Is a Culinary Arts Degree Right for You?

An online bachelor’s degree in culinary arts goes beyond teaching you how to prepare, cook, and present food to include the business side of food establishments. Culinary arts is a good fit for people who want to run their own kitchens or restaurants, and thus are interested in topics like food purchasing, sanitation and food safety, cost control, wine and beverage accompaniment, and employee management. A bachelor’s in culinary arts is ideal for people who already work in the food service or hospitality industries and want to improve their career prospects by finishing out a four-year degree.

Advice for Earning Your Culinary Arts Degree Online

As you might imagine, the culinary arts are largely taught in hands-on settings. For this reason, most fully online bachelor’s programs in culinary arts are completion programs for those who have already completed associate degree programs in culinary arts, or a related area like pastry arts or restaurant management. These degree programs build on the cooking skills a student has already learned and emphasize culinary management course work.

For online culinary arts programs that aren’t completion programs, colleges tend to incorporate residencies where students must report to campus to learn practical kitchen and food service skills. These residencies are supplemented with online course work for content that does not involve actual food preparation. Many online programs also require site-based internships. We encourage working students to plan well in advance for the time commitments these residencies and internships will require.

Required Courses

The curriculum in a culinary arts bachelor’s program varies greatly from school to school, but in general, students will explore principles of food safety and sanitation, nutrition, and food service leadership. Students can also take specialized course work that fits their concentration, which could be anything from wine and beverage studies, to baking and pastry arts. The best culinary arts programs incorporate internships and trips to national and international regions with distinctive cooking styles and cuisines. A few courses you may encounter in a culinary arts program might include:

  • Introduction to Gastronomy
  • Culinary Fundamentals
  • Meat Identification, Fabrication, and Utilization
  • Controlling Costs and Purchasing Food
  • High-Volume Production Cookery

Common Career Paths

Job growth for many careers in the culinary artists is projected to be slow, stagnant, and even decline in some areas between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Since those who are committed to a career in the profession will face heavy competition for the best-paying jobs in upscale restaurants and hotels, a bachelor’s degree in the field is a smart move that could set you apart from others in the field. Salaries for these careers will vary based on your experience, the region of the country you live in, and the size and type of your employer. Common career paths for culinary arts graduates include (but are not limited to):

Chef

  • Expected Growth: Little to no change
  • Average Annual Salary: $46,570

A chef is generally responsible for overseeing the daily food service operation of a kitchen in a restaurant or other food service establishment. They supervise and direct other cooks and staffers in the kitchen and serve as a leader for other employees. Chefs, who are normally the most skilled cooks in their establishment, are also usually responsible for hiring, training, and supervising the kitchen staffers.

While most chefs learn the trade through experience, a growing number are receiving formal training though two-year or four-year degree programs, the BLS explained. The above job outlook and salary average were provided by the BLS.

Food Service Manager

  • Expected Growth: -3%
  • Average Annual Salary: $52,580

Food service managers are generally responsible for the daily operations and productivity of restaurants and other establishments in which meals are served. They are responsible for administrative and human resources of the business, which may include recruiting and hiring workers, training new employees, ensuring that staffers are performing their jobs correctly and terminating those who are not fulfilling their job requirements. Food service managers also ensure that customers are satisfied with their meals.

While a bachelor’s degree isn’t required to obtain a job in the field, a degree in the culinary arts can help equip people with the skills they need to be successful as a food service manager and may set them apart from the competition for jobs since relevant postsecondary education is preferred, the BLS explained. The above employment growth projection and salary average were provided by the BLS.

Culinary Arts Teacher

  • Expected Growth: 2%
  • Average Annual Salary: $57,140 (for those who teach in secondary schools)

These vocational instructors teach high school students about food, cooking, and a wide range of techniques and concepts. They teach students about sanitation; food safety, preparation and storage; and nutrition. They also teach them how to cook, bake and decorate. To qualify for such a position, you must complete a state-approved teacher preparation program and become licensed or certified to teach in your state, the BLS explained. People who have earned bachelor’s degrees in an area outside of education are able to complete alternative certification programs, the requirements for which differ by state. The job growth projection and salary average provided above were drawn from the BLS, and reflect the career/technical education teachers as a whole, not just culinary arts teachers.

Food Writer or Critic

  • Expected Growth: 6%
  • Average Annual Salary: $68,420 (reflects salaries of all writers, not just food writers)

Food writers write articles and books on the topic of food and drink, restaurants, nutrition, health and related areas and may contribute to cookbooks, or magazine and news sections that pertain to food. Food critics visit restaurants and bars and provide professional critiques of their experience in print and online newspapers or magazines. These writers may write on a freelance basis or as salaried writers.

While a degree in culinary arts or journalism isn’t necessarily required for such positions, it is certainly helpful in providing a broad knowledge base from which to write educated articles. Salaried writing jobs do typically require a bachelor’s degree, the BLS explained. The salary and job growth statistics provided above are available through the BLS.

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