future for food in their life or if they just want to indulge an interest, those are all really good reasons. The main thing to remember about pursuing a culinary arts degree is - as with any educational pursuit - it's about making money. And a lot of times that's lost. People concentrate on the cooking piece but not on the finance piece, and that's really the most important aspect of a culinary arts education: learning how to become consistent at doing something and then how to make money in doing that.

Q. How can students select the right program?

A. I think they need to go and visit the program and interview the instructors if at all possible. What you'd be looking for in the instructors is people who have been out in the field and have experience making money and have mastered that piece. And of course, food competitions are always an example of technical skill so if instructors have won medals or received awards, those are great too. But I would encourage people to also look at the financial expertise [of instructors].

Q. What are some common career paths people might take after earning a degree?

A. One of the things I tell my students is that with a culinary arts degree, your options are completely open, even if you don't end up in a culinary arts field, For example, you could be a sales person for a food-related company. Also, lots and lots of retirement communities are looking for chefs. One of my colleagues is a chef at Soldier Field in Chicago. Thinking in traditional terms of working in a restaurant or country club or hotel are all options, but there are so many more. There are so many twists on what somebody can do.

Types of culinary arts careers

With the right education and motivation, there is no limit to the career options for culinary arts graduates. They may go on to be entrepreneurs, managers or CEOs. However, the chart below takes a look at some of the most common career paths for those who study the culinary arts.

Occupation

Employment (2014)

Average Salary (2014)

Expected Job Growth (2014-2024)

Chefs and Head Cooks

127,500

$45,880

9%

Food Service Managers

305,000

$53,500

5%

Bartenders

580,900

$22,260

10%

Cooks

2,290,800

$22,680

4%

Bakers

185,300

$25,550

7%

Management careers continue to offer culinary arts graduates the greatest income potential. However, other positions, requiring less education, may see more growth in the years to come.

Common misconceptions about culinary arts degrees

Before you try to earn a culinary degree online, you should know exactly what you're getting into. Here are a couple misconceptions about the culinary arts field that can trip up students who aren't prepared for the realities of this industry.

Misconception: If you can cook at home, you can be a chef.

  • Fact: Excellent home cooks don't always translate into excellent chefs. Home cooking and professional cooking are two entirely different experiences. While preparing food at home can be leisurely, professionals work in a high-pressure, fast-paced environment. Successful chefs need to be able to deal the stress of a busy kitchen and just as a professional kitchen is intense, so too is culinary school.

Misconception: You don't need any experience before applying for a culinary arts program.

  • Fact: This is partially true in that many programs accept students who have no previous culinary experience. However, institutions also recommend applicants get hands-on experience in a non-fast food restaurant before deciding whether a culinary arts degree is where they want to spend their time and energy.

Misconception: You're ready to run a kitchen as soon as you graduate.

  • Fact: A culinary degree gives you the skills needed to work in a professional kitchen, but nothing can prepare you for the experience. A degree gets your foot in the door with an entry-level job, but you need to spend some time in the trenches to get the hands-on experience needed to successfully run a team in the kitchen.

How can I enroll in an online culinary arts degree program?

The first step is decide what level of education you'd like. Certificates may be the quickest way to gain kitchen skills, but if you want to earn a culinary degree online, an associate or bachelor's degree may be the way to go.

If you aren't sure, don't be afraid to contact several schools to find the right fit for your schedule and work goals. You can request additional information from the online culinary arts schools on this page by completing a simple form.

Once you submit your request, a school representative will be in touch to further discuss your education needs and share more details about their degree programs. If you decide the school is a good fit, you'll then be walked through the application process.

Sources:
1. Schmid, Albert, Interview with the Author (December 24, 2015)
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition,
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014
4. Long-term Projections, Projections Central
5. Culinary Arts Associate Degree, The Culinary Institute of America
6. Certificate Program in the Culinary Arts, Boston University Metropolitan College
7. Master of Culinary Arts, Atlantic International University
8. Chang, David, Interview with International Culinary Center
9. Culinary Schools FAQs, Careers through Culinary Arts Programs
10. 5 Things You Should Know Before Enrolling in a Chef School, Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, June 24, 2015

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