Career Choices With a Culinary Arts Degree

Career Choices with a Culinary Arts Degree

What Can You do with a Culinary Arts Degree?

These days, a culinary degree is more than just a ticket to a job working as a line cook in a restaurant. Although this is certainly a possibility if that is where your interests lie, a culinary degree from a reputable culinary arts school actually offers a wealth of opportunities as far as careers and work environments go. No longer forced to consider restaurants as the only place to send your resume, you can actually take your culinary arts degree all over the world.

Food Stylist

When you look at a picture of food in a magazine or a steaming plate on your favorite cooking show, you are not just seeing the latest recipe whipped up on the fly. These are actually carefully-constructed visuals of food at its most appealing.

Food stylists arrange a meal to look its best on a plate and prepare the food according to its maximum appeal (for example, they often create “steam” through the use of chemicals, create foods out of alternate materials, play with cooking techniques to maximize color, and find ways to make food look good for longer).

In short, they are the beauticians of the culinary world. Jobs can be found with photographers, food magazines, marketing companies, or television cooking shows.



Being a caterer is as close to restaurant cooking as you can get without actually working in a kitchen. Many of the techniques and skills are the same; however, you are typically cooking for large quantities of people and making food that will hold up either on a buffet line or during longer serving times. You may also get to work in menu creation.

Many caterers run their own small businesses servicing large events, weddings, brown bag lunches, or hotels.

Personal Chef

Personal chefs are becoming increasingly more popular, especially in big cities like New York and Los Angeles. You typically work for either a single client or several clients, preparing meals and small catered events according to their preferences and dietary needs. Many personal chefs prepare a week’s (or two weeks’) worth of food at a time, creating meals that can be frozen and recooked by the client.

Being a personal chef is one of the most financially-rewarding culinary careers – especially if you find a niche serving higher-end clientele. Most personal chefs work for themselves.


Nutritionists combine culinary skills with a background in science. They study how the human body reacts to specific nutrients in food, often offering dietary consulting or meal preparation for specific dietary needs. Most nutritionists carry at least a Bachelor’s degree, although it isn’t required to practice in the field.

Many nutritionists sell their services much like personal chefs do. Other job opportunities include working for magazines, television shows, or writing books on nutrition.

Food Scientist

Another science-based side of a culinary arts degree is food science. This study focuses on the technical and chemical aspects of food. Food scientists usually study food processing, packaging, preservation, and even the way that smells and food interact. They dabble in everything from food safety to molecular gastronomy.

Food scientists typically work for food manufacturers or laboratories associated with universities and research facilities.

Cruise Ship Staff

Being a cook or chef on a cruise ship is a great way to travel while doing what you love. While it is not a job for those who aren’t willing to be gone for long periods of time, it is great for those with a little wanderlust for the world. You typically work in the kitchen of the cruise ship, much in the same way you would work in the kitchens of a restaurant. You may find yourself facing long hours and lower wages than many on-shore industry jobs, but you do get to see quite a few ports of call.

Bed and Breakfast

If you choose to work in the bed and breakfast industry, you typically have two choices: to work for another proprietor or to start your own. Some of the larger and higher-end B&Bs hire chefs and cooks to handle the culinary side of things (from menu planning to actual preparation); however, smaller businesses may do the cooking themselves. For those with an eye to becoming an entrepreneur, running a bed and breakfast is a great way to combine business and cooking.

Cooking School Instructor

Although many cooking school instructors also work in the restaurant industry, some focus solely on the teaching aspect of the culinary world. Most instructors have a degree in addition to their culinary experience, as well as a love of teaching and mentoring. Jobs with more prestigious educational facilities typically require at least a Bachelor’s degree and two years of industry experience.

Jobs can typically found in private and public educational facilities.

Bakery/Pastry Shop

Another career that is great for those with an entrepreneurial bent is running a bakery or pastry shop. Between birthdays, weddings, and other special events, the market for specialty-baked goods is actually quite large – especially when compared to the number of shops currently in operation. If you have a flair for decoration and want to create a successful business to boot, this could be an ideal choice.

Choosing the Right Career

No matter where your interests lie, there is a great culinary career just waiting for you. Consider all the things that interest you in addition to cooking – from the sciences to world travel – and you should be able to find a niche that not only allows you to do what you love, but to make quite a bit of money doing it.


