What Can You Do With a Culinary Degree?

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A Culinary degree gives students the opportunity to do just that in the food industry. Although some workplaces do not require chefs to have a degree, most restaurants these days like to see chefs with basic certifications.

A Culinary degree is a basic degree for chefs. Through culinary programs, students will learn basic kitchen operations, history of major cuisines, cooking techniques, and health and safety procedures.

A Culinary degree is not only a great way for people to move up in their career but is also a way to gain hands-on work experience. Because most programs require students to work in a kitchen before graduation, students can grow their connections within the field and gain confidence in their cooking abilities. Culinary degrees are offered via vocational schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges.

What can you do with a Culinary degree?

A degree in Culinary opens one up to a variety of careers. Other than becoming a chef, those with this degree can become restaurant managers in independent chains or at hotels, food and beverage directors, or food stylists for food magazines or other promotions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs for chefs and head cooks with grow nine percent between the years of 2014 and 2024.

Other related culinary careers include, but are not limited to:

  • Caterer
  • Nutritionist
  • Food Scientist
  • Cooking Instructor
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What kind of Culinary degree should you get?

Culinary programs are taught at the Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s levels. An Associate’s degree is a two-year program that is partially composed of general education classes in addition to basic chef courses.

Although some entry-level jobs only require an Associate’s, a Bachelor’s is preferred for most full-time jobs. A Master’s degree is for upper tier chefs and/or upper management positions such as food and beverage directors. An online Culinary degree is ideal for those who are already working and find traditional class schedules difficult.

Cross-reference this list with College Choice’s ranking of the Most Affordable Online Colleges to make sure you enroll in the perfect program for you.

How much money do people make with a Culinary degree?

While chefs working for restaurants average about $43,750 annually, chefs working for performing arts companies earn an average of $69,150. Furthermore, an average salary for a sous chef is $44,627, a pastry chef is $33,000, and an executive chef earns an average of $69,494.

Experience is a major influencer of salary within the culinary field. As of March 2018, those in entry-level jobs can earn anywhere from $19,763 to $56,728 depending on job and location. A chef in their late career can earn anywhere from $24,522 to $61,042. Because the pay range is so large it is important to research specific career paths and workplace locations within the field.

What are the requirements for a Culinary degree?

Admission to culinary schools require a high school diploma or a GED. For some programs, a GPA of 2.5 or higher is recommended. For those whose first language isn’t English, an English proficiency test score is also required. No other specific education or experience is necessary for an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree.

During the actual program, in addition to taking a variety of classes, most Culinary degrees require students to participate in internships for a certain number of hours. Even those who take only online programs must take an internship in a cooking institution. These internships are a great way to grow one’s resume and gain experience in an actual kitchen.

What are the most affordable online Culinary degrees?

Below is College Choice’s list of the five most affordable online culinary degrees. While net tuition price was the deciding factor in this ranking, rest assured these are quality programs. All of these universities are regionally accredited.

We compiled data for this ranking from individual college websites, the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS database, Payscale, and the U.S. News & World Report.


See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Johnson & Wales University

    Providence, RI




    Johnson & Wales University is a private university with four campuses across the nation. A JWU educational experience is unlike any other; students will not only have a theoretical understanding of their field, but also take part in internships to gain practical experience in their future career. Founded as a business school in 1914, JWU quickly expanded and in 1972 added degrees in hospitality and culinary arts. Since 2008, JWU began offering online degrees in order to meet the needs of more working professionals.

    Program Features

    JWU’s online BS in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management degree teaches the business side of the food and restaurant industries.

    • Completion time: 2 years
    • Classes taught by industry professionals
    • Sample Courses: Food and Beverage Strategies and Logistics, The Legal Environment of Business, Finance


    JWU’s online degrees are ranked among the Best Online Programs for 2018 by the U.S. News & World Report.

  2. Nicholls State University

    Thibodaux, LA




    Nicholls State University was named after Francis Redding Tillou Nicholls, a general who fought in the Civil War and eventually became Louisiana’s governor in 1876. The university was first opened in 1948 located along the Mississippi River delta. Due to its prime location and vibrant local culture, several of the academic programs offered are focused in the Culinary Arts. Nicholls hopes to blend education with partnerships with local businesses to give students the chance to engage with the community.

    Program Features

    Nicholls’s online BS in Culinary Arts is a two-part program where students learn the fundamentals of the industry during the first few years, and then move on to specializing in a particular area.

    • Two internships offered, one during sophomore year and one during senior year
    • Certification from the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute
    • Sample Concentrations: Culinary Operations, Patisserie


    With 11 concentrations offered, students will take 33 credit-hours of additional electives in an interested area.

  3. Arizona State University

    Tempe, AZ




    Arizona State University is one of the world’s leading universities in research and innovation. ASU opened its doors in 1885, about 30 years before Arizona even became a state. As its first institution of higher education, the university worked to expand rapidly in all fields from the humanities to the sciences. Today ASU offers degree programs from the undergraduate all the way to the doctoral level, both on-campus and online. According to the U.S. News & World Report, ASU is the Most Innovative out of over 1,500 institutions in the world.

    Program Features

    ASU’s online BS in Nutrition is ideal for those who wish to pursue careers in food production and service management.

    • 40 classes; 7.5 weeks per class
    • Concentrations: Food and Nutrition Management, Nutrition Communication, Food Studies
    • Estimated full-time tuition of $15,438


    The School of Nutrition and Health Promotion has a strong history of academic excellence, having produced 247 Barrett Honors scholars in the fall of 2016.

  4. New England Culinary Institute

    Montpelier, VT




    The New England Culinary Institute was founded in 1980 in the state of Vermont. Its curriculum is based on the principle of “learning by doing,” where all students will have the opportunity to learn from experienced chefs in a real kitchen setting. In fact, NECI offers four downtown restaurants for students to learn cooking fundamentals as well as give the opportunity to serve the local community. NECI is also dedicated to providing an affordable educational experience, with over 80 percent of students receiving some form of financial aid.

    Program Features

    NECI’s online Associate of Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts is designed to give students hands-on experiences as a culinary and kitchen professional.

    • Completion time: 16 months
    • Externships and two-week residencies
    • Sample Courses: Advanced Food and Wine Pairing, Allergens & Specialty Diets, Business Finance


    Externships are specialty programs where students gain professional experience at a culinary site. NECI currently offers more than 500 externships across the nation.

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