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
James Rumsey Technical Institute Martinsburg WV 144
Jefferson Community College Louisville KY 9520
Johnson & Wales University Providence RI 9172
Johnson & Wales University - Charleston Charleston SC 1396
Johnson & Wales University - Florida Campus North Miami FL 1620
Johnson & Wales University - Norfolk Norfolk VA 619
Joliet Junior College Joliet IL 11334
Kaskaskia College Centralia IL 2676
Kauai Community College Lihue HI 1052
Kendall College Chicago IL 700
Keystone College La Plume PA 1220
Kirkwood Community College Cedar Rapids IA 11645
Lacademie De Cuisine Gaithersburg MD 88
Lake Career and Technical Center Camdenton MO 30
Lake Land College Mattoon IL 5925
Lake Technical Center Eustis FL 669
Lake Washington Technical College Kirkland WA 3917
Lane Community College Eugene OR 9957
Laney College Oakland CA 11531
Lee County High Tech Center North Cape Coral FL 120
Lincoln Land Community College Springfield IL 6789
Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center Miami FL 275
Linn - Benton Community College Albany OR 4443
Long Beach City College Long Beach CA 20926
Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology Naples FL 1607
Los Angeles Trade Technical College Los Angeles CA 18164
Louisiana Technical College - Avoyelles Campus Cottonport LA 219
Louisiana Technical College - Baton Rouge Campus Baton Rouge LA 1015
Louisiana Technical College - Delta - Ouachita Campus West Monroe LA 652
Louisiana Technical College - Jefferson Campus Metairie LA 257
Louisiana Technical College - Jumonville Memorial New Roads LA 607
Louisiana Technical College - Lafayette Campus Lafayette LA 519
Louisiana Technical College - Shreveport - Bossier Campus Shreveport LA 1067
Louisiana Technical College - Sidney N Collier Campus New Orleans LA 890
Louisiana Technical College - Slidell Campus Slidell LA 531
Louisiana Technical College - Westside Campus Plaquemine LA 265
Lower Columbia College Longview WA 3248
Macomb Community College Warren MI 22001
Madison Area Technical College Madison WI 14474
Manatee Technical Institute Bradenton FL 2721
Merced College Merced CA 10700
Meridian Technology Center Stillwater OK 662
Metro Technology Centers Oklahoma City OK 434
Miami Lakes Educational Center Miami Lakes FL 1098
Mid Florida Tech Orlando FL 1927
Middlesex County College Edison NJ 10398
Milwaukee Area Technical College Milwaukee WI 14296
Minneapolis Community and Technical College Minneapolis MN 6363
Minnesota State Community Technical College - Moorhead Moorhead MN No Data
Mission College Santa Clara CA 9821
Mississippi University for Women Columbus MS 2814
Mitchell Technical Institute Mitchell SD 905
Mohawk Valley Community College - Utica Branch Utica NY 5092
Monongalia County Technical Education Center Morgantown WV 108
Morris County Vocational School District Denville NJ No Data
Mott Community College Flint MI 8659
Nashville State Technical Community College Nashville TN 7315
New Community Workforce Development Center Newark NJ 468
New England Culinary Institute Montpelier VT 177
New England Culinary Institute at Essex Essex Junction VT 160
New England Institute of Technology - Palm Beach West Palm Beach FL 836
New England Technical Institute of Connecticut Inc New Britain CT 573
New Hampshire Community Technical College - Berlin/laconia Laconia NH 1471
New York Restaurant School New York NY 1281
Newbury College - Brookline Brookline MA 2152
Niagara County Community College Sanborn NY 4641
Nicholls State University Thibodaux LA 7326
Nicolet Area Technical College Rhinelander WI 1415
North Dakota State College of Science Wahpeton ND 2425
North Idaho College Coeur Dalene ID 4049
North Shore Community College Danvers MA 6285
Northampton County Area Community College Bethlehem PA 4797
Northeast Technology Center - Afton Afton OK 96
Northern Michigan University Marquette MI 8427
Northwestern Michigan College Traverse City MI 3965
Oakland Community College - Bloomfield Hills Campus Bloomfield Hills MI 23188
Ocean County Vocational - Technical School Toms River NJ 177
Ogden - Weber Applied Technology College Ogden UT 1231
Olympic College Bremerton WA 5613
Onondaga Community College Syracuse NY 7848
Orange Coast College Costa Mesa CA 23315
Ozarka College Melbourne AR 737
Ozarks Technical Community College Springfield MO 6343
Pasadena City College Pasadena CA 22948
Penn Valley Community College Kansas City MO 4366
Pennsylvania College of Technology Williamsport PA 5320
Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom Lakewood WA 9238
Pima Community College Tucson AZ 28078
Pinellas Technical Education Center - Clearwater Clearwater FL 1417
Pioneer Technology Center Ponca City OK 82
Putnam - Westchester Boces Practical Nursing Program Yorktown Heights NY 165
Radford M Locklin Technical Center Milton FL 322
Rend Lake College Ina IL 2739
Renton Technical College Renton WA 5065
Ridge Career Center Winter Haven FL 156
Robert Morgan Educational Center Miami FL 1075
Saddleback College Mission Viejo CA 18563
Saint Cloud Technical College Saint Cloud MN 2949
Saint Louis Community College - Forest Park Saint Louis MO 6749
Saint Paul College - A Community and Technical College Saint Paul MN 5247
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