Get Cooking with a Culinary Education
On the surface, food is a commodity, but in the hands of trained and skilled professionals, it transforms into art. Yet, the culinary industry is larger than just cooking; it encompasses business, marketing, and sales and operations. For students considering a culinary education, the array of educational and subsequent career paths are varied.
A culinary education is indispensable to people who want to pursue a career in the food service industries. This training provides students with an essential foundation in the culinary arts and prepares them for a multitude of occupational avenues. Online culinary degree programs vary in curriculum focus, structure, and length—which means students should take an assessment to determine if online learning is actually right for them. The checklist below includes a profile of the culinary student who is the best fit for an online education program.
- Passionate about food
- Want to learn the basics outside of a professional kitchen
- Interested in learning about each facet of the food service industry
- Interested in developing fundamental culinary skills
- Gain foundational knowledge of cooking techniques and methods
- Need flexible schedules and self-paced learning options
- Cannot commute and need a learn-from-home option
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Top Online Programs
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Online Culinary Certificates
Online culinary certificate programs are specialized, short-term, non-degree educational programs that are traditionally designed to be completed in a year or less by full-time culinary students. Narrowly focused in scope, these programs concentrate on fundamental knowledge and skill building. Students typically progress through and complete a set course list in topics ranging from modern cooking methods to knife skills, food specific (e.g. lamb, poultry) to recipe creation and conversion. Online Certificate in Culinary Arts
|Classic Cooking Methods||This class is an introduction to the fundamentals of the culinary arts and cooking techniques, teaching students about culinary terminology, basic cooking principles, and professional standards.|
|Knife Skills||In this class, students develop practical knife skills that are used in modern kitchens, including a review of different types of knives, grips, and using knives effectively in the preparation of different foods.|
|Introduction to Soups||An introduction to soups, students study the different types of soup (e.g. thickened, specialty) and learn about the process of soup production, how to follow set processes, and how to complement a main course with soup.|
|Kitchen Math||Students gain an understanding of kitchen math and recipe conversion, learn about taking accurate measurements, and why math is crucial when it comes to recipe preparation, cost control, and inventory ordering.|
- Ability to use professional cooking equipment
- Technical proficiencies in modern cooking methods
- Knowledge to arrange a kitchen and use knives effectively
- Skills in recipe conversion
- Station Cook
- Line Cook
- Banquet Prep Cook
Online Culinary Diplomas
Although sometimes used interchangeably, diplomas and certificate programs do diverge slightly. Unlike a certificate, credits from a diploma program are generally eligible to be transferred to degree programs (e.g. associate, bachelor’s). Like the certificate, online diploma programs consist of several courses in the culinary arts. Depending on the institution, students may have to complete between 30 and 72 credits of study to earn their diploma. Curriculum is career-focused, providing students with a background in food preparation, an understanding of the food service and hospitality industries, and equip them with technical skills in the fundamental and advanced culinary arts. Online Diploma in Culinary Arts
|Culinary Fundamentals||This class is an introduction to the conceptual theories of cooking and covers topics ranging from classical vegetable cuts to culinary terminology, kitchen equipment to knife skills.|
|Baking and Pastry Arts||In this course, students learn how to prepare high-quality baked goods, studying production techniques, ingredient ratios, and quality measures.|
|Introduction to Food Production||In this course, students study the core ingredients of the kitchen, such as vegetables, herbs, fruits, dairy, animal proteins, poultry, and fish.|
|Restaurant Cooking||Students develop basic skills for preparing dishes in a restaurant setting, learning both classical and contemporary culinary techniques.|
- Proper classical and modern cooking techniques
- Ability to apply nutritional principles to food production and menu planning
- Skills to maintain industry-level standards of sanitation and safety
- Use appropriate equipment to create high-quality culinary products
- Chef de Partie
- Pantry Chef
Online Culinary Associate Degrees
Associate degree programs offer a more comprehensive curriculum than certificate or diploma programs. Typically requiring approximately two-years of full-time study to complete, the curriculum in these programs provide students with a complementary understanding of food service management and operations and professional culinary skills. Depending on the program, students may have to earn between 60 and 70 credits to satisfy graduation requirements. Online Associate in Culinary Arts
