Cooking Degree Programs
How to Pick the Right One Near El Mirage Arizona
You have made a great career choice to become a chef or cook by enrolling in a culinary school near El Mirage AZ. Not only will you learn how to create extraordinary dishes or prepare elegant desserts, you'll also be able to make a good living doing it. But just how do you set about selecting a culinary arts college once you've decided to enroll? What requirements should you review and compare among the contending culinary colleges before arriving at your final selection? If you want to be successful in the hospitality and restaurant fields you must select the right culinary program and degree. There are a wide range of alternatives to choose from, starting with a diploma or certificate program and advancing to earning an undergraduate or even a graduate degree. You can enroll in a small cooking school, an online school, or enroll in a prestigious culinary institute that offers advanced degrees. The type of degree and school you choose will undoubtedly be based on the amount of time and money you can afford to spend, as well as your ultimate career goal. Once you have established what your main area of interest and budget are, you can start evaluating the culinary arts schools that satisfy your preliminary qualifications. Depending upon the certification and type of culinary school you choose, you can be working as a professional chef or cook in just six months. So before we dive more into the system of selecting a school, let's speak a little more about the degree and culinary school options that are available.
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Culinary Arts Schools
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. For example, if your desire is to train to be a chef specializing in German cuisine, then obviously you will concentrate on those colleges that provide the appropriate training. Or you can pick a college based on its ranking or other criteria (we'll review several of those later) and then choose the best degree program available that is simpatico with your career objectives in El Mirage AZ. However you arrive at your decision, cooking schools basically fit within three distinct categories:
- Cooking Schools. Some cooking schools do offer degree programs, but generally they offer diplomas or certificates. Their courses tend to be more focused in nature, and they can range anywhere from a couple of months to as long as 3 to 4 years.
- Community Colleges. Area community colleges can often be more economical than most private colleges and a large number have outstanding programs. They almost exclusively offer Associate's Degrees and are established and maintained by either state or local governments.
- Culinary Arts Schools and Institutes. The advanced training and degrees are provided by culinary schools and institutes. A few institutes provide the most renowned as well as the highest standard of training in academia. But bear in mind, since they are private institutions they generally can be more expensive than their public counterparts, some much more.
Choosing a culinary school will not only be dependent on the type of program or degree you wish to pursue, but also how much you have to invest in your education. If you decide to attend a public institution to lower costs, remember that out-of-state residents usually must pay a higher tuition than in-state residents. Also, a lot of community colleges and regional public schools have lower tuition rates for area residents. So be sure to explore the public options within Arizona as well as within the El Mirage AZ area to find the most affordable options.
Culinary Online Colleges
Some potential students may discover that there are no culinary arts institutes that are within driving proximity of their El Mirage AZ residence. One option is to attend online classes within the comfort of one's home. The accessibility and flexibility makes it the one solution for a number of students that are still working full-time while attending college. Also there are more programs online than ever that are accredited. Remember that a considerable component of the training will be furnished under an externship. Externships are programs where students work under regional chefs or other cooking practitioners so that they receive practical training outside of the virtual classroom. Just be sure that the online college you choose is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized agency (more on this later). So if you are dedicated enough to be able to participate in classes and study using this more independent method, attaining a culinary arts online degree just might be the ideal option for you.
Evaluating Culinary Arts Schools
By now you should have decided on the type of degree that you wish to earn, and whether or not you want to enroll in a public or private institute. Since there a large number of cooking programs in the El Mirage area and within the United States, you will want to develop a checklist of essential qualifications so that you can start limiting your options. Certain obvious qualifiers, such as cost and location are a good place to begin. But deciding on a school because it is the nearest or the cheapest is not the best way to decide on your education. There are other factors, including reputation and accreditation that you must assess as well. So below are some key areas that you should investigate for every school as you compare them and make your final selection.
Accreditation. It's essential that the culinary school you choose has some type of accreditation from either a regional or a national organization. As previously mentioned, the accrediting agency should be a U.S. Department of Education recognized agency, for instance the American Culinary Federation (ACF). ACF accredited schools have passed a detailed evaluation regarding their curriculum, teachers and facilities. So not only does accreditation help ascertain that you will receive quality training, but it may also help in securing a student loan or financial aid which are frequently not accessible for non-accredited schools.
Age. Recently established schools often have the benefit of having modern equipment and facilities. However, they may not have been open long enough to earn an accreditation or to develop a reputation. On the other hand, more established schools may still be using their original, outdated equipment, but have established a sustained history of excellence and earned one or more accreditations. Also, the much more a school has operated, the more alumni the school can solicit for its job placement program. Certainly there is some give and take dependent on the age of the cooking schools. And older, more renowned schools usually modernize their facilities and equipment. The significant lesson is that in the best case scenario, your selected school will have an exceptional reputation, accreditation and a state-of-the-art facility with newer equipment.
Job Placement Rates. First, find out what the graduation rates are for the culinary programs you are evaluating. Lower graduation rates are red flags that many students were dissatisfied with either the colleges or the programs and quit before graduating. They might also suggest that the instructors were not qualified to teach the curriculum. Request that the schools provide their job placement rates also. If a college has a high job placement rate, it will help validate that it has a good or excellent reputation within the culinary arts community, as well as a wide network of professional contacts. Be suspicious of any school that will not provide this information.
Location. The culinary arts institute that you enroll in should be within commuting distance of your El Mirage residence, unless you have decided to move. You may think about attending school online, but you would still have to travel for your externship training. Alternatively, perhaps you have chosen to attend a particular culinary arts institute located in another state because of its ranking and courses offered. It would be a wise decision to check out the campus before enrolling, to make sure that you are comfortable with the location and your prospective living conditions. Look over the training facilities personally to make sure they are modern and that the equipment is state of the art. Keep in mind also that many schools concentrate their job placement programs within their regional communities, so pick a location where you will enjoy working.
Class Sizes. The best approach to learn how to cook is with plenty of personalized instruction. If the cooking college you enroll in has larger classes, you will undoubtedly get little personal attention from the instructors. The best means to evaluate the interaction and communication between teachers and students is to audit several of the classes. Ask some of the students what their experience has been. Find out if they are happy with the amount of attention they get in class in addition to the overall training. Also, talk with several of the teachers and determine what their teaching philosophies are as well as their histories and qualifications.
Flexible Class Schedules. There is no sense in enrolling in a culinary program if you will be unable to attend the classes. So 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 near El Mirage AZ due to your work schedule, verify that the school you select offers either weekend or night classes. If you can only attend part-time, verify that the cooking program has a part-time alternative. Also, find out what the make-up protocol is if you must miss a class due to family, work or other responsibilities.
Find the Right El Mirage Culinary School
A successful career in the restaurant and hospitality profession is contingent upon deciding on the ideal chef college. As we have covered, there are various things that you should take into consideration when comparing schools, such as their accreditation, reputations, and training facilities. As with any important decision, you must begin by collecting information, and the ideal means to do that is by contacting culinary arts schools directly, either in person or by phone. If you're uncertain regarding which schools to look into, you may want to think about asking chefs in your area about any cooking schools they endorse. Afterwards use the Web to look into these schools even more before contacting them. By making the effort to carefully evaluate each of your education options, you will find yourself in a more ideal position to make an informed decision. And when you pick the ideal school, you will have a wonderful beginning toward your goal of becoming a chef in El Mirage Arizona.