Online Culinary Schools

Thomas Broderick
Updated September 15, 2023
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Work in the Best Kitchen with a Culinary Degree

Online culinary schools prepare degree- and certificate-seekers for one or more careers in the food services industry. Certificates and associate degrees provide generalized curricula that introduce the industry and best practices. Bachelor’s programs train experienced professionals in advanced techniques. Professionals often earn a bachelor’s degree to qualify for management positions.

This guide answers frequently asked questions about online culinary schools and covers typical courses. The following sections highlight various majors for students attending culinary school online. The final section introduces resources for individuals researching online culinary degrees. Learners should explore prospective schools’ websites or contact an admissions advisor for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions About Culinary School

question-mark-circleCan You Become a Chef Without Going to School?

Many schools offer academic programs leading to culinary careers. However, employers and organizations often provide apprenticeship programs. Apprentices earn a salary while working, which can be ideal for learners with children. Most apprentice programs cover the same culinary fundamentals as academic programs.

question-mark-circleHow Long Does a Culinary Degree Take?

Degree-completion time varies by student and program. An associate degree requires 1-2 years, while bachelor’s degree-seekers may need four or more years. Some programs offer an accelerated curriculum. Typically, only full-time students choose accelerated programs. Working professionals often study part time.

question-mark-circleHow Much Does a Chef Earn a Year?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chefs and head cooks earn a median salary of $53,380 per year. These professionals possess extensive training and experience, so entry-level chefs may earn less. Geographic location also affects salary. According to BLS data, chefs and head cooks in New Jersey, Hawaii, and Rhode Island earn significantly higher average salaries than those in other states.

question-mark-circleCan You Get a Culinary Degree Online?

Students interested in pursuing a certificate or associate degree can consider hybrid programs. These programs feature online courses and on-campus learning. Additionally, even fully online degrees may require in-person practica and internships. Online learners often pay reduced tuition rates. Many online programs deliver coursework asynchronously.

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What to Consider When Enrolling in an Online Culinary Programs

Individuals researching online culinary schools should consider each program’s accreditation, faculty, and curriculum. These and other factors impact the program’s academic experience and graduate outcomes.

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    Learners should look for schools with regional accreditation. Colleges offering online degrees earn national accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. The top online culinary degree programs feature programmatic accreditation from the American Culinary Federation.
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    Food Safety

    Food safety plays an essential role in all culinary careers. The best online culinary schools feature a food safety course and emphasize related skills in every class. Applicants can research prospective programs’ commitment to food safety by examining their curricula. Learners can also contact an academic or admissions advisor.
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    Culinary teachers need extensive experience in kitchens and other hospitality settings. Prospective students should consider programs with teachers whose backgrounds match their career goals. Most program websites detail teachers’ careers, and learners may contact teachers to ask questions. Applicants unsure about their career goals should research programs with professors from many culinary backgrounds.
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    Online culinary degrees may require in-person components such as on-campus coursework, practica, or internships. These experiences take place at specific times and may not fit all learners’ schedules. Students planning to attend culinary school online should research these requirements before applying. Some programs feature accommodations for learners facing unexpected circumstances.
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    Outside Opportunities

    Internships, externships, and practica allow students to learn from highly trained chefs and make professional contacts. These networking experiences often lead to career opportunities. Prospective students should research which experiences each program offers.

Financial Aid for Online Education

Learners attending culinary school online may pay a flat or per-credit tuition rate. Typically, in-state public schools offer the most affordable tuition rates. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual cost of tuition and fees for in-state associate degree programs was $3,243 for the 2017-18 academic year. Bachelor’s degree-seekers and out-of-state learners pay significantly more.

Online learners often save money on housing and meal plans. Additionally, schools often exempt distance learners from campus fees. Online students may also save on transportation and childcare costs.

Culinary students pay for uniforms and cutlery. Other expenses for online learners include a computer and a reliable internet connection. To offset these costs, many learners pursue financial aid. Students begin by completing the FAFSA to apply for federal grants and loans.

Learners attending online culinary schools can also apply for grants and scholarships. Many institutions and private organizations offer these awards. Typical application requirements include an essay, recommendation letters, and FAFSA results. Some scholarships and grants renew if recipients remain in good academic standing.

Online Culinary Certificates

Online certificates help aspiring culinary professionals qualify for entry-level roles. Applicants to certificate programs need a high school diploma or passing GED scores. Certificate programs typically take less than one year to complete. Most online culinary schools allow graduates to apply their certificate toward an associate degree.

Some online certificate programs feature a per-credit tuition rate. Others require full payment up front. Certificate-seekers may not qualify for federal or institutional financial aid. Learners should consult a financial aid advisor to determine their eligibility for funding.

  • Baking and Pastry

    This certificate program benefits aspiring bakers and pastry chefs. Learners take courses in professional place presentation, production baking, and culinary fundamentals. Certificate-seekers learn to keep workspaces clean and apply advanced techniques. Students gain experience through in-person academic requirements. The certificate sometimes requires more than one semester to complete.
  • Front-House Operations

    A certificate program in front-house operations trains learners in topics including culinary arts, the food and beverage industry, and restaurant wine service. Certificate-seekers learn to provide excellent customer service and collaborate with restaurant workers. Students gain the skills necessary to pursue culinary careers or further education.
  • Restaurant Dining Room Service

    This certificate program trains learners to interact with customers in various restaurant settings. Coursework explores sanitation and safety, restaurant dining room service, and restaurant wine service. Certificate-seekers learn to upsell seasonal produce. Graduates often become servers and hosts.

