What Can I Do with a Degree in Culinary Arts?

Learn more about what you can do with a degree in culinary arts. Find information on culinary arts careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended online culinary schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers in culinary arts.

Overview

Culinary arts has become an all-encompassing term that refers to a number of different professions in the food service and hospitality industry. In particular, individuals that have expertise in culinary arts may seek employment as: chefs, head cooks, serving supervisors and food service managers. Individuals employed in these professions typically have some role in preparing food and organizing food service. Also, individuals in these professions are responsible for contributing to guest hospitality, customer service and management of food service activities. Even chefs, whose primary responsibility is food preparation, may be required to mange food inventory and service staff as part of their positions.

Individuals seeking positions in culinary arts may choose to acquire experience in the field, seeking employment and promotion with no formal education or training. However, professionals that acquire formal training and education in the discipline will be better positioned to command higher salaries and better working environments. Training in culinary arts is typically provided through community colleges, technical schools or culinary arts schools. Further, many four year colleges offer Bachelor’s Degrees in hospitality and hospitality management. While formal education can be important for landing a job in the field, many professionals working in culinary arts advance in their careers as a result of their experience. Work environments for culinary arts professionals are challenging and demanding. Kitchens and food service areas are among the busiest in a hospitality organization or restaurant. These environments are highly dynamic and constantly changing, requiring culinary arts professionals to rapidly adapt to meet the needs of both employees and customers.

Careers

Professionals seeking careers in culinary arts will find that their talents can be applied in a number of different positions in restaurants or hospitality organizations (hotels, resorts, etc.). Positions such as chef, head cook and food preparation require the professionals to directly prepare and cook food in the kitchen. Culinary arts professionals working in the kitchen may also be responsible for coordinating food service staff and providing leadership to other workers preparing food. In particular, head chefs may oversee the entire operation of the kitchen including ordering food, developing a menu, creating new recipes and training new staff members.

Culinary arts professionals can also seek employment in management positions. In these roles, professionals will be responsible for managing the basic activities that enable the kitchen to operate efficiently. More specifically, culinary arts managers set work schedules for staff, review the financial performance of the kitchen including assessment of products purchased and products sold, and make decisions about staffing and menu changes. Pricing decisions for products may also be made by managers. In these roles, professionals may also be responsible for marketing the organization and ensuring that inspections from the health department are carried out, keeping operations in compliance with state and local laws.

Industry Salary Info

Calculating salary information for culinary arts professionals is a challenging undertaking because of the myriad of variables that can impact salary outcomes. In particular, salaries for culinary arts professionals can be influenced by the following: the work environment including the type of position held by the professional; the professional’s level of education; the professional’s level of experience; and the geographical area in which the professional lives. Culinary arts professionals working in upscale restaurants and hotels located in metropolitan or resort areas will command the highest salaries. Median salaries for head chefs were $38,770 in 2008 with a range between $22,120 and $66,680. By industry, wages for head cooks were as follows: amusement and recreation, $45,650; hotels and traveler accommodations, $44,660; full-service restaurants, $36,700; and limited-service restaurants, $30,060. By profession, salaries for culinary arts professionals are as follows: cooking assistant, $28,695; food scientist, $75,800; hotel manager, $124,756; restaurant manager, $56,491; and line cook $26,396. In addition to their salaries, many professionals working in the culinary arts receive uniforms from their employers. Larger hotel organizations have unionized food service professionals. Unions that support professionals in this field include the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union and the Service Employees International Union.

Job Outlook

A review of employment growth for culinary arts positions demonstrates that growth is projected to be slower than average for the next several years. However, high turnover in these positions continues to generate a number of new employment opportunities for those seeking work in the culinary arts. Overall, competition for high paying culinary arts jobs is quite considerable. These positions provide those interested in culinary arts with the opportunity to earn substantial wages in an exciting job environment. Competition for these jobs will require those seeking them to have both experience and formal education and/or training. Many of the job openings in the culinary arts will be in lower paying positions that do not require formal training, e.g., line cooks at fast food restaurants. The need for professionals in these positions will be driven by high turnover in the restaurant business and increased consumer demand for convenience in food preparation and food service. Culinary arts professionals that acquire training and/or education in business will have expanded opportunities to fill management roles. Professionals with business training may be able to fill a number of management positions in the organization, enabling them to provide both culinary arts and business support for the hospitality organization.

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