Factors to Consider
Just going to culinary school does not guarantee a great career. Whatever you do, don’t go through 2-4 years of school without working. Those who have done this are usually unprepared for the demands of the kitchen and are likely to leave the industry.
It is best if you can do both. Many schools have schedules that allow for full or part-time work. If you cannot work in the industry while in school, be sure to work during summers and holiday breaks. You can also look into apprenticeship programs that combine work and school, your local American Culinary Federation (ACF) chapter (www.acfchefs.org
) can provide you with that information.
Certificate programs are generally shorter than degree programs and will prepare you for the job market quickly. Associates degree programs take 2 years of study, Bachelors programs 4 years and Masters programs can take up to 6 years.
If you want a less academically rigorous program, get your hands-on skills as fast as possible with a certificate program and start working. If you and/or your parents feel a degree is important but you want to get into the industry soon, consider an Associate’s degree. If you like to study and may want to go into management, go for a Bachelor’s degree. If you want to teach at most high schools or accredited colleges, you’ll need a Master’s. Some people looking to eventually own and operate their own restaurants pursue a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management.
Here are some important questions to keep in mind when considering culinary schools. If you can ask these questions of each of the schools you are considering, you will be well prepared when it comes time to make a decision. Remember there are no right or wrong answers since each school is unique and tailored to a specific type of student.
Compare courses at the schools you are considering
Does the school focus on hands-on training or academic classes?
What is the student/faculty ratio?
What is the average age of the student body?
As part of your education, does the school provide an externship?
Is the school in an area where you can easily find part-time kitchen work?
What types of jobs do graduates get?
What is the job placement rate for graduates?
Can the school give you the name and phone number of a recent graduate or
current student to interview?
Is the school far from home? Can you manage the travel expenses?
Will you like the local climate?
Compare housing costs and other expenses.