The culinary arts are the realm of the chef - an evolving figure in a domain that blends both traditional principles and cutting-edge techniques. Professional kitchens, for instance, are still organized according to the "kitchen brigade" inspired by the nineteenth-century French military.

At the same time, the culinary arts are being transformed by innovative new technologies and philosophies of cooking and food service delivery - not to mention the rise of the 'celebrity chef.' Many high-level chefs are now multi-product brand names, such as Wolfgang Puck and Tom Colicchio.

While the top strata of the culinary arts is undergoing something of a cultural renaissance, bear in mind that most chefs and cooks will be employed to do what they have always done - prepare and present superior food in relative obscurity.

Culinary experts like chefs and bakers must be timely and hard-working, capable of multitasking and keeping the chaos of a full-service kitchen organized. For those who genuinely enjoy preparing and serving attractive, tasty food to discerning diners - and who thrive in a high-pressure work environment - a career in the culinary arts may prove satisfying.

About the Culinary Arts

Professionals in the culinary arts are also referred to as culinarians or simply chefs. The term 'culinary arts' suggests there is a design component to being a culinarian. This is true; professional chefs are responsible not only for preparation and cooking but for style, taste and, above all, presentation. Meals must be not only delicious, but beautiful - a work of art.

Chefs are also responsible for maintaining high food quality and safety standards as well as managing subordinates like assistants, apprentices and, depending on one's rank, other chefs. Those higher up the hierarchy may design new menus, supervise teams of chefs, or even manage entire restaurants as part of a larger chain. Chefs are generally paid more than first-line supervisors but less than food service managers.

The number of possible positions in this field has increased dramatically in recent years. Chefs are now cookbook authors, recipe consultants and food stylists. Jobs are increasingly parsed through niche diets like vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, raw food, local food, slow food and more. Some work as "personal chefs," contracting with families to prepare and cook custom meals according to special dietary specifications, right in the home.

Chefs and related culinary experts are employed in restaurants and bars, hotels and resorts, catering agencies, schools and universities, spas and cruise ships, airlines, hospitals, the military–anywhere that food is being prepared en masse. A small number engage in consulting, media and retail merchandising. Many don't work for others at all, but instead construct and manage their own businesses as restaurateurs.

The job outlook for food service as a whole is relatively rosy, with thousands of new jobs across the multibillion-dollar industry expected in the next few years. Chefs and head cooks, however, comprise less than 1 percent of the food service industry and the BLS reports little job growth is expected among professional culinarians in the United States through at least the rest of the decade.

Professionally trained chefs are in highest demand at four- and five-star hotels, resorts and cruise ships. The global hospitality, travel and tourism industries are important employers of chefs. As more brands develop their presence on the web via digital consumer marketing, the demand for culinary experts with technological savvy may grow in the coming years.


The American Culinary Federation, or ACF, extends institutional accreditation services through its educational arm, ACFEF. The nonprofit also hosts a nationally recognized apprenticeship program, major industry events, chef competitions and a handful of national publications - all helpful resources for aspiring culinarians who plan to work in the United States.


Because chefs work with food–substances ingested by members of the public - they are legally responsible for all relevant local and state codes governing food, alcohol, health and safety. In most states, for example, a food handler's certificate is a precondition of lawful employment in food service.

Educational Options in the Culinary Arts

Some chefs earn a culinary degree, and others work their way up through the kitchen hierarchy, the more traditional and still widely accepted route. The cost of degree programs varies widely, ranging from $480 to $50,000 a year in full-time tuition. Public, especially community, colleges are among the most affordable options.

Primary Certification

The American Culinary Federation, or ACF, is a pivotal organization in this field. Many chefs and head cooks are certified through the ACF, the largest and original professional chefs organization in North America. Primary certification is not mandatory for culinarians, but the federation expects it to become more important in the years to come.

Post-Secondary Degrees

The number of students seeking certificates, associate diplomas and baccalaureate degrees in the culinary arts is on the rise. The number of dedicated culinary programs has also increased substantially in the last decade. Certificate programs usually last between 32 and 52 weeks. An Associate of Arts is the most commonly attained degree by culinary students.

While neither a certificate or degree guarantees employment, they can enhance applicants' resumes in a competitive sector. Remember that the investment return on a culinary arts certificate or degree will vary among geographic locations and different employers.


Depending on the class and culinary style of the job, specialty certifications in a cultural or ethnic cuisine can be valuable for job applicants. Some employers also like to see experience with pastries and desserts as a supplementary skill. Many culinary arts schools offer specialization opportunities in subjects like sustainability, wine and beverages, and the baking and pastry arts.

The American Culinary Federation issues the following basic and advanced certifications:

Certified Culinarian

Certified Sous Chef

Certified Chef de Cuisine

Certified Executive Chef

Certified Master Chef

Personal Certified Chef

Personal Certified Executive Chef

Certified Pastry Culinarian

Certified Working Pastry Chef

Certified Executive Pastry Chef

Certified Master Pastry Chef

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We found 271 schools offering culinary arts degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 271 Culinary Colleges in the U.S.

