Culinary Arts Schools
How to Choose the Right One
Deciding to become a chef and enrolling in a culinary institute is a great career choice. Not only will you learn how to create spectacular meals or make fancy desserts, you’ll also be able to earn a nice income doing it. However, now that you’ve decided, exactly how do you go about selecting a culinary school? What qualifications should you consider and compare among the culinary institutes before reaching your final selection ? Bear in mind that you must pick the right program and degree if you want to be a success in the hospitality and restaurant business. There are a multitude of alternatives to choose from, starting with a certificate or diploma program and progressing to attaining an undergraduate as well as a graduate degree. You can enroll in a small baking school, an online program, or enroll in a prestigious culinary institute that offers more advanced degree programs.
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The kind of credential and school you choose will probably be dependent on how much time and money you can afford to spend, together with your ultimate career objective. When you have decided what your primary area of interest and budget are, you can start assessing the culinary arts colleges that satisfy your initial qualifications. Depending upon the degree and type of culinary school you decide on, you could be employed as a professional cook or chef in as little as six months. Naturally advanced degrees and training will take more time, which we will address shortly. So before we dig more into the process of selecting a school, let’s speak a little bit more about the degree and culinary school choices that are available.
Culinary College Degree Options
Just as with numerous other trades or professions there are multiple degree option programs that are offered in the culinary arts. At the most basic level, you can sign up for a nearby cooking class, which are more casual in nature and can run from a few hours to several weeks. Typically a certificate or a diploma is provided upon completion. They may be broad in nature, for instance instructing how to cook French dishes, or they may be rather specific and concentrate on one dish, such as Crepes Suzette. Of course if you are looking for a more conventional education geared towards a career in the restaurant profession, you will undoubtedly choose to enroll in a degree program. With a degree program, you will be obligated to invest considerably more time.
- Associate’s Degrees can require anywhere from 6 months to two years to finish.
- Bachelor’s Degrees normally involve as much as 4 years of training.
- Masters Degrees may take an added two years or even longer after obtaining a Bachelor’s.
Additional advanced degree alternatives may be offered, such as Doctoral or specialized programs offered by culinary arts institutes. The most important point to keep in mind when deciding on which degree to pursue is making sure that it supplies the credential and education required to advance your ultimate career objectives.
Culinary Arts Schools Options
Once you have made your choice regarding the type of instruction and degree that you would like to pursue, you can start your search for the culinary arts school, college or institute that offers it. As an example, if your goal is to train to be a chef specializing in Spanish cuisine, then obviously you will focus on those colleges that provide the appropriate training. Or you can opt for a college based on its reputation or other criteria (we’ll cover some of those later) and then choose the most ideal degree program available that is consistent with your career goals. However you make your choice, culinary arts schools generally fit within 3 distinct categories:
- Cooking Schools. Some cooking schools do offer degree programs, but typically they offer certificates or diplomas. Their courses tend to be more specialized in nature, and they can range anywhere from 1 or 2 months to as long as three to four years.
- Community Colleges. Area community colleges can often be more affordable than most private colleges and a large number have outstanding programs. They almost solely offer Associate’s Degrees and are founded and maintained by either local or state governments.
- Culinary Schools and Institutes. The more advanced degrees and training are provided by culinary arts colleges and institutes. Some institutes provide the most renowned as well as the highest standard of training in academia. However, since they are private institutions they tend to be more expensive than their public counterparts, some much more.
Selecting a culinary school will not only be based on the kind of program or degree you wish to pursue, but also how much you have to invest in your education. If you decide to enroll in a public institution to lower costs, keep in mind that out-of-state residents normally are required to pay a higher tuition than in-state residents. In addition, a lot of community colleges and regional public schools have lower tuition fees for local residents. So be sure to look into the public alternatives within your state to find the most economical options.
Culinary Arts Online Colleges
Many prospective students may discover that there are no cooking institutes that are within commuting distance. One alternative is to attend online training within the comfort of one’s home. The accessibility and flexibility makes it the one solution for a number of students that continue working full time while attending classes. In addition there are more programs online than ever that are accredited. Bear in mind that a significant portion of the training will be furnished under an internship. Internships are programs where students train under local chefs or other culinary professionals to ensure that they obtain practical training beyond the virtual classroom. Just make certain that the online program you choose is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized organization (more on this later). Therefore if you are dedicated enough to be able to go to classes and study using this more independent method, earning a culinary arts degree online might be the best option for you.