30 Enlightened Replies

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  1. amit yadav says:

    i want make career in culinary arts

  2. manasa reddy says:

    I want to make my career in cooking.can u suggest some course to full fill my ambition

  3. GB says:

    Culinary arts degrees are only good if you live in the city (and you are actually very talented) or a culinary hot spot. Even then it is basically a slavery certificate, long hours, no holidays, harsh environment, no retirement, culinary students are often singled out by the felons/future criminals/fledgling strippers that you will work with, you work until your dead, forget the bass boat camping gear and children, like Christmas? find a new middle of the week day to enjoy, your health benefits will be located in a first aid box on the wall with an empty box of band aids and some tape in it, you got a raise? how nice because you’ll now be working more than the ridiculous amount you were already working and good luck finding time to crack a grin and spend that money, the few days you do actually get off make you realize how bad the profession you have chosen actually is, seriously “anything” is better. If you think I am joking, knock yourself out and give it a try

  4. anonymous says:

    They speak the truth. I graduated highschool went to a “5 star cooking school” now working for a big name company and the work is more than the pay. 16 hour shifts. Unusual hours. Disrespect. The kitcken is surprisingly mean to women in the industry. (Woman myself)

  5. Sarah says:

    GB you said it all. If I would have worked in restaurants before I spent thousands on culinary school I hope I would not have. $8-$9 an hr. is big money to restaurant owners. I know I have a lot to learn still about food but I bust my tail makes no difference. Kitchen confidential should be mandatory reading because the good positions are few and far between

  6. Alicia says:

    GB, Sarah, and anonymous…stop. Don’t even talk like that. Make people feel down and want to change careers. All because what you ended up doing wasn’t what it seemed to be isn’t like everyones is. I have plenty of chefs in my famjly who COOK and OWN their resturant. If you hate working at a resturant and get treated badly doesn’t mean every single person will. Thats very ignorant of you guys. I can’t wait to get my degree in Culinary.
    People like you make others work hard and something of themselves and starting something big. You make an example of what type of “chef” not to be. My family in the chef buisness are making 100,000-200,000 a year. And yes they have stress SOMETIMES but every job does. Go own a reaturant and build up your own paycheck if you really feel that way.

  7. JD says:

    Most chefs get treated like dirt. Servers can make in a night(and whine about it) what a cook makes all week. $100,000-$200,000 a year? That’s quite a wide figure and way above average. Go own a restaurant and build a paycheck? Owning a restaurant is the leading cause of bankruptcy.

  8. Mario says:

    I am sorry Alicia but GB is dead on.
    I have a degree in the culinary field and if you have learned anything going through…is that you will hardly ever make good money unless you have a plan for your own restaurant and/or parents or relative to give you a shot working in there place.
    as of right now I am in the middle of making a career change due to not wanting to make $8-$9 an hour for the next 5-10 years.
    it isn’t easy.
    on a side note if you have good connections or a great location in a city it sometimes works to your advantage.
    people ive graduated with have been taking different job as well including telemarketing, best buy, clothing stores, etc.

    now I have to find a job that can pay good just to finish what I owe on this degree.

    this is reality, and I didn’t see it in front of me till now.

  9. chefmo says:

    Alicia, you are being naive.
    Though I am happy for your successful family members, that is not the norm. Unfortunately Sarah, GB and anonymous are much closer to the truth in their comments.
    First of all, the cooking contest shows on tv are ruining the culinary students. They come in and expect to become tv stars without doing the work and paying their dues. On the other side, the schools are becoming factories churning out unprepared students. Unless you are fortunate enough to have a teacher who cares, but that’s not always the case. Overall, the money is lousy. Private chef is very hard to break into and if you have bad credit or any kind of police record (don’t laugh because many people in this industry do) you will not even be considered. Owning your own business is a huge responsibility with a very low profit margin and frankly, you won’t even be doing much cooking or baking because you are running a business.
    That said, I have done most of the jobs that I just mentioned. Why? Because I love it and have a passion for it.

  10. Shannon says:

    Alicia: thank you for saying that…there are chefs out there that earn a very good living, albeit, by very hard work. But, I’m a firm believer life is what you make it!

  11. Zac says:

    Well, I agree with Alicia. Definitely choosing a culinary arts career is not at all a bad option. I have a live example of my own friend who started his career from one of the well-reputed culinary arts school CIA and now he is doing well in his job with handsome amount of salary he is getting in hand with respect. I am also a food lover and know the value of a chef, who makes us fell blessed with tempting delicious dishes, without which any celebration is incomplete, especially the Christmas celebration which is about to come.

    Manasa and Amit, if you want to make a career in culinary arts then just for it without any doubt. Since it is one of the most lucrative career choice with never ending limits. Because people can’t live without food. And if there are no chefs, then how can we came to know about delicious dishes and recipes.