Culinary Arts Schools By Total Enrollment

Community College of Southern Nevada
North Las Vegas, NV  |  Total Enrollment: 29905

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
College of Dupage
Glen Ellyn, IL  |  Total Enrollment: 28862

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
Pima Community College
Tucson, AZ  |  Total Enrollment: 28078

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
Santa Rosa Junior College
Santa Rosa, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 27020

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
Cerritos College
Norwalk, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 24536

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
Orange Coast College
Costa Mesa, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 23315

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
Oakland Community College - Bloomfield Hills Campus
Bloomfield Hills, MI  |  Total Enrollment: 23188

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
Pasadena City College
Pasadena, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 22948

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
University of Nevada - Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV  |  Total Enrollment: 22041

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
Macomb Community College
Warren, MI  |  Total Enrollment: 22001

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's

Browse All 271 Colleges With Culinary Arts Programs

Title City State Enrollment
Alaska Vocational Technical Center Seward AK 210
Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute Albuquerque NM 17265
Allegany College of Maryland Cumberland MD 2592
Altoona Area Vocational Technical School Altoona PA 154
Anoka Technical College Anoka MN 2046
Art Institute of California - Los Angeles Santa Monica CA 1185
Art Institute of Colorado Denver CO 2090
Art Institute of Houston Houston TX 551
Art Institute of Philadelphia Philadelphia PA 2516
Art Institute of Seattle Seattle WA 2561
Ashland County - West Holmes Career Center Ashland OH 77
Atlantic Cape Community College Mays Landing NJ 5162
Atlantic County Vocational Technical School Mays Landing NJ 175
Atlantic Technical Center Coconut Creek FL 1570
Baker College of Muskegon Muskegon MI 2727
Bakersfield College Bakersfield CA 14466
Baltimore City Community College Baltimore MD 5883
Baltimore International College Baltimore MD 456
Bates Technical College Tacoma WA 14808
Bellingham Technical College Bellingham WA 3682
Bergen Community College Paramus NJ 11993
Berkshire Community College Pittsfield MA 2494
Bidwell Training Center Inc Pittsburgh PA 119
Black Hawk College Moline IL 6118
Blackhawk Technical College Janesville WI 2472
Boise State University Boise ID 16287
Bossier Parish Community College Bossier City LA 4332
Brevard Community College Cocoa FL 13265
Bridgerland Applied Technology College Logan UT 304
Brigham Young University - Idaho Rexburg ID 8949
Bristol Community College Fall River MA 6054
Brookdale Community College Lincroft NJ 11552
Bucks County Community College Newtown PA 8469
Bunker Hill Community College Boston MA 6385
Cabrillo College Aptos CA 12807
Caddo Kiowa Technology Center Fort Cobb OK 311
California School of Culinary Arts Pasadena CA 681
Camden County Vocational and Technical Schools Sicklerville NJ 1120
Cape Fear Community College Wilmington NC 5470
Carver Career Center Charleston WV 212
Central Maine Community College Auburn ME 1318
Central Oregon Community College Bend OR 4079
Century Community and Technical College White Bear Lake MN 6937
Cerritos College Norwalk CA 24536
Chaffey College Rancho Cucamonga CA 15220
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College Cincinnati OH 6675
Clark College Vancouver WA 8241
Coastal Georgia Community College Brunswick GA 1912
College of Dupage Glen Ellyn IL 28862
College of Lake County Grayslake IL 14441
College of the Desert Palm Desert CA 6972
Columbia College Sonora CA 3340
Columbia Union College Takoma Park MD 1030
Columbus State Community College Columbus OH 18094
Community College of Allegheny County Pittsburgh PA 15556
Community College of Beaver County Monaca PA 2188
Community College of Philadelphia Philadelphia PA 15953
Community College of Southern Nevada North Las Vegas NV 29905
Connecticut Culinary Institute Farmington CT 125
Contra Costa College San Pablo CA 7133
Crownpoint Institute of Technology Crownpoint NM 841
Culinary Arts Institute of Louisiana Baton Rouge LA 58
Culinary Institute of New Orleans Llc New Orleans LA 245
Cypress College Cypress CA 21361
Dakota County Technical College Rosemount MN 3086
Davis Applied Technology College Kaysville UT 324
Del Mar College Corpus Christi TX 9936
Delaware Technical and Community College - Stanton - Wilmington Newark DE 6622
Denmark Technical College Denmark SC 1240
Des Moines Area Community College Ankeny IA 10998
Diablo Valley College Pleasant Hill CA 21581
Eastern Iowa Community College District Davenport IA 6179
Edmonds Community College Lynnwood WA 8094
El Centro College Dallas TX 4333
Elgin Community College Elgin IL 10174
Erie Community College - City Campus Buffalo NY 2220
Erie Community College - South Campus Orchard Park NY 3122
First Coast Technical Institute Saint Augustine FL 1634
Fox Valley Technical College Appleton WI 6806
French Culinary Institute New York NY 204
Galveston College Galveston TX 2255
George Stone Career Center Pensacola FL 537
Glendale Community College Glendale CA 15596
Grand Rapids Community College Grand Rapids MI 13400
Great Plains Technology Center Lawton OK 234
Grossmont College El Cajon CA 16309
H Councill Trenholm State Technical College Montgomery AL 663
Harrisburg Area Community College - Harrisburg Harrisburg PA 7572
Hennepin Technical College Brooklyn Park MN 5843
Henry Ford Community College Dearborn MI 12742
Hocking College Nelsonville OH 5051
Holyoke Community College Holyoke MA 5754
Horry - Georgetown Technical College Conway SC 3693
Hudson County Community College Jersey City NJ 4854
Illinois Central College East Peoria IL 11053
Illinois Eastern Community Colleges - Olney Central College Olney IL 1648
Illinois Valley Community College Oglesby IL 3794
Institute of Technology Inc Clovis CA 1003
International Academy of Design and Technology Pittsburgh PA 1296
Ivy Tech Community College - Central Indiana Indianapolis IN 6748
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