Get Schooled

Things to Know Before Attending Culinary School

Last updated March 12, 2024

There are many career paths you can choose from to tap into your creativity, passions, and interests. Lots of them also might not need a four-year college degree to reach! A vocational trade school is a great option if you want to explore a certain career path while cutting down on the cost of a traditional four-year degree! If you are interested in food, cooking, restaurants, and feeding others, you might be a great candidate for working in the culinary field! Here are some important things to keep in mind if you're considering attending a culinary school.

Who goes to culinary school?

If you love working with your hands, cooking (and eating) great food, want to tell stories about your culture through your food, or have an entrepreneurial spirit, the food service business may be a great career path for you! Culinary programs provide hands-on, experiential work in kitchens– highly collaborative spaces where you will use all of your senses. The temperatures are hot, the knives are sharp, and communication with your peers is key to success! If you find yourself energized by that kind of environment, culinary school could be a great fit for you.

What does a culinary program entail?

There are three main culinary programs to think about: community college culinary arts programs, dedicated culinary schools, and online programs. Community college programs are often tailored to their local community. For instance, a community college culinary arts program may partner with local restaurants to hire instructors or build job pathways for graduates. These programs will often lead to an associate degree. Dedicated culinary programs like The Culinary Institute of America or the International Culinary Center likely offer a wider range of educational pathways within the food service industry. This could include shorter-term certifications that take less than a year to complete and programs that may take two or more years to complete but come with a bachelor’s degree. Finally, online culinary education is also an option, especially through larger, nationally recognized culinary schools like Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.

Image of a baker sprinkling cinnamon on baked goods - Things to Know Before Attending Culinary School

What kinds of classes are offered?

No matter what program you choose, you can expect to get an education directly tied to jobs in the food service industry. This means that all classes will be tailored to what you need to know as a chef, baker, or business owner within the industry. For example, instead of taking a regular math class, you might take a class in food service math and accounting. Instead of a history class, you might take a class in world cultures and the influence on cuisine.

Depending on your program or desired course of study within the culinary arts, you’ll take hands-on classes to teach you all the basics to become job-ready after graduation. This may include things like food safety, kitchen safety, learning the tools of the kitchen, business management, and, of course, the ins and outs of becoming a great chef or baker. Some programs even have courses of study in things like plant-based cuisine, nutrition, and sustainability!

Additionally, many culinary programs will have an “externship” requirement for graduation. This means that for an extended period of time, instead of going into your school to learn, you’ll be learning on the job at a restaurant, bakery, or other food business. This will give you more real-life experience to put your skills to the test and prepare you for a job after graduation!

How can I pay for culinary school?

Generally, culinary schools and programs are more affordable than most four-year colleges and universities. When deciding which culinary school or program to enroll in, it's essential to ensure that it's accredited. Only accredited schools and programs in the U.S. are eligible for federal financial aid. This means that if you attend an accredited school, you are able to complete the FAFSA and receive any federal aid you're eligible for, such as scholarships, grants, and loans. Receiving federal aid can significantly reduce the money you spend attending school. You should be able to find out whether a school is accredited directly on their website or by checking out the American Culinary Federation's list of accredited programs in the U.S.

Have any questions about attending culinary school or exploring trade programs? Text #Jobs to 33-55-77. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!

Get to College

Choose a Path

Things to Know Before Attending Cosmetology School

See the whole series

Let Get Schooled help you achieve your goals

Sign UpLog In


Things to Know Before Attending Cosmetology School

We have important things to know before attending cosmetology school.

Top 10 Trade Jobs Right Now

Learn about in-demand trade jobs! Check out the top 10 trade school jobs right now.

Five Trade Jobs That Affect Your Everyday Life

Here are five trade jobs that affect your everyday life!

What is a Trade School? Everything You Need to Know

What is a trade school? Vocational schools are a great alternative to a four-year college education! We break down everything you need to know.

Get Schooled helps young people get to college, find first jobs, and succeed in both.

About UsOur TeamBoard of DirectorsFAQ

Pursue Your Goal

©2024 Get Schooled