|Food Science||This class allows students to learn about the science of food and its composition and how it reacts physically during cooking and storage.|
|Food Safety||This courses is an introduction to food production regulations and includes the study of subject ranging from facility sanitation to storing and reheating food, handling hazardous foods to kitchen safety.|
|Menu Planning||In this class, students gain an understanding of menu development and related factors, including menu design, menu planning, item pricing, and how to use the menu to maximize profitability.|
|Marketing and Cost Control||In this class, students explore restaurant operations, studying topics including restaurant layout and design, marketing, cost control, personnel, and concept analysis.|
- Understanding of how to control labor and food costs in commercial operations
- Ability to use industry-specific computer hardware and software
- Skills in food service-related management, finance, and communication
- Expertise in contemporary culinary techniques and methods
- Food and Beverage Manager
- Sous Chef
- Culinary Educator
Online Bachelor’s Culinary Degrees
Although the number of online bachelor’s degrees is limited, there are a few available both in the culinary arts and culinary management. These are traditional four-year programs that open doors to multiple options in the culinary industry after graduation. Curriculum blends culinary-specific instruction with generational education courses, helping students develop not only practical skills in the field, but critical soft skills such as communication and critical thinking. Most programs require between 124 and 132 credit hours of study to complete and some institutions require students to have completed a related associated degree in the culinary arts or have professional experience prior to admission. Online Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Management
|Menu Management||This course serves as an introduction to menu development and planning, teaching students how menus fit within foodservice operations.|
|Food and Beverage Operations||This class provides students with an understanding of the operations at the front-of-the-house in a restaurant, and covers topics such as personnel management, cost control, and customer service.|
|Inventory and Cost Controls||In this class, students study the underlying methodologies behind purchasing inventory and cost controls, including a review of the selection, control, and purchasing processes in the food and beverage industry.|
|Facilities Management||This class serves as a primer to the layout, design, and maintenance of food service facilities, with an introduction to subjects such as building codes, energy conservation, food service equipment, and operating expenses.|
- Knowledge of modern culinary cuisine
- Fundamental and advanced culinary techniques
- Communication, problem solving and critical thinking skills
- Business skills in finance and marketing
- Restaurant Manager
- Kitchen Manager
- Event Planner and Manager
Online Culinary Master’s Degrees
At this time, online master’s degrees in the culinary arts do not exist. However, students may choose to pursue a campus-based alternative.
Financial Aid for Online Education FAQs
Deciding on which culinary program to choose often boils down to cost—and how to pay for the program. Below is a list of regularly asked questions regarding paying for an online culinary education.
Use our financial aid guide to learn more about funding a culinary education. Read More
The Tools That Make Culinary Study Online Possible
It may be slightly surprising to think that students can learn to become skilled culinarians through an online program. The culinary arts are tangible occupations—requiring hands-on training and instruction. However, the culinary arts are well-suited for online learning. Below is a list of different tools and processes that make learning possible.
Online Theoretical Courses
Online courses are effective for teaching theoretical culinary concepts. Students can complete classes in topics such as cost control, kitchen operations, hygiene and safety, food science, nutrition, and more without ever setting foot in a classroom.
Many courses offer live webcams or recorded videos of cooking demonstrations from instructors and chefs. Students can follow along in their own kitchen, practicing the techniques from the online demonstration or video.
Most online culinary programs—especially certificate and diploma programs—are self-paced. Students are provided with cooking assignments they can complete at-home to develop specific culinary skills and techniques.
An important part of culinary instruction is developing a flavor palate, to understand how a food actually tastes. Online programs accomplish this by providing students with self-assessment sheets for their assignment. These self-assessment sheets include a recipe and rubric for students to follow to assess and judge their cooking and culinary skills.
