Getting you degree from a culinary arts program isn't the only way to start a culinary career. However, formal chef school training can give you broader knowledge of proper techniques, ingredients and the ins and outs of the business. As with any school experience, what you get out of your culinary arts program will depend on what you put into it. When you determine to make the most of your educational opportunities, you'll come away with valuable skills and knowledge that can help you reach your career goals.
As you begin looking at culinary arts programs, you should consider the following factors:
- Cost of Tuition – Are you willing to spend what it takes to go to a top culinary school or are you looking for a good school within a specific budget? The cost of education is a major factor, especially when you take into account that entry-level jobs in the industry often come with entry-level wages.
- Location – Are you willing to relocate? Or do you want to stay close to home? If you want to stay close to home, your choice of schools will be fewer.
- Length of the Program – Do you want to get through a training program as quickly as possible and enter the workforce or are you looking to earn a culinary degree like an associate's or bachelor's that will serve as a foundation for more advanced education? Some certificate programs may be only a few weeks of intensive training. At the other end of the spectrum, a bachelor's degree is generally a 4-year program that will provide well-rounded culinary training. For more information about the different programs available, see our Guide to Culinary Programs.
- Professional Background of Instructors – Is the professional background of the faculty important to you? Some schools employ instructors who work in the industry and who may even be well-known chefs. Research the teachers at schools you are considering. Having the opportunity to learn from chefs you admire can be inspiring as well as educational.
- Career Placement Services and Externships – Does the school you're interested in have career placement services or externship opportunities? When speaking with admissions counselors, find out if they have placement statistics on previous graduates. You should also find out whether there are externship requirements for their culinary arts programs. Any work experience you can get will help you prepare for the career you want.