You don't need a lot of education to become a chef. Just a high school diploma and some chops in the kitchen are all that most employers require, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, most aspiring chefs choose to complete at least an associate's degree at a community college or culinary arts school. While an associate's degree may be enough to start working as a chef, a bachelor's degree can open up more opportunities for management or even opening your own business.
A bachelor's degree in culinary arts provides additional training in leadership, kitchen management, ordering and procurement, menu planning and advanced culinary techniques. Though some of these topics may be touched on in an associate's program, they are explored in more depth in a bachelor's program. Graduates with a bachelor's degree can qualify for positions as executive chefs in restaurants, hotels, resorts and spas. Executive chefs are responsible not only for cooking meals, but also for managing assistant chefs and sous chefs, creating the menu, managing kitchen inventory, and assuring a safe and sanitary environment.
Students who complete a bachelor's degree get advanced training in culinary techniques and different types of cuisines. Most bachelor's degree programs explore more international cuisine than associate's degree programs. International cuisine may require the use of different cooking techniques and different ingredients. Popular international cuisine includes French, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Mexican, Spanish and Chinese. Many culinary classes are broken down by continent or region, such as Europe or the Americas. Training in different types of international cuisine prepares graduates to work in a variety of kitchens, expanding job opportunities.
Management and leadership training is a focus of a bachelor's degree in culinary arts. Students who complete the bachelor's degree may be eligible to manage a restaurant kitchen, hotel dining services or the catering branch of an event management company. Course work includes food service management, accounting, marketing, human resources management and food service technology. This training exceeds what is provided in an associate's degree program and can lead to a variety of managerial positions in the hospitality and tourism industry.
Entrepreneurial chefs may benefit from a bachelor's degree more than an associate's degree. The additional culinary training combined with the management and leadership training gives students a broad skill set that they can use to run their own food service business. Bachelor's degree holders may choose to open their own restaurant or bistro, or they may start a catering company. The culinary and leadership skills they have learned would serve them in either endeavor.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Chefs and Head Cooks
- The Culinary Institute of America: Bachelor's Degree: Culinary Arts Management
- Johnson & Wales University: College of Culinary Arts: Majors and Degrees
- Le Cordon Bleu: Bachelor of Arts in Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Management
Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.