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How Long Does it Take to Become a Chef?

written by: Destiny Keller•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 12/9/2011

Shows on TV like Iron Chef have inspired more people to want to get into the food industry. Some lucky people have made it onto shows like this and have successfully become a chef without much in the way of education. What about the rest of us? How many years of college does it take to be a chef?

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    Culinary Arts Programs

    It is important to have some cooking experience before entering culinary school to make sure this career path is right for you. Kitchens can be quite stressful and a good chef must be able to make quick decisions, accept criticism well, and manage stress well. Internships are also highly regarded in the cooking world. There are a wide range of culinary arts programs out there for students. They range from a few months to four years, depending on whether you chose a certificate, associate, or bachelor type program.

    The American Culinary Federation plays a major role in the chef world and should be kept in mind. Be sure to look for schools accredited by the ACF, so you can be prepared to be certified by them upon graduation.

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    Certificate Programs

    This type of program gives students the skills for performing entry-level food service jobs. A certificate program typically teaches their students basic baking and cooking, knife skills, as well as menu planning. They usually last around a year, and require thirty credits upon graduation. This degree type is ideal for students who want to get to their dream career fast, and don't plan on becoming head chef. Instead positions such as a sous-chef (kitchen assistant) might be available with this degree. This degree would also be a great option for students looking to get their foot in the door and get more education later. Some students are even lucky enough to find careers that will pay for them to get further schooling.

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    Associates Degree

    This type of degree helps prepare students for careers working in restaurants, catering services, food service management, or cooking for hotels. Associates degrees in culinary arts can get a little trickier. Some schools offer this degree online where students can graduate faster, but any chef would agree that 'hands on experience' is critical in this field. Students learn important skills such as food preparation, dining services, nutritional values, food quality examination, and even culinary management.

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    Bachelor's Degree

    A Bachelor's degree in culinary arts will take you beyond the basics of cooking. It is designed to teach students about management and leadership in this profession. Students learn other essential skills for becoming a chef, such as kitchen management, menu development, diet and nutrition, and event cooking. Chefs with a Bachelor's degree usually aid in training other chefs such as apprentice chefs. This typically takes four years to complete.

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    What It Boils Down To...

    There are many different paths and years of college one can take to become a chef. Just make sure you know what you are getting into before you start. If you are still unsure about becoming a chef by the time you start taking classes, a certificate program would probably be the best option to go. Students who are sure, excited, and passionate about this possible future career would want to spend more time in school to get the complete training they need. Have fun exploring this exciting career opportunity, and be sure to try and find your own creative touch on the way.

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    References

    Education Portal: http://education-portal.com/chef_college.html

    Cullinary School Guys: http://www.culinaryschoolguys.com/Level/Certificates.shtml

    Associates in Applied Science: http://education-portal.com/articles/Associate_in_Applied_Science_%28AAS%29%3A_Culinary_Arts_Degree_Program_Overview.html

    Cooking Schools: http://www.cookingschools.com/majors-programs/culinary-degrees.html