Creating spectacular dishes and preparing pleasing platters is an art. A position as a culinary professional is challenging and rewarding. If you have a good amount of talent and a healthy dose of ambition, you can climb the culinary job ladder faster with a certificate or degree.

An associate’s degree in culinary arts can launch an untrained kitchen cook or chef into a lucrative career in a wide variety of culinary disciplines.

From pastry chef to sous chef, an AOS or AAS can significantly improve your chances of securing top-level kitchen positions and certainly increase your potential salary earnings.

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Cost of an AAS or AOS Degree

The cost of obtaining an AOS degree can be steep. The six-quarter degree can lead to a student loan of more than $45,000, depending on the school. However, that is significantly less than the time consuming Bachelor of Science degree in culinary schools around the country. Programs can range from six to 18 months with semesters costing from $1,000 to $10,000.

Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts

An associate’s degree in culinary arts can be abbreviated AOS or AAS. These degrees can help a student move in a kitchen to a position on the cook line next to the head chef.

This is a highly competitive field. Students should weigh the culture and graduation rates of the school they are planning on attending for their degree. Consider the student-to-teacher ratio of the school as well as the amount of time that is spent working with instructors versus lectures. Make your time at the institution worthwhile with a good measure of hands-on experience that is offered within the AAS or AOS program.

That’s not to say that hard work doesn’t significantly contribute as much as class work. The hours spent at all stations of a kitchen will help you understand how each part of the team works to create a well-oiled machine. That is key to a becoming a successful chef in any restaurant.

Associate of Occupational Studies

The Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS) is meant to be narrow in its focus. Its intended purpose is to fast-track students to learn workforce skills to propel them to higher-paying positions in a trade they want to work in. An AOS degree can assist an untrained individual with getting an entry-level job in a kitchen without having to put time in as a busboy, dishwasher or other staff position where they would need to rise through the ranks through hands-on training between shifts.

An AOS degree is earned through vocational-level training. Many culinary students take this path to acquire a job they already have their eyes on. The AOS degree can help them to learn a trade, hone their skills in a trade they may have a little of experience in and get a job quickly upon graduating from the program.

Core classes such as math and English aren’t offered with an AOS degree. It is strictly focused on the culinary arts. A degree doesn’t mean that you can always secure a plum position in the eatery of your choice, so soak up any real-world experience you can as you work through the courses.

Associate of Applied Science Degree

Students who intend to continue their culinary education often attend a school for the Associate of Applied Science, or AAS, degree. An AAS candidate will choose a major that best fits what they hope to study at an accredited culinary school or four-year school so that they can transfer credits easily.

Occupational Studies Degree Jobs

Upon graduation, AOS and AAS students typically find a well-paid position in a professional kitchen.

Occupational Studies degree jobs include:

  • Private Chef
  • Diner Head Chef
  • First-Line Supervisor of Food Preparation
  • Food and Beverage Assistant
  • Head Cook
  • Saucier

About the Author

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.