Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts: Launching Your Career in the Kitchen

Associate's Degree in Culinary Arts

From cooking techniques, to kitchen organization and menu planning, an associate’s degree in culinary arts will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to work in the culinary world. You can earn a culinary arts associate’s degree in approximately two years. If you would like to take the next steps to launch your career in the kitchen, read on to learn more about what a culinary program entails.

Culinary Arts Associate’s Degree Overview

Types of Programs

Culinary degrees are offered at culinary arts schools, community colleges, and vocational/technical schools. At the associate’s degree level, you could pursue study in culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, culinary operations, and culinary management, among others.


The prerequisites for admission to a culinary program at the associate’s level are usually a high school diploma or GED. Some programs may also require a certificate or diploma in culinary arts or prior work experience in the field.

Program Length

You are typically required to earn 70 to 72 credits in order to get an associate’s degree, which can take around two years to complete.

Online Culinary Degrees

There are online associate’s degree programs available for those who already have earned a certificate or diploma in the culinary arts. These online programs allow you to increase your employment opportunities, while completing your coursework from home.

Opportunities for Advanced Education

After earning an associate’s degree, you could pursue a culinary arts bachelor’s degree, which may help to further enhance your skills. There are also master’s degree programs in related culinary areas, such as deictics and nutrition, restaurant management, and hospitality management that can help to take your career in an administrative direction.

Curriculum for a Two-Year Culinary Arts Degree


In a culinary arts program, students may learn classic and contemporary cooking methods and techniques; study global cuisines; and receive a basis in management, communication, and finance principles.


Classes that culinary arts students might take include:

  • Sanitation & safety
  • Nutrition for food service
  • Menu design
  • Food & beverage service
  • Culinary skills
  • Food science
  • Fundamentals of food
  • Baking


In most programs, students are required to put their skills into action in an externship at a restaurant or other food service setting so that they may gain hands-on experience. However, for those students who have already worked as professional chefs, there are specially designed associate’s degree programs, which forgo the externship component since these students have already demonstrated their practical competency.

Career Options for the Culinary Arts

Types of Jobs

Although a culinary degree is not required in order to seek employment opportunities, it may help you to qualify for a variety of jobs in the field. You could advance in the kitchen to become a:

  • Cook
  • Sous chef
  • Pastry chef
  • Baker
  • Executive chef
  • Chef/owner

If you are more interested in the management side of the food service industry, you could become a restaurant manager or food and beverage manager. Other related careers include:

  • Culinary educator
  • Test chef
  • Food stylist
  • Caterer
  • Personal chef
  • Food writer

Work Environment

Culinary professionals are employed in fast-pace environments, such as restaurants, hotels, casinos, cruise ships, private households, and food service facilities. They work on their feet for long hours, often on the evenings and weekends. Culinary professionals also have an above average chance of injury compared to other jobs, due to potential kitchen accidents. In 2012, 13% of chefs were self-employed.

Employment Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of chefs and cooks is projected to grow 5% from 2012 to 2022. Population and income growth are expected to drive an increased demand for high-quality food, but chef positions will be competitive as restaurants seek to fill positions with lower paid workers. Jobs at upscale restaurants, hotels, and casinos will be the most sought after since these locations typically command the highest pay. Opportunities will be best for creative chefs who have many years of work experience.


In 2013, the median annual wages for the below culinary positions were as follows:

Pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts

If you love to cook and thrive under pressure, then a culinary career may be right for you. While not a hard and fast requirement, a degree in the culinary arts can help prepare you to work as a culinary professional. Pursue your associate’s degree in culinary arts today to make your dreams of being a chef come true!