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2021 Culinary Arts Degree Guide

Imagine yourself working in a bakery pulling a batch of fresh bread from the oven, or as a cook in a busy restaurant, preparing filet mignon, chicken parmesan or butternut squash soup. If you have a passion for food and love spending time in the kitchen, you may want to consider a major in Culinary Arts.

As a Culinary Arts student, you will learn everything you need to know to become a top chef. Along with classes in food science, nutrition, baking, menu planning, and garde manger, you will also study hospitality, facilities management, and business administration to give you the skills to cook, as well as manage a restaurant property.

Maybe you have a passion for a certain type of cooking? Don't worry, general Cooking and Related Culinary Arts is not the only specialization available to you. You can choose to concentrate in Baking and Pastry Arts, Bartending, Chef Training, Catering Management, Food Preparation, Meat Cutting, Food Service, Dining Room Management, Culinary Science, and Wine Stewardship/Sommelier.

Culinary Arts Degrees Decreasing

#80 Most Popular Major
26.7k Degrees Awarded
-5.7% Increase in Graduates

In 2018-2019, culinary arts was the 80th most popular major nationwide with 26,675 degrees awarded. This represents a 5.7% reduction in culinary arts degrees awarded over the prior year's total of -28,207.

Approximately 406 colleges in the U.S. offer a culinary arts degree of some kind. Explore this or one of our many other custom culinary arts rankings further below.

What Are The Requirements For a Degree in Culinary Arts

Chefs set the pace in the kitchen. This means leadership skills are mandatory. You must be prepared to oversee staff to ensure all meals are cooked efficiently and only the best quality meals leave the kitchen. Successful chefs are also creative and have strong time management skills. Good business skills are just as important as cooking skills for executive chefs.

Chefs often work full time with long hours both during the week and on weekends. Since executive chefs oversee food delivery, cooking and plan the menu, they can sometimes put in 12-hour workdays.

In order to become a head chef, you must work your way up. A part-time job as a line cook or dishwasher will expose you to the kitchen environment and allow you to pick up some skills from the other cooks. Training at a school and the following apprenticeship will refine these skills. Work experience along with advanced education will allow students to find jobs as executive chefs or head cooks. Although it's not necessary, certification by The American Culinary Federation may attract the attention of more employers.

This major is available as an Associate's or Bachelor's degree. Depending on your career goals, an associate's degree along with work experience may be sufficient training. However, if you seek a more advanced position or want to run your own business, a Bachelor's may be helpful.

Getting Accepted Into a Culinary Arts Program

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for most culinary arts degree programs and many students will need a minimum GPA and SAT/ACT score depending on the school. In addition to these basic culinary arts program qualifications, to serve in some culinary arts careers, special certification may be required outside of your degree.

Types of Culinary Arts Degrees

There are many different culinary arts degree levels. You can get anything from a associate's degree in culinary arts to the highest culinary arts degree, a master's. How long it takes to complete some common culinary arts degree levels is shown below.

Degree Credit Requirements Typical Program Length
Associate Degree 60-70 credits 2 years
Bachelor’s Degree 120 credits 4 years
Master’s Degree 50-70 credits 1-3 years
Doctorate Program required coursework including thesis or dissertation At least 4 years

A bachelor's degree is the most common level of education achieved by those in careers related to culinary arts, with approximately 10.5% of workers getting one. See the the most common levels of education for culinary arts workers below.

Level of Education Percentage of Workers
High School Diploma 43.9%
Less than a High School Diploma 16.1%
Post-Secondary Certificate 11.4%
Bachelor’s Degree 10.8%
Some College Courses 9.3%

View the chart below to get an idea of what degree level most of those in culinary arts careers have.


This of course varies depending on which culinary arts career you choose.

Career Opportunities for Culinary Arts Majors

Above Average Number of Jobs
$23.7k Average Starting Salary
8% Growth Job Outlook 2016-26

Graduates with a degree in Culinary Arts often work in restaurants, hotels, or as private chefs. Some have gone on to open their own restaurants and start their own catering services.

Jobs at high-end venues, such as restaurants, hotels, and casinos, will be extremely competitive since they are limited and the pay is greater.

Solid Growth Projected for Culinary Arts Careers

Want a job when you graduate with your culinary arts degree? Culinary Arts careers are expected to grow 8.2% between 2016 and 2026.

The following options are some of the most in-demand careers related to culinary arts.

Occupation Name Projected Jobs Expected Growth
Restaurant Cooks 1,377,200 11.8%
Food Preparation and Serving Worker Supervisors 1,024,500 9.3%
Bartenders 626,300 2.5%
Institution and Cafeteria Cooks 457,400 7.7%
Food Service Managers 336,400 9.0%

How Much Money Do People With a Culinary Arts Degree Make?

Recently graduated culinary arts students earned an average of $23,666 in 2017-2018. Earnings can range from as low as $7,600 to as high as $45,700. As you might expect, salaries for culinary arts graduates vary depending on the level of education that was acquired.


High Paying Careers for Culinary Arts Majors

Salaries for culinary arts graduates can vary widely by the occupation you choose as well. The following table shows the top 5 highest paying careers culinary arts grads often go into.

Occupation Name Median Average Salary
Professors $76,990
Food Scientists and Technologists $72,570
Food Service Managers $58,960
Chefs and Head Cooks $52,160
Private Cooks $41,240

Getting Your Culinary Arts Degree

With over 1,799 different culinary arts degree programs to choose from, finding the best fit for you can be a challenge. Fortunately you have come to the right place. We have analyzed all of these schools to come up with hundreds of unbiased culinary arts school rankings to help you with this.

One of 3 majors within the Personal & Culinary Services area of study, Culinary Arts has other similar majors worth exploring.

Related Major Annual Graduates
Cosmetology 103,674
Funeral & Mortuary Science 1,965
Other Personal & Culinary Services 320

View All Culinary Arts Related Majors >


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