Learning Management System
Although it varies by institution, online programs typically use a Learning Management System to conduct online learning activities. Students log-in to the learning platform to access course materials, participate in online discussions with their peers and instructors, participate in chat sessions, submit assignments, and watch instructional videos.
The externship is a major component of most online culinary programs. Experiential learning in a supervised setting help students develop the professional skills necessary for employment in the food service industry. Online students typically work with the individual program to find an approved local externship opportunity, where they can work under the direction of chefs and other culinary professionals.
How to Evaluate Online Culinary Programs
Choosing an online culinary school is no different than choosing a physical campus to attend. Prospective students should research their options and decide what type of curriculum best fits their academic, personal and professional needs.
Accreditation ensures an online culinary program has met established standards for curriculum, faculty and student services. The US Department of Education does not accredit programs or schools, but does approve third-party accreditation agencies. That means culinary schools may be accredited by different organizations, such as the Accrediting Commission of the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, or the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
Although it varies on a state-by-state basis, students should review the culinary school’s compliance with regulatory and safety licensure requirements for food safety. Does the program adhere to the National ServSafe certification regulations?
It is also important to research faculty members before attending an online culinary school, reviewing the academic and professional background of professional instructors. Are faculty members engaged and do they offer mentoring relationships?
Picking the right school means picking a program that offers the right blend of knowledge and skill-building curriculum. How does the school structure teaching practical techniques to students in online learning sessions? Is the curriculum broad in scope (e.g. do students learn how to use knives, how to season food, how to organize a kitchen)?
As noted above, real-world, instructor-led, and supervised instruction is important to the learning process. Students should ask about the school’s externship placement services. Do they help students locate opportunities? Can students select their own proctor and instructors?
There are numerous student-focused resources available from culinary associations and organizations, ranging from student memberships to scholarships. Below is a list of some of these associations that support students and their educational and professional goals.
American Culinary Federation
The American Culinary Federation is the country’s largest professional organization for chefs, cooks—and aspiring professionals. Students can learn about accredited culinary programs, access educational resources, and learn about career paths in the industry.
American Society of Baking
The American Society of Baking is a professional organization for commercial baking professionals. It offers a membership to full-time students, along with benefits including free admission to its annual conference and scholarships.
Bread Bakers Guild of America
The Bread Bakers Guild of America is a community of artisanal bread bakers. It offers individual memberships to culinary students and access to a variety of educational resources.
Consolidated Foodservice Scholarship Program
Sponsored by Consolidated Foodservice, this scholarship program provides $500 to high school students or current college students who desire to pursue an education and career in the hospitality management or culinary arts fields.
International Association of Culinary Professionals
The International Association of Culinary Professionals is a worldwide organization of individuals working within the food and beverage industries. It offers an Emerging Professional membership to students enrolled in a culinary training program, as well as networking events, educational resources, and credentialing programs.
International Cake Exploration Societé
The International Cake Exploration Societé is a membership-based organization for individuals who work in cake decoration and sugar art. It offers a scholarship program and memberships to students who are enrolled in an accredited vocational or culinary school.
James Beard Foundation Scholarship Program
The James Beard Foundation offers an array of scholarships that change from year-to-year. Although the programs vary, they are all designed to help aspiring culinary students achieve their professional goals.
National Association of College and University Food Services Scholarship Program
The NACUFS offers a scholarship program for students attending an accredited program in foodservice or related area. Since 1992, the organization has awarded nearly $300,000 to students.
National Career Development Association
The National Career Development Association can help students refine their career path, secure training, and locate career opportunities in their local area.
National Restaurant Association
The foodservice industry’s trade association, the National Restaurant Association provides educational programs and professional development opportunities for individuals interested in careers in the restaurant industry.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
A resource from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this database includes career profiles—including culinary occupations—and offers an overview of what the job is, education required, and job growth projections.