A Culinary Degree or Culinary Certificate: Which Should You Choose?

May 4, 2012 Category: Professional Development

People with a natural love for food and cooking are now finding ways to pursue their passion professionally as a chef. Culinary schools continue to be popular and a great way to break into this part of the food service industry. However, trying to decide between a certificate program and an actual degree in Culinary Arts could be difficult for some people. Below are a few factors to consider that could help with the final decision.

Pursue a Certificate in Culinary Arts If…

A) You want to get your foot in the door at entry level.

Certificate programs are designed to provide students with a crash course in the basics of any subject. For Culinary Arts, enrolling in a certificate course means learning the fundamentals, such as basic cooking techniques, how restaurant environments are run and operated, the ins and outs of working in a kitchen and food preparation.

B) You want to be a part of a team.

Culinary StudentsEarning a certificate in this area can be compared to learning how to become a “worker bee” in a hive. Common employment opportunities for those with a certificate in Culinary Arts include becoming a line cook. This job title involves being responsible for preparing/cooking a specific type of food that works as part of the “assembly line” of cooking and food prep in the kitchen. For example, a line cook could be in charge of preparing and cooking sauces, meats or soups.

C) You’re okay with working under supervision.

Because the skills learned in a certificate program are basic, this means there is no emphasis in other aspects of this career, such as management and kitchen operations. Those working in a kitchen that have entry level work experience are typically overseen by supervisors and are given their duties and responsibilities.

Pursue a Degree in Culinary Arts If…

A) You have a serious interest in cooking at an advanced level.

Students in degree programs are exposed to the foundations of cooking, history of various foods/meals/ingredients and their origins. Not only do they learn these fundamentals, students are challenged to develop new food items, learn proper ingredient selection and pairing, among other topics.

B) You want to be a leader.

The amount of training graduates with a degree in Culinary Arts receive is at an advanced enough level, that they’re qualified to enter the food service industry at the management level. Such opportunities include supervising other cooks in a kitchen, being in charge of the day-to-day operations and even becoming a sous chef. The title of sous chef is a prestigious one that involves working under the head chef and making sure everything in the kitchen is running smoothly.

C) You want to showcase your cooking skills to others.

The most successful graduates from Culinary Arts school typically go on to become head chefs at top notch restaurants. This means being able to create your own menu, which calls for instructing the chefs in the kitchen on how to properly prepare and serve those items. More ambitious chefs go on to open their own restaurants.

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