Take the First Step Toward Your Culinary Career Now!

There Are Many Ways To Become A Chef

If you want to become a chef, there are more than a few different career paths to consider. In this article, we highlight a few of the most common ones. We also mention the types of programs you will encounter and summarize the courses that may be included in each type.

On The Job

At restaurants across the country, you can find a variety of entry-level jobs. “No experience required” dishwasher, prep-cook, and waiter positions are commonplace. Start with one of those jobs, add desire and a great work ethic, and there is no limit to where someone could go within the culinary industry.

Many current head chef positions listed on popular job boards have requirements that do not include school. But if school isn't required for the job, 5-10 years of cooking experience often is. For a sous chef position, some restaurants will require three to five years of relevant experience or two or three years in a supervisory/lead cook role.

Vocational & Trade School

Trade schools are generally the quickest route to take to get working in the trade quickly. This can take 9-21 months, but it depends on which program you attend. Vocational or trade school programs are often for a certificate or a diploma, but some trade schools have associate degrees in culinary arts as well.

Find a culinary school program near you.

Culinary School

Culinary schools generally focus on only the culinary arts, but some also offer hospitality and restaurant management programs. Culinary school may cost a little more per credit hour, but they are considered a very good option for a career in the food industry. Culinary schools may offer different tiers of training including certification, diploma, associate and bachelor’s degrees.

Community College

The culinary programs offered at community colleges are often associate degree programs that focus on culinary, but also include general education courses. A community college associate degree program takes two years of full time attendance to complete. You may also find certificate and adult education culinary programs at your local community college.


After completing a four-year university program, the student receives a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degree programs include both business and more advanced culinary art courses.

Find a local culinary school.

Common Culinary School Courses

Most schools have different course requirements, or the courses may go by different names. Below are a few common courses for each type of culinary arts program type.

Certificate & Diploma Courses

The culinary courses you might take in a certificate or diploma program.

  • Baking
  • Culinary Skills
  • Food Science
  • Food Safety/Sanitation
  • Nutrition
  • Menu Planning

Associate Degree Courses

Along with the certificate courses listed above, an associate degree program may also include:

  • Management
  • International Foods
  • Best Practices
  • Gastronomy
  • Wine Studies

Bachelor’s Degree Courses

Along with all the courses listed above, a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts program may include:

  • Marketing
  • International Foods
  • Table Service
  • Methods of Cooking
  • Human Nutrition
  • Science of Cooking

Find a culinary arts program near you.

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