If you are attracted to the thought of pursuing a culinary career, you may be interested in attending cooking school. Although it is not strictly necessary, a culinary arts degree is a major asset to those interested in pursuing cooking as a career. The degree will show potential employers that you are serious about your career. Even more importantly, your education will prepare you for the real-world challenges that you will face in a professional kitchen. If your goal is restaurant management or ownership, look for a program that combines classroom instruction in the business aspects of running a restaurant with hands-on experience in the kitchen. If your desired career is within the kitchen, consider a cooking school that offers a shorter program with an intensive focus on the practical skills necessary to become a chef.

Kitchen Facilities: It is critical that the cooking school you select offers kitchen facilities that mirror what you are likely to encounter in a professional kitchen. During training, you should use the equipment that is generally used by professional chefs. Every piece of equipment you use, from knives to blenders, will have an effect on the final product that you are able to prepare. Be sure to tour the kitchen before deciding on a cooking school.

Accreditation: It is very important that the school you select is properly accredited. This will ensure that your training follows generally accepted guidelines, as well as provide you eligibility for federal financial aid programs. Additionally, certifications from accredited schools carry much more weight in the competitive job market.

Degree Programs: Culinary schools may offer any or all of three types of programs: Associate’s Degree, Bachelors Degree, and Certification. Of these, the Bachelor’s Degree is considered the highest ranked, and is roughly equivalent to any other four year Bachelor’s Degree. A certification program is generally shorter and holds less weight than an Associate’s Degree. Look for a school that offers all three types of programs for maximum flexibility, or seek out the shortest program if your goal is to get out into the real world as quickly as possible. Either way, you will need to pay your dues in the kitchen, so it is really up to you whether you would rather do so on a campus. Pastry chefs generally follow a separate track from other types of chefs so if your interest is in baking, look for a school that offers a pastry chef track.

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