What degree should I get to be a Chef?

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Everyone eats. But not everyone eats well. The need for a skilled chef in todays “foodie culture” is in great demand.

Do you want to want to run your own restaurant, work for a catering company, hotel or other food service organization? How about take that food truck idea to the next level? Well, first you need to evaluate if you have what it takes. Kitchen work is a fast-paced environment. You need to multitask, be efficient, take orders when you first start out and give orders when you become Head Cook. You need to be on time and hygienic. Got all that? Great. Now you need some education.


Sure, you can learn on-the-job, work yourself up from a lower position, or apprentice, but to really stand out, you need formal training in a solid Culinary Arts program. Community colleges offer 2-year Associate of Science degrees or certificates in general Culinary Arts or specific programs such as Baking and Pastry Arts. Some 4-year colleges (like Johnson and Wales) even offer a Bachelor of Science degree with a emphasis on Marketing and Food Service Management so you will sharpen business skills crucial to running your own food-related business.


Let’s face it, employers want to hire those with some experience. You’ll want a year or two of kitchen duty under your belt to really land your dream job. Some colleges set up students with a paid internship after finishing their programs. As an apprentice, you will take on many roles as you get familiar with equipment, plan menus, work with guests, and master on-the-ground skills, all while gaining experience for your resume. Look for schools and programs that offer this feature.


According to the American Culinary Federation, a graduate of one of the 200 schools they currently approve will be eligible to seek certification within one year of completing their training and fulfilling the necessary ACF requirements. And keep in mind, an ACF Certified Chef will earn on average 7% more than at a Chef without their certification. Furthermore, ACF offers 14 levels of personal certification for Chefs. Consider having that competitive edge as you interview for jobs competing against thousands of other Chefs for upscale positions.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics,  a Chef is projected to grow on average about 5% from 2012-2022. More attractive at 12% growth will be the Chef with a background in Management. There will be tough competition where pay is the highest, as in upscale establishments or high-end hotels and restaurants, but coupling business skills with food preparation will give the ambitious Chef the most potential in this field.  A creative, entrepreneurial Chef has a unique chance of building a business that is always in demand and always exciting.

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