Is Culinary School Expensive?

Find out the true costs of culinary school—in money, time, and more. Plus, how could the return on investment bring you major rewards down the line?

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May 23, 2022 8 min read

Concerned about the cost of culinary school?

When considered as a lump sum, any higher education program probably looks like a large investment. But whether culinary school is “expensive” or not will always be relative. What’s expensive to one person may seem affordable to another. Plus, the cost of culinary school will range widely depending on where you choose to study.

But more than anything, it’s worth asking the question, “How ‘expensive’ would it be to NOT pursue my dream career?” What’s the cost of working in a job you dislike, or letting the years pass by without developing your creative abilities?

Obviously, there is more to consider than simply the dollars you must spend to attend school. How might you balance those expenses with the benefits you can receive?

The Cost of Culinary Education

The cost of a culinary school education varies depending on the type of program and the school you choose to attend. At one major culinary school, a three-semester associate degree program in culinary arts can cost over $50,000!

Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts aims to keep programs accessible to more people. The total cost for an associate degree in culinary arts at Escoffier ranges from $29,075 to $35,685 for the 2022-2023 academic year. Diploma programs are less expensive, ranging from $17,258 to $20,891 for the 2022-2023 school year.

Compared to a private four-year college or even some of the other degree and diploma programs in culinary arts, the cost of an education at Escoffier is moderate.

“The cost for Escoffier is substantially less compared to the other schools I researched.”*
Brent Unruh, Culinary Arts Graduate

Escoffier boulder campus kitchen

Escoffier’s Boulder campus kitchen

How Can You Afford Culinary School?

If you think the only people who can afford to go to culinary school come from wealthy backgrounds, think again. Most students at Escoffier rely on some form of financial aid like student loans, scholarships, or grants to finance their education.**

Student Loans

The most common type of financial aid is student loans. Some loans come from private institutions, like loan agencies or banks. Others come from the federal government. Federal student loans usually have lower interest rates than private loans, which can make them the best place to start when looking to borrow. Students repay their loans when they complete their education and enter the workforce.

Escoffier is an accredited educational institution, which means that students who apply and qualify may be able to finance at least part of their education with federal student loans.

Escoffier Director of Financial Aid Jason Rodriguez“The Financial Aid office at Escoffier is here to answer your questions and help you make the right decision.”*
Jason Rodriguez, Escoffier Director of Financial Aid

Culinary Scholarships & Grants

While student loans have to be repaid, scholarships and grants do not. There are many national, regional, and local institutions that offer scholarships to culinary school students, and we encourage you to apply for as many as you can!

Some of these awards will be limited to high school students, while others may be reserved for those with interests in specific segments of the culinary arts. Other scholarships may be limited to those in certain life circumstances, like single parents or LGBTQ+ students. Cast a wide net when hunting for scholarships. And you can continue to apply, even after you’ve begun your coursework.

Escoffier graduate and James Beard Scholarship winner Wyl Lima shares his story

Veteran & Military Benefits

Active duty military, veterans, and their families may qualify for some government funding. As a 2022-2023 Military Friendly® school, Escoffier is committed to helping military and veterans with student support.

The Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense are the determining bodies of benefit eligibility. Please click here to obtain additional information on eligible programs. GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by the VA is available at the official U.S. government website. For more information on Active Duty Benefits, please visit an Education Office on base.

Three Common Misconceptions About the Cost of Culinary School

There are some additional costs associated with culinary school, beyond tuition. But you might be surprised to learn that they’re not as high as you thought. Here are three common misconceptions about the additional costs of culinary school, and the truths you should know.

1. Culinary School Will Cost Me Years

At some schools, an associate degree program can take two full years to complete. But Escoffier’s culinary arts degrees can be finished in just 60 or 84 weeks, making the overall “time cost” relatively low.

And with our intensive, focused program, many students are surprised by how much is packed into that short time frame. As Culinary Arts graduate Brent Unruh says, “If you want to learn, you should go to culinary school. You’ll be exposed to a lot more in a very short period of time. You could spend ten years working in restaurants and not get the experience that you’re going to get working with pastries with Chef Suzanne, for instance.”*

2. Culinary School Can Have Major Costs in Lost Earnings

You might be thinking that if you’re in culinary school, you’ll have to cut way back on your work hours, right? After all, some culinary programs demand that you be on campus for up to eight hours per day, making it difficult to earn a living while you study.

But with Escoffier’s online programs, many students have the opportunity to work part-time or full-time while they attend school. Completing their education from their home kitchens, these students have no commute and no strict class schedules to adhere to. They can complete their programs on their own schedules, as long as they meet program deadlines. In fact, Escoffier was recently named one of America’s Top Online Learning Schools for 2023 by Newsweek.

With this flexibility, many students find that the “cost” in lost earnings is zero!

Chef placing vegetables on a plate with tongs while holding a silver pan

3. Culinary School Will Cost Me Real-World Networking Opportunities

If you’re in school and choose not to work, are you missing out on networking and mentorship connections?

Not at all! In fact, many students find culinary school to be an invaluable source of industry contacts. Fellow students and Chef Instructors can become friends and mentors, offering career advice and sharing their own experiences.

This network may even be a source of future employment. When chefs need to hire someone new, they often think of their professional network before they even post a job opening. So connecting with your fellow students and other alumni can be a smart career move in the long term.

Parker Wilks-Bryant, Escoffier Culinary Arts Graduate“When I was working for this not-so-great chef throughout my time in culinary school, I would talk to Chef Instructors Jesper Jonsson and Julia Wolfe. They were my main mentors and they would reassure me that I was worth more and that things would get better. I’m very happy that I got to know them.”*
Parker Wilks-Bryant, Boulder Culinary Arts Graduate

An Education Is an Expense, But It’s Also an Investment

It’s easy to get caught up in the dollar cost of education when planning your next steps. And of course, every student must decide for themselves which programs make sense for their financial situation.

But rather than seeing culinary school as something you buy, think of it as something you invest in. A good investment earns you a return. With education, that return may come in the form of greater earning potential, qualifications for better jobs, or quicker promotions throughout your career.

By investing in your education, you can open up a wider world of employment opportunities. As graduate Wyl Lima says, “You have to be willing to invest in yourself.”* It can prove that you are committed to the culinary arts as a career, not just a job. And that commitment can be a big draw for potential employers.

Three Escoffier students laughing as they pose for a photo while in uniform

Invest in Your Future

Is culinary school expensive?

That depends on your point of view. As an investment in your future, higher education can be a smart career move. While there are clearly costs in both time and money, the benefits in skills, mentorship, and networking can make that investment worthwhile.

And whatever the cost of culinary school, it could very well pale in comparison to the “costs” of never reaching for your goals in a career that aligns with your passion for cooking.

To learn more about this investment—and how it can help you in the future—contact our admissions department!

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*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.

**76% of Austin students and 54% of Boulder students who entered postsecondary education for the first time received some financial assistance in 2021-22 for those who applied and qualified. College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics

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