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Degree Overview: Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degree in Culinary Arts

Majors Overview January 31, 2014

Students will be prepared for several food-based and hospitality careers, such as head cook, first-line supervisor, and chef. Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree program courses focus on food management and production.

A.A. Programs in Culinary Arts

A two-year associate’s degree program in culinary arts has been devised to facilitate exploration by enrolled students of topic areas in global cuisine, food service management and food preparation. Coursework often includes an externship program that allows the application of students’ knowledge to real-life restaurant environments. Culinary institutes, community colleges and technical schools typically offer these programs some of which are accredited by and whose curriculum is based on guidelines provided by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).

The Associate of Applied Science and Associate of Science degree programs are among the various types available, in the field. Students enrolled in the Associate of Science programs are provided with in-depth foundational knowledge of culinary management and cooking. Often, students who wish to continue their education by enrolling in a four-year university or college prefer this program. Those seeking a terminal degree focused on culinary management and budgeting can consider enrolling in an Associate of Applied Science program. Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma.


Coursework in culinary arts associate’s degree programs focuses on examining food selection, kitchen organization and cooking methods, with most of the instruction imparted in kitchen settings. Courses commonly include:

•Culinary terminology
•Culinary management
•Food safety and sanitation
•Menu development

Career Choices

Those who successfully complete a culinary arts associate’s degree program can seek entry level jobs in various hospitality and foodservice facilities, including hotels, cafeterias or restaurants, beginning their career as food preparation workers or assistants and advancing to positions that include:

•Food preparation supervisor
•Sous chef
•Restaurant cook
•Line cook
•Personal chef
•Pastry chef

Certification and Continuing Education Choices

Associate’s degree holders may pursue continued education by enrolling in a four-year bachelor’s degree program to receive advanced culinary training in restaurant operations, decorative works and food styling. Alternately, they may choose to enter the workforce immediately on completion of the associate’s degree program. While hirers don’t insist on certification, job applicants who have obtained certification would have an undoubted edge over those who haven’t. Culinary arts professionals at various levels are certified by the ACF. Graduates from an ACF-accredited associate’s degree program could qualify automatically to take certification exams to achieve the Certified Culinarian credential. They could also aspire to become Certified Executive Chefs, Certified Chef de Cuisines or Certified Sous Chefs With additional experience and education.

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