Culinary Schools and Cooking Courses

About Culinary school, cooking school and culinary arts institute programs

Enrolling in one of the many culinary schools, cooking schools, and culinary arts institutes that exist is a dream that more and more people share. Top culinary schools are experiencing record application and enrollment numbers. Many of the new students have chosen a career change. In fact, it is not uncommon to have former lawyers and doctors enrolled.

The food channel and celebrity chefs have made enrolling in culinary schools more glamorous. Keep in mind that attending one of the many top culinary arts institutes can be extremely expensive. Also, it is important to remember that while they train you in the culinary arts and management, but they are no substitute for experience. Too many impressionable aspiring chefs enroll and drop out due to the course load and commitment involved.

Graduates, however, will experience a wonderful array of career options, and an exciting lifelong learning process. The demand for skilled chefs and culinary managers who have been properly trained is higher than ever. The possibilities are almost endless.

Find a school near you




Choosing a Cooking School

Culinary school program length

Each culinary school offers different kinds of culinary programs, and the program lengths vary. Top culinary arts school programs can range anywhere from a few months to 4 or 5 years. The most common degrees awarded are the associate degree in culinary arts and the bachelor degree in culinary arts. The associate degree can take anywhere from 9 months to 2 years to complete. The Bachelor degree generally takes 3 - 4 years to complete. Obviously, the shorter the course length, the more likely it will prepare you for an entry-level culinary position. Bachelor degrees in culinary arts prepare you for eventual management positions.

Affordability or tuition

Cooking schools charge different tuition rates, and the cost can vary very widely. Some tuition and expenses can exceed $15,000 per year. It is important that you carefully consider the cost to attend and factor that into your decision-making process. While many of the best cooking schools charge a higher tuition, just because a school charges higher tuition does not mean the program is necessarily better than others that are cheaper. Many culinary arts schools offer financial aid.

Location of the schools

An important factor to consider is the physical location of the culinary schools you are considering. Many schools are located in or around large cities like San Francisco or New York, close to some of the best fine-dining establishments in the U.S. Others are located in a more suburban or country setting. Would you like to live at home while attending cooking school? The location of the school affects everything from the weather you will have to encounter to the cost of renting an apartment to establishing ties with potential employers. It is important to be clear what type of location and environment you would like to be in while enrolled in a culinary arts program.

Class scheduling flexibility

It is important to consider if a culinary arts program schedule meets your needs. Some schools offer inflexible class schedules, while others offer more flexibility, which allows a student to enroll on a part-time basis. Check the course schedule of each culinary school and factor that into your decision.

Faculty quality

Not all culinary schools are created equally. Be sure to check the credentials, experience and caliber of the faculty before deciding to enroll. Reputable culinary schools hire competent teaching staff with impressive experience and stellar credentials. Many excellent schools have teachers that specialize in one area (chocolate, or wine, etc.), allowing their students in-depth instruction. A good cooking school will have teachers on staff whose credentials should include certification by the American Culinary Federation, an accredited college degree, and industry experience.

Accreditation

With so many top cooking schools institutes out there, we strongly recommend that any culinary arts school or institute that you consider be properly accredited.

Admission requirements

While some cooking schools have very few admissions requirements, others have higher and more stringent criteria. Most good schools require a high school diploma. More competitive schools also consider your GPA and culinary interest, as well as require an admissions essay. Your best bet is to speak with an admissions representative from the culinary arts school you are considering to find out the exact requirements.

Hands-on instruction

Some cooking schools offer a more theoretical approach to culinary instruction, while others specialize in providing a more hands-on, practical instructional environment. For example, many top schools operate a full-fledged restaurant on campus so that students can get hands-on experience. Many schools also require a practical training stint at a restaurant in order to graduate with a culinary degree.

Specialized and focused culinary classes

Some culinary school programs stick to teaching classical cooking techniques. Others offer a more international approach. The larger and more established cooking schools offer instruction in focused areas, such as Chinese cooking, or cheese-making. It is important that the school offers the subjects that you are interested in, especially if it relates to your eventual career goals.

Career placement help

Another factor to consider when choosing a cooking school is how established and helpful is the school's career placement office and staff. This could affect your ability and ease with which you will secure a job in the culinary field you want. A culinary school with an aggressive career placement office will often have extensive ties to local restaurants and other food organizations.

Financial aid options offered

Since enrolling in a culinary arts program is a major investment, you might want to consider the financial aid options a school offers. Larger and more established cooking schools like the CIA offer excellent financial aid help to their students. Schools can offer student loans, grants, scholarships, etc.

Average class size

Smaller classes at offer a greater opportunity to get hands-on experience and personal attention from faculty members. Larger classes offer you the ability to learn from others in a large group. Each type of culinary school has their own pros and cons and it is important that a student considers which he or she prefers.

Facilities

Some cooking schools offer students better and more modern facilities than others. The best way to see and judge the facilities on a cooking school campus is to schedule a tour at that school. Most schools will gladly have a staff member show you around.

Reputation

Depending on your eventual career goals, it is important to consider a culinary school's reputation, especially in the field you want to work in. Speak to potential employers in your desired field BEFORE you enroll in a school to check if the school's reputation is up to par.

Types of culinary degrees offered

Different cooking schools offer different types of degrees and credentials. For example, while one cooking school might offer masters degrees, bachelor degrees, and associate degrees, other culinary schools might only offer diplomas or associate culinary arts degrees. Consider your eventual career goals and speak to potential employers to find out what type of degree you should earn at an accredited culinary school.