    There are many trending culinary courses among which you can choose the one that interests you the most:
    Baking and pastry arts
    Restaurant Management
    Food Service Management
    Catering Management
    Hospitality Management
    Food Artist
    Wines, Spirits and Beverages Management, and many more

  12. Ryan says:

    Alicia, firstly; kudos that your family is running a successful and profitable business. It’s very hard to do in this industry. But I’m with the majority on this one. Getting a degree in culinary arts is not going to give you knowledge to go out and start a restaurant. You’ll need a degree in business and management, as well as knowledge in economics. 80% of new restaurants fail in the first two years, thats just a fact. And comparing people who work in a restaurant, and don’t own it, is not a fair comparison. I can guarantee you the line cook that walks in to your family’s restaurant fresh out of culinary school is not going to make more than $25k a year.

    Myself, I’m tempted to go the food truck route. My own hours, no where near as expensive as starting a restaurant, and I can get out and get some fresh air. Not glamorous, but there is little in this industry that is.

  13. Heather says:

    I am currently in culinary school and I’m work in in a kitchen making $14.50 per hour, and that was my first kitchen job! This is NOT a bad industry… I’m also doing my paperwork to get a promotion! It does mean more hours but it comes with a nice raise. You have to know your stuff! If you don’t then you won’t be worth more than the $8-9 per hour.

  14. Chalon says:

    Good job for those who are successful in this trade of job. I’m an excellent cook and have the degree to back it up, but that still doesn’t say anything to the pay of work. I’ll admit, top pay I received was about $9-$10 being a lead cook… In the middle of career change myself. I cant even support myself and my one child on that.

  15. Shannon says:

    GB is correct. I spent $20,000 on culinary school and got my first job out at $12 an hour. Worked for a boss that constantly had nervous breakdown, and the kitchen staff was highly disrespectful and rude. When I told her that my husband and I were thinking about having children she said that it really wasn’t a good time for her, and if I chose to do so I would be replaced. A week later she decided that $12 an hour was not affordable to her and lowered my pay down to nine dollars an hour without even discussing it with me first. When I gave her my two weeks notice she started crying and slamming books down on her desk screaming hysterically. When I interviewed for my second chef job, the woman interviewing me asked if I had any children and when I replied no she said good because they would really get in the way with such long hours unless my husband was a stay-at-home dad. Forget about having children. I’m currently going back to school to finish my bachelors degree so that I can get a real job.

  16. antowin says:

    its all about what company you work for… 22 years old i graduated from culinary school at the age 20 and i am a sous chef i don’t work late nights , i get benefits, and my pay is pretty good so not all cooking jobs are bad.

  17. Jacob says:

    I gotta agree with Chalon. I have basically not worked anywhere else besides kitchens. I got my first one dishwashing and slowly moved up. I worked for about 6 or 7 places before i decided to go to culinary school. I got a grant but it was still 20k. and i went to a small private trade school. I did good in school and even got a great job after school. but after a few years, it started to eat away at me. I moved back home to try to change careers. I am basically screwed because, even at my height, i was making at the most 12$ in California.

    So now what do I do? Do i got back to school again? i already owe so much, but this industry is awful. I was decent at what i did and after about 8 years, im done. im ready to change my life, and actually enjoy it. Unless you absouletrly eat, sleep breathe this industry, you cant make a living.

  18. Sylvia says:

    I am currently attending culinary school.. But I’m beginning to think twice about this. I hear work is stressful with crappy pay and long hours.. Something I wouldn’t be able to do due to the fact that I’m a mother of three. When I signed up for school the admissions lady made it seem way different than what it really is….

  19. smth says:

    listen I’ve never been to school for any thing abd I make 12 /hr in a kitchen mind you my boss hates me for it bit hey even if I made 9 dollars a hour with two jobs I coud survive but that’s about it so no I say to all of you out there with kindness in my heart don’t go to school for this it’s not worth it only use these restaurant jobs as a means of survival until you can do something better this is what I’ve done for 12 years and I am living proof that it doesn’t pay off you will never have weekend time off or time to spend with family members get a degree in something serious and then go out to eat at these places don’t live in them that’s from the bottom of my heart

