Top Online Culinary Schools

What is Culinary Arts vs Culinary School?

The word “culinary” means “related to cooking.” The culinary arts include the skills of preparing, cooking, and presenting food. People who are culinary artists know how to create tasty, beautiful, quality dishes. 

At culinary school, people learn how to work as culinary artists. They study the basics of baking, cooking, nutrition, food safety, developing menus, and controlling costs. They also learn how to manage food businesses as chefs, managers, or owners of restaurants. Culinary schools combine the art of making great food with the craft of running a good business. 

Through culinary school, students may learn how to work as a: 
•    Restaurant manager
•    Wine director
•    Executive chef
•    Personal chef
•    Head chef
•    Head cook
•    Pastry chef

Culinary artists might also opt to open their own business. Food trucks, restaurants, or food service companies, for example, could all be owned by culinary artists. They might write cookbooks and teach classes, or they might work as freelance personal chefs. There are lots of possible options.  

What do You Learn in Culinary School?

In culinary arts programs, students take classes and labs, some online and some in person. In their classes, students learn theory and concepts. In their labs, students put what they have learned to practice. In some programs, students do internships to further grow their skills and to gain experience. Depending on the program, students might take culinary arts classes along with general education classes. Online courses may require students to demonstrate their techniques virtually. Or online students might have to visit campus for exams or labs. 

In terms of the classes they offer, culinary arts programs are similar and different from one another. Many of them teach the basics of the arts through core classes. Core classes cover the basics of subjects like baking and cooking desserts, pastries, vegetables, soups, stocks, sauces, and meats. Students study the basics of nutrition and combining foods. They learn how to design menus and pair foods with wines. And they see how to work in kitchens and with computer software the industry uses.  

Beyond core classes, students take classes that give them focused knowledge. This is where programs start to differ. In some cases, students focus more on management or food operations. In others, they study the basics of the arts in greater depth. They might focus more on fine dining or food services. Or they might learn more about being chefs, bakers, or nutrition-focused chefs. It depends on the program.

How long does it take to finish Culinary Arts School?

People can earn an associate’s degree in the culinary arts in one and a half to two years. They can earn a bachelor’s degree in the culinary arts in four years. This is with fulltime attendance. Students who need to attend school part-time will take longer to earn a degree.

Culinary Arts  Schools That Could be Completed in 18 Months

School# of Credits RequiredStart DatesMinimum Months to Complete
Culinary Institute of America69Summer, Spring and Fall18
Lakeland Community College105Spring, Summer and Fall18
Johnson & wales University, Providence182.5Multiple Start Dates 48

The Cost of Earning a Culinary Arts Degree

In 2016, median in-state tuition at a public school cost $3,800. Median out-of-state tuition at a private school cost $25,800. 

School# of Credits RequiredCost Per CreditTotal Tuition Cost
Culinary Institute of America69$1,028$70,990
Lakeland Community College105$334.10$30,396
Johnson & Wales University, Providence182.5$724.47$132,216

Top Culinary Arts School

Last check, there were many schools that offer culinary arts degrees or programs. From those schools, there were 18,693 culinary arts degrees awarded to students. The majority (96.5%!) of these degrees were associate’s degrees.

Schools2017 Grads Total/Degrees AwardedTuition (Out of State)
Culinary Institute of America786$28,630
Johnson & Wales University-Providence604$30,396
Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Pasadena474$12,701
Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Atlanta329$13,120
Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Chicago318$13,596

Choosing an Accredited Culinary Arts Degree Program

Accreditation helps ensure schools offer quality courses and programs. When you go to an accredited school, you know it has met rigorous standards set by an outside agency. It is important to go to an accredited school if you want to pursue more education later or transfer to another school. Also, some employers like hire people who went to an accredited school. 

At most schools, there are two types of accreditation. One happens at the school level. A quality school should be accredited. Another happens at the program level. Not all programs need to accreditation, so sometimes having program accreditation is just a bonus. In the case of the culinary arts, many culinary programs are accredited by The American Culinary Federation (ACF). 

The ACF ensures that culinary arts programs offer quality teachers, materials, and services. You can check with your school to see if it has ACF accreditation. You can also check with the ACF to see if it has accredited your school. 

The ACF also offers certifications. Culinary artists use certifications to show employers that they know their craft. They can earn certifications by taking tests in many areas like pastry and savory. They can also earn a general ACF certification or certifications at different levels. To test for certifications, you have to have certain amounts of education and experience. People who have ACF certifications must renew every three to five years.

What kind of Jobs can you get with a Culinary Arts degree?

In 2016, there were 53,291 culinary artists working in the industry. Jobs in the culinary arts could grow by 16.4 percent. Of the people earning degrees in the culinary arts, the average age was 37.9 years old. About 50 percent of students earning degrees were men and fifty percent were women. 

The Best States for Culinary Jobs

StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
New York16,890$48,520

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Other Careers in Culinary Arts

While there are many jobs for culinary artists, the following are some more common ones:

Chefs and Head Cooks

Chefs and head cooks watch food preparation at restaurants and other places. They direct staff and handle food-related concerns. In 2017, chefs and head cooks earned a mean annual wage of $45,950. Jobs for chefs and head cooks could grow by 10 percent. This is faster than average.


Food Service Managers

Food service managers operate restaurants and other places where they serve food and drink. They direct staff and take care of customers’ experiences. They also help ensure the business makes money. In 2017, food service managers earned a mean annual wage of $52,030. Jobs for food service managers could grow by nine percent. This is as fast as average.