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
Saline County Career Center Marshall MO 27
Salt Lake Community College Salt Lake City UT 21596
San Bernardino Valley College San Bernardino CA 12025
San Diego Mesa College San Diego CA 21233
San Jacinto College - Central Campus Pasadena TX 10507
San Jacinto College - North Campus Houston TX 4947
San Joaquin Delta College Stockton CA 16973
Santa Barbara City College Santa Barbara CA 13834
Santa Fe Community College Santa Fe NM 3606
Santa Rosa Junior College Santa Rosa CA 27020
Sarasota County Technical Institute Sarasota FL 963
Schenectady County Community College Schenectady NY 3473
Schoolcraft College Livonia MI 9016
Scottsdale Culinary Institute Scottsdale AZ 602
Seattle Community College - Central Campus Seattle WA 6567
Seattle Community College - North Campus Seattle WA 5847
Seattle Community College - South Campus Seattle WA 5738
Shasta College Redding CA 9112
Shawnee Community College Ullin IL 1880
Sheridan Technical Center Hollywood FL 1487
Sinclair Community College Dayton OH 19026
Skagit Valley College Mount Vernon WA 5488
South Puget Sound Community College Olympia WA 4442
South Texas College Mcallen TX 11319
Southeastern Academy Kissimmee FL 284
Southeastern Illinois College Harrisburg IL 2508
Southern Oklahoma Technology Center Ardmore OK 172
Southwest Wisconsin Technical College Fennimore WI 1264
Southwestern Illinois College Belleville IL 13351
Sowela Technical Community College Lake Charles LA 1243
Spokane Community College Spokane WA 7767
St Philips College San Antonio TX 7921
Stratford University Falls Church VA 630
Sullivan County Community College Loch Sheldrake NY 1552
Sullivan University Louisville KY 3462
Suny College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill Cobleskill NY 2303
Suny College of Technology at Delhi Delhi NY 2151
Suwannee - Hamilton Technical Center Live Oak FL 88
Technical Education Center - Osceola Kissimmee FL No Data
Texas Culinary Academy Austin TX 92
The Academy Lakeland FL 332
The Art Institute of Atlanta Atlanta GA 934
The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale Inc Fort Lauderdale FL 3145
The Art Institute of Phoenix Phoenix AZ 1070
The Art Institutes International Minnesota Minneapolis MN 760
The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago Chicago IL 761
The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College Philadelphia PA 504
Travel Institute of the Pacific Honolulu HI 179
Tri County Technology Center Bartlesville OK 142
Trident Technical College Charleston SC 10246
Triton College River Grove IL 16927
Truckee Meadows Community College Reno NV 9930
Union County Vocational Technical School Scotch Plains NJ 165
University of Akron Main Campus Akron OH 21363
University of Alaska Anchorage Anchorage AK 14794
University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks AK 7132
University of Nevada - Las Vegas Las Vegas NV 22041
Utah Valley State College Orem UT 20946
Victor Valley Community College Victorville CA 9221
Vincennes University Vincennes IN 9169
Walters State Community College Morristown TN 6163
Waukesha County Technical College Pewaukee WI 7943
Waynesville Technical Academy Waynesville MO 40
West Virginia Northern Community College Wheeling WV 2486
Western Culinary Institute Portland OR 568
Westmoreland County Community College Youngwood PA 5272
William Rainey Harper College Palatine IL 15021
York County Community College Wells ME 706
Yorktowne Business Institute York PA 300
YTI Career Institute York PA 1677
Zane State College Zanesville OH 1898
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