Evaluating Culinary Schools
By now you should have made a decision regarding the type of degree that you want to earn, and whether or not you want to enroll in a private or a public institution. Since there are numerous culinary arts colleges across the Country, you must create a checklist of essential qualifications so that you can begin limiting your options. Some obvious qualifiers, such as cost and location are an excellent place to start. But picking a school because it is the nearest or the most affordable is not the best way to decide on your education. There are other criteria, including reputation and accreditation that you need to assess as well. So following are some crucial areas that you will need to investigate for every school as you compare them and make your final choice.
Accreditation. It’s important that the culinary college you decide on has some form of accreditation from either a regional or a national agency. As previously mentioned, the accrediting agency should be a U.S. Department of Education certified organization, for instance the American Culinary Federation (ACF). ACF accredited schools have passed a detailed assessment regarding their curriculum, instructors and facilities. Therefore not only does accreditation help ascertain that you will receive quality training, but it can also help in acquiring a student loan or financial aid which are generally not offered for non-accredited schools.
Age. Newer schools generally have the advantage of having modern facilities and equipment. However, they may not have been open long enough to acquire an accreditation or to cultivate a reputation. On the other hand, more established schools may still be using their original, dated equipment, but have established a long history of excellence and obtained one or more accreditations. Also, the longer a school has been in business, the more alumni the school can reach out to for its job placement program. Obviously there is some give and take dependent on the age of the culinary schools. And older, more highly regarded schools usually update their facilities and equipment. The valuable lesson is that in the best case scenario, your school of choice will have an excellent reputation, accreditation and a modern facility with modern equipment.
Job Placement Rates. First off, ask what the graduation rates are for the cooking schools you are evaluating. Lower graduation rates are signs that a number of students were unhappy with either the schools or the programs and quit before graduating. They can also indicate that the instructors were not competent to teach the course of study. Request that the schools furnish their job placement rates also. If a college has a higher job placement rate, it will help validate that it has a great or exceptional reputation within the culinary arts community, in addition to a wide network of professional connections. Be wary of any school that will not furnish this information.
Location. The culinary arts college that you attend must be within driving distance of your home, unless you are willing to relocate. You may consider attending school online, but you would still have to travel for your internship training. Conversely, perhaps you have decided to attend a specific culinary arts school located in a different state due to its reputation and programs offered. It would be a good idea to pay a visit to the campus before enrolling, to make sure that you are satisfied with the area and your potential living conditions. Inspect the training facilities personally to make sure they are up to date and that the equipment is contemporary. Remember also that some schools focus their job assistance programs within their regional communities, so select a location where you will satisfied working.
Class Sizes. The most effective way to learn how to cook is with a lot of personalized training. If the cooking school you enroll in has bigger classes, you will most likely receive little personal attention from the teachers. The optimal manner in which to evaluate the communication and interaction between teachers and students is to audit several of the classes. Ask some of the students what their experience has been. Ascertain if they are happy with the level of attention they receive in class in addition to the overall training. Also, talk with some of the instructors and find out what their teaching styles are along with their histories and credentials.
Flexible Class Schedules. There is no benefit to in enrolling in a culinary arts program if you will be unable to attend the classes. Therefore confirm that the school you decide on provides class scheduling that can fit in with your active lifestyle. If you can only attend in the evening or on weekends because of your work schedule, make sure that the school you pick offers either night or weekend classes. If you can only attend part-time, verify that the culinary arts program has a part-time option. Also, ask what the make-up protocol is if you have to miss a class because of family, work or other obligations.
Find the Right Cooking School
A successful career in the hospitality and restaurant industry is predicated upon picking the ideal chef institute. As we have discussed, there are a number of things that you need to take into account when researching schools, for example their reputations, accreditation, and training facilities. As with any important decision, you must begin by getting information, and the optimal method to accomplish that is by contacting culinary institutes directly, either face to face or over the phone. If you’re unsure regarding which schools to check out, you might need to think about asking chefs in your location about any culinary arts institutes they recommend. Afterwards go on the Web to check out those schools even more before you contact them. By taking the time to carefully assess each of your education options, you will be in a more ideal position to make an informed decision. And when you select the right school, you will have a wonderful start toward your aspiration of becoming a chef.