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
University of Alaska Anchorage Anchorage AK 14794
University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks AK 7132
H Councill Trenholm State Technical College Montgomery AL 663
Ozarka College Melbourne AR 737
Pima Community College Tucson AZ 28078
Scottsdale Culinary Institute Scottsdale AZ 602
The Art Institute of Phoenix Phoenix AZ 1070
Art Institute of California - Los Angeles Santa Monica CA 1185
Bakersfield College Bakersfield CA 14466
Cabrillo College Aptos CA 12807
California School of Culinary Arts Pasadena CA 681
Cerritos College Norwalk CA 24536
Chaffey College Rancho Cucamonga CA 15220
College of the Desert Palm Desert CA 6972
Columbia College Sonora CA 3340
Contra Costa College San Pablo CA 7133
Cypress College Cypress CA 21361
Diablo Valley College Pleasant Hill CA 21581
Glendale Community College Glendale CA 15596
Grossmont College El Cajon CA 16309
Institute of Technology Inc Clovis CA 1003
Laney College Oakland CA 11531
Long Beach City College Long Beach CA 20926
Los Angeles Trade Technical College Los Angeles CA 18164
Merced College Merced CA 10700
Mission College Santa Clara CA 9821
Orange Coast College Costa Mesa CA 23315
Pasadena City College Pasadena CA 22948
Saddleback College Mission Viejo CA 18563
San Bernardino Valley College San Bernardino CA 12025
San Diego Mesa College San Diego CA 21233
San Joaquin Delta College Stockton CA 16973
Santa Barbara City College Santa Barbara CA 13834
Santa Rosa Junior College Santa Rosa CA 27020
Shasta College Redding CA 9112
Victor Valley Community College Victorville CA 9221
Art Institute of Colorado Denver CO 2090
Connecticut Culinary Institute Farmington CT 125
New England Technical Institute of Connecticut Inc New Britain CT 573
Delaware Technical and Community College - Stanton - Wilmington Newark DE 6622
Atlantic Technical Center Coconut Creek FL 1570
Brevard Community College Cocoa FL 13265
First Coast Technical Institute Saint Augustine FL 1634
George Stone Career Center Pensacola FL 537
Johnson & Wales University - Florida Campus North Miami FL 1620
Lake Technical Center Eustis FL 669
Lee County High Tech Center North Cape Coral FL 120
Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center Miami FL 275
Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology Naples FL 1607
Manatee Technical Institute Bradenton FL 2721
Miami Lakes Educational Center Miami Lakes FL 1098
Mid Florida Tech Orlando FL 1927
New England Institute of Technology - Palm Beach West Palm Beach FL 836
Pinellas Technical Education Center - Clearwater Clearwater FL 1417
Radford M Locklin Technical Center Milton FL 322
Ridge Career Center Winter Haven FL 156
Robert Morgan Educational Center Miami FL 1075
Sarasota County Technical Institute Sarasota FL 963
Sheridan Technical Center Hollywood FL 1487
Southeastern Academy Kissimmee FL 284
Suwannee - Hamilton Technical Center Live Oak FL 88
Technical Education Center - Osceola Kissimmee FL No Data
The Academy Lakeland FL 332
The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale Inc Fort Lauderdale FL 3145
Coastal Georgia Community College Brunswick GA 1912
The Art Institute of Atlanta Atlanta GA 934
Kauai Community College Lihue HI 1052
Travel Institute of the Pacific Honolulu HI 179
Des Moines Area Community College Ankeny IA 10998
Eastern Iowa Community College District Davenport IA 6179
Kirkwood Community College Cedar Rapids IA 11645
Boise State University Boise ID 16287
Brigham Young University - Idaho Rexburg ID 8949
North Idaho College Coeur Dalene ID 4049
Black Hawk College Moline IL 6118
College of Dupage Glen Ellyn IL 28862
College of Lake County Grayslake IL 14441
Elgin Community College Elgin IL 10174
Illinois Central College East Peoria IL 11053
Illinois Eastern Community Colleges - Olney Central College Olney IL 1648
Illinois Valley Community College Oglesby IL 3794
Joliet Junior College Joliet IL 11334
Kaskaskia College Centralia IL 2676
Kendall College Chicago IL 700
Lake Land College Mattoon IL 5925
Lincoln Land Community College Springfield IL 6789
Rend Lake College Ina IL 2739
Shawnee Community College Ullin IL 1880
Southeastern Illinois College Harrisburg IL 2508
Southwestern Illinois College Belleville IL 13351
The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago Chicago IL 761
Triton College River Grove IL 16927
William Rainey Harper College Palatine IL 15021
Ivy Tech Community College - Central Indiana Indianapolis IN 6748
Vincennes University Vincennes IN 9169
Jefferson Community College Louisville KY 9520
Sullivan University Louisville KY 3462
Bossier Parish Community College Bossier City LA 4332
Culinary Arts Institute of Louisiana Baton Rouge LA 58
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