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Culinary School Information
Chef Books

How to Choose
a Cooking School


An education opens doors. It's an investment—a foundation that you'll be able to draw upon for years to come. A formal culinary education provides you with a broad overview of culinary cuisines, theories, ingredients and techniques that restaurant experience alone cannot deliver. A culinary education will allow you to:

  • Gain the advantage in a competitive job market.
  • Demonstrate your commitment to future employers.
  • Acquire a wide range of culinary knowledge.
  • Have the time to indulge your culinary creativity.

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What to Look for in a Cooking School

There's no cookie cutter approach to culinary education. Different culinary schools suit the needs of different kinds of students. With a little investigation, you'll find the right program for you. Consider adding the following items to your checklist:

  • Visit the school to see classes in action.
  • Talk with students and faculty.
  • Compare the curriculum and course descriptions.
  • Find out if the school is accredited.
  • Compare the student to faculty ratio.
  • Make sure the cuisine focus matches your interests.
  • Check for flexibility in class schedules.
  • Check for externship opportunities.
  • Ask how many graduates find jobs after graduation.
  • Find out if the graduates are working where you'd like to work.

Differences Between Culinary Programs

Different types of schools offer different kinds of training. Determine what your goals are, and choose the education that's right for you.


Culinary Institute

Culinary institutes offer cream of the crop education for those who are serious about becoming certified culinary professionals. They generally offer degree, diploma, or certificate programs, ranging in length from 2 months to 4 years.


Cooking School

Cooking schools are smaller versions of culinary institutes for serious cooks who want specialized training. They generally offer certificate or diploma programs only. Program lengths range from 2 months to 4 years.


Cooking Classes

While cooking classes don't award certificates or diplomas, they are great for serious cooks who want to learn more about cooking. Short seminars range from 2 days to 2 months.

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Culinary School Tuition

Keep in mind that at public institutions, out-of-state tuition is higher than resident tuition. When estimating costs for each school, remember to include program fees, textbooks, supplies, uniforms, housing and travel expenses. A culinary education is an investment in your future career, so be sure to look into your school's financial aid packages and scholarship opportunities.


Average Length of Culinary Programs

Standard programs require 300 to 400 classroom hours and 200 to 300 externship or internship hours. Many schools offer several degree/certificate and schedule options so that total program lengths range from 10 weeks to 4 years.

  • Certificate / Diploma:1 month to 2 years
  • Associate's:9 months to 2 years
  • Bachelor's:4 years
  • Master's:2 years
  • Doctorate:6 years

Training on the Job vs. Formal Education

Training on the job is certainly an option; however, it's a slower track. On the job, you'll learn only the type of cuisine served in the kitchen where you're working and only the techniques associated with your position.

Remember, kitchens are about production, not about teaching. Also, without an education, you'll start out in a lower position than culinary school graduates because you'll require more training.


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Culinary School Information
Chef Books

Modified April 2011

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