The Difference Between a Culinary Arts Certificate vs. Degree

Culinary Arts Certificate vs. Degree | Norwalk Community College


Deciding to pursue a career in the culinary arts is one of many big decisions you will make for your future. Another big decision is whether or not you want to pursue a Culinary Certificate or a Culinary Degree. The answer to that question weighs heavily on the type of career you are pursuing. Both options provide advantages, however if you would like to get into management in the foodservice industry, a higher level of education is generally required. Now, let’s dive deeper into the key differences between a Culinary Arts Certificate versus a Culinary Arts Degree.

Length of Curriculum
First, how much time do you have to gain the needed experience and education? If you are looking to just learn the basics in a shorter period of time, a Culinary Arts Certificate may be the right option for you. Generally speaking, most Culinary Arts Certificates are completed within 8-12 months, or about 1-2 full semesters. This can depend on the school and if it is a generic course versus a more specific specialty, like pastry chef.

On the other hand, a Culinary Associate Program requires more schooling. The average Culinary/Food Management Degree is around 15-24 months (depending on the institution). The Culinary Degree requires more time because it includes a more in-depth level of education, including courses on hospitality management, marketing and similar business classes.

Subject Area
In each culinary program you will learn similar skills, however the Culinary Arts Degree will further delve into the importance of management skills, and other opportunities in the field. However, both programs will give you a solid foundation in cooking and culinary skills.

The degree will educate you on management skills, industry trends, business ethics and principles, and even food costs. As a student studying to be an executive chef, you will be required to come up with a distinctive menu, purchase the food, and oversee the kitchen. Therefore, a degree would be better suited for a student aspiring to be a head/executive chef or restaurant manager.

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Earned Value
The value of each program depends on what you are looking to do with your career. If you are simply interested in cooking in a restaurant, or at the very least getting some formal training, the certificate may be the better option. The Culinary Arts Certificate will teach you the basics of what you need, while you gain experience in a kitchen. However, if you are hoping to work in any type of management position, generally a Culinary Degree will be required. Even if you are unsure of which path is right for you, gaining that additional education and degree could give you the advantage for a potential job position.

Overall, which type of education you decide to pursue depends on your needs and career goals. Some positions require a degree, while others do not. The extra experience and education can only benefit you moving forward; however a degree is not necessary in all positions.

About Norwalk Community College

At NCC, our students can earn a Culinary Arts Certificate or an Associate Degree in restaurant/food service management. Our courses are designed to give students hands-on experience learning skills that they can use immediately upon graduation. Whether you want to work directly in the kitchen or on the management side, NCC can guide you through the best options for your industry. Contact us to learn more about how you can begin your degree today for a career in Culinary Arts at NCC.