  20. Jessica says:

    I agree with man of the viewpoints here. Culinary does have its draw backs and step forth’s. I am going to start college this fall, (Immediately after High school) and I wanted to pursue a double major, Culinary Arts and Music. I love both fields of study whole-heartedly and completely. My life ambition is to spread joy to others, and to serve them, and an individual, and a friend. I am very talented in both areas and I cannot dream of ever giving such a talent up. As the summer has come for me to review my college plans, and conduct more research, I have come across many different viewpoints. It is true, that in some cases the Culinary Field does not pay so well, yet in other cases it does. It depends on many factors that may influence this. As i have come to the conclusion, that maybe stacking myself with so much at one time, may not be the best decision for me. Doing a double major is tough work. I did not start yet, and already i have seen the amount of stress, work, and sweat that may happen. I know my final decision after reading so many reviews. I am stupendously grateful to every response here….and everywhere else I have found them; but I also want to find my own version of truth, and not to just take what someone says to do. I know in my heart that somewhere, somehow, things will work out just handy dandy and I am willing to take those chances. I truly and grateful for each insight provided to assist others with their decisions and encouraging them to do more research in their fields before they begin.

  21. Erika says:

    My current situation consists of working in a disrespectful kitchen (being the only female) making $11/hr. I have a culinary degree but it doesn’t seem like its getting me too far. I know I’m good at what I do but I get absolute no appreciation. I don’t know if I should go back to school and start from scratch (getting my 2 year generals) or try to get a better opportunity than what a kitchen can offer with just a degree.

  22. realist says:

    Just coming across this and a few things are standing out.

    1. Many of you appear to be women. To this day this profession is still male dominated especially at the top. Even though I am guessing most if not all of you are American the professional culinary community is international and small as far as word of mouth and still operates under many less modernized ideals when it comes to gender equality.

    2. Its a profession that recognizes and pays for talent. I know several head chefs that are working at world renowned establishments in many parts of the world and most were hand-picked right out of culinary school to work at notable establishments. They got the opportunity to study under great and well respected chefs but they still had to put in their time and really didn’t get a well paying position for a good 5-6 years as a private chef or a lower position at a good establishment then another 5 years before they became a head chef. Much like anything it takes talent, a bit of luck, and thousands of hours of work and training to even have the opportunity to make six figure salaries.

    3. As someone stated earlier, TV cooking shows have over glorified what being a professional cook/chef is really like. The restaurant industry is one of the most physically and mentally demanding jobs out there at least compared to the education and commitment it requires and it’s rarely very gratifying. I imagine many start out with the mindset that they just want to cook and make people happy but when people have to start paying for their meals it can take a bit of that home cooking for friends and family aspect out of it as they not only expect an above perfect meal but for it to also be served within 5 minutes of it being ordered and also a work of art. Expectations in this industry are often unfulfilled especially when you work at “five star” establishments.

  23. Kelby says:

    Firstly, thank you so much for this article, it showed me that a culinary diploma doesn’t necessarily mean being stuck in a hotel kitchen for the rest of my life.

    Secondly, I am a qualified pastry chef currently studying business at university. My biggest fear going into this highly competitive market is failure. With so many small businesses close within their first two years I fear I face the same fate. I also worry about my skills. I feel that although I might be talented and have some experience in a kitchen I fear I might still be ill equipped to take on the challenges that face me when working towards my dream. I welcome any advice from anyone to help me get over small and large obstacles.

  24. Marj says:

    I graduated from culinary school in June of 2013, moved to Chicago in September 2013, was a line cook until August 2014 when I was promoted to head chef. you have to consider that everyone has different opportunities, and the beautiful thing about being a chef, is that you can get a job anywhere you want to and find those opportunities. Anyone that says getting a degree was a waste of time, or that this job sucks, obviously isn’t doing anything to make their lives better other than complaining. Not every restaurant is open on holidays, not every boss makes you work 60+ hours, and some places actually give you health benefits. Really, welcome to 2014, it’s not that uncommon!

  25. Luke says:

    Hello guys? I’m curious about culinary arts in kitchen operation and cruise line in culinary can you give me what are the difference about that two course thanks I hope you can read this

  26. cxShiro says:

    i want to make cakes , but still in high school :c

    i`ll be a pastry chef though . .. by the way thanks for the article . . . i really appreciate it

  27. Ryan says:

    $8-$9hr for the next 5-10 years? I am in culinary school and just got a job working as line cook part time and am making $10hr. I have worked in the industry for the last 9 years and have made less than I do now, but my last job I made more. Yes the hours can be rough but if you are truly passionate about what you do then it doesn’t matter. I think what it all boils down to is determination and loving what you really do.

  28. Richard says:

    Fark, you guys should try coming to Australia. Have a look at for a look at average wages here

  29. Cindy J says:

    Heather–where do you work and in what city? I really want to know–sounds great and very good for this industry. Please reply.

  30. carla says:

    Yeah. i believe it is a tough field for a lot of people, but if u truly love. and have a passion for it, you will succeed.

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