Online Culinary Associate Degrees

Like certificate and bachelor’s programs, associate programs allow learners to concentrate in a specific culinary field. Associate programs require 1-2 years, depending on academic requirements and the student’s enrollment status. Some programs offer evening classes. In addition to major courses, associate degree-seekers complete general education classes in areas such as English and mathematics.

Most associate programs accept applicants with passing GED scores. Associate degree-seekers may qualify for federal and institutional financial aid. Learners can also apply for scholarships. Many schools provide tuition discounts for active-duty military personnel.

  • Baking and Pastry Arts

    Associate degree programs in baking and pastry arts cover advanced techniques. Students learn to create chocolates and artisan breads. Coursework typically covers hearth breads and rolls, chocolate and confectionery technology, and advanced baking principles. Degree-seekers also master business management fundamentals. The best programs supplement classroom instruction with externships or internships.
  • Culinary Arts

    Associate degree-seekers majoring in culinary arts develop fundamental skills applicable to many culinary careers. Core courses include high-volume production cookery, cuisines and cultures of the Americas, and wine and beverage studies. Students master cooking techniques and learn to develop menus. Graduates can become food writers, hotel managers, and restaurant owners.
  • Food Service Management

    An associate degree in food service management qualifies holders for positions as assistant beverage managers, event managers, and human resource directors. This five-semester program requires coursework in hospitality marketing, restaurant operations, and contemporary hospitality law. Courses in public speaking and hospitality marketing help graduates communicate with staff and guests.

Online Bachelor’s Culinary Degrees

Recent high school graduates and culinary professionals can pursue bachelor’s programs. Associate degree-holders typically graduate in two years. Other learners may need four years. Degree-seekers gain advanced culinary leadership skills. Some bachelor’s programs require professional experience. Typical application materials include a resume, a personal essay, and personal or academic references.

The average tuition costs for bachelor’s programs exceed those of associate and certificate programs. In-state public schools generally offer the most affordable tuition rates. Degree-seekers can research federal, institutional, and private financial aid programs.

  • Applied Food Studies

    Applied food studies bachelor’s programs train students to become educators, policymakers, and food industry representatives. Coursework explores research methods, food policy, and sustainable food systems. Learners complete general education coursework in economics and the humanities. The curriculum requires about 120 credits. Applied food studies degree-seekers cannot usually pursue a minor or second major.
  • Culinary Science

    Culinary science students learn to apply scientific principles to food preparation. Major coursework covers culinary chemistry and advanced concepts in precision temperature cooking. Students also learn about the dynamics of heat transfer and physical properties of food. Culinary science majors take business management courses to prepare for leadership roles.
  • Food Business Management

    Many restaurant owners, product developers, and entrepreneurs have an academic background in food business management. The major requires courses in financial accounting and food service management. Degree-seekers learn to market and promote food. Learners may take advanced electives in topics such as cooking and pastry. Some programs offer concentration options.

Online Culinary Specializations

Programs at online culinary schools may offer specializations, concentrations, or tracks. Specializing allows learners to customize their education to their career goals. Learners typically begin specialization coursework after completing core classes. Specializations may feature set curricula or allow learners to choose courses from a list. Programs without specializations may still feature electives.

Specializations vary by program, but many online culinary schools offer the following three options. Prospective students can research specialization options on school websites.

  • minusAdvanced Concepts in Baking and Pastry

    This specialization emphasizes advanced techniques for working in high-end restaurants. Students create complex desserts and confections. Learners also make bread and chocolate from raw materials. The specialization’s emphasis on product design prepares students for packaging-design careers.
  • minusAdvanced Wine, Beverage, and Hospitality

    The hospitality industry needs skilled professionals to recommend wine and other alcoholic beverages. Students learn how to suggest a wine pairing and identify different wines’ tasting notes. The specialization also emphasizes business practices and beverage sales. Graduates often become beverage masters and sommeliers.
  • minusFarm to Table: Practices of a Sustainable Table

    Many restaurants emphasize sustainable agriculture. This specialization covers advanced cooking, food systems, and community relations. Coursework trains learners as chefs and environmental stewards. In-person experiences involve growing crops in school gardens and sourcing ingredients from nature. Graduates commonly become head chefs.

Culinary Degree Resources

AFC accredits the top on-campus and online culinary schools in the United States. Prospective students can find accredited programs on AFC’s website. The organization also provides career resources for graduates.
ASB offers specialized resources for young baking professionals. Learners can apply for ASB scholarships. The organization hosts networking events including an annual gathering for baking entrepreneurs.
Founded in 1993, this nonprofit organization promotes industry best practices and collaboration. Membership benefits include in-person and virtual networking sessions and master classes. Members can attend regional events.
IACP unites new and experienced culinary professionals. Members can attend virtual and in-person networking events. Membership benefits include discounts on kitchen equipment. Students pay a discounted membership fee.
NACUFS curates the latest scholarship opportunities for learners attending accredited culinary schools. Each Clark E. DeHaven Scholarship awards $5,000. Applicants need a minimum 2.75 GPA and U.S. and Canadian citizenship.

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