Becoming a chef can be an exciting career for food lovers of all varieties. Earning an online degree can be a great start to a culinary career that can go in any number of directions, from casual to fine dining, American to intercontinental, in restaurants, hotels, and destination locations across the world.
On-the-job training is very common for fast-food and short-order cooks, but chefs who are serious about their career and have more definite career goals typically pursue college-level career training, either through a culinary or vocational school. Career training programs for chefs usually last from a few months to two or three years.
Longer programs last up to four years, and generally include more advanced courses, and even travel. Chef training can now be started online, and culminates in in-person training at a culinary or vocational school.
Beginning Your Career as a Chef through Education
Basic chef training programs include coursework in food handling, sanitation, nutrition, slicing and dicing (knife skills), meats and vegetables, and cooking methods like broiling, baking, and grilling. More advanced courses may cover cooking for large events, haute cuisine, and principles of restaurant management.
These types of courses can result in a certificate, a two- or four-year college degree, or special accreditation from a culinary school. An online degree can be the beginning of an educational path that can establish your culinary foundation and build your resume.
The Ups and Downs of Being a Chef
If you're considering chef career training, be mindful of industry pros and cons. Being flexible is a necessary component to a career as a chef: nearly 30 percent of chefs have part-time schedules, while at the other end of the scale, executive chefs frequently work twelve-hour days to oversee restaurant operations.
However, an expanding restaurant industry is expected to provide some 351,000 new chef jobs in the next eight years. New restaurants, hotels, golf courses, malls, and resorts are constantly opening, creating an ongoing cycle of opportunities for new chefs. The more education and experience you have, the greater your qualifications typically will be for these opportunities.
Salary Earnings for Chefs
Salaries for chefs vary by position and experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that chefs made the following annual median salaries in 2007:
- Full-service restaurants: $38,220
- Special food services: $42,270
- Personal care services: $57,060
- Management: $61,490
- Federal government: $59,100
Executive and private chefs typically enjoy the highest earning potential of all chefs. Fine dining, resort destinations, and private clients can be the highest paying employers in the world. The experience new chefs gain at restaurants and catering companies is extremely valuable, familiarizing chefs with all types of food preparation, menu creation, kitchen operations, and customer service.