May 20, 2022

Deciding to earn your culinary arts degree could be a great first step towards building the career and life you’ve always wanted. But as you explore different schools and programs, things can quickly get a bit confusing.

Culinary school or community college? Bachelor’s degree? Associates degree? Diploma? Which school and which program will help get you closest to your goals? And what are the differences between them?

The variety of programs in food and hospitality education means that no matter where you want to end up in the culinary industry, there’s a path to help you get there! Learn more about the types of culinary arts degrees and diplomas, and which are right for you and your goals.

Get a Fast, Flexible Education with a Culinary Diploma

A culinary diploma or degree signifies that a student has successfully completed a course of study from a food or hospitality-focused program.

Escoffier student rolling out dough in a kitchen

Diploma programs are usually shorter than degree programs, since they don’t include general education requirements like science or math courses. At Escoffier, our on-campus diploma programs can be completed in just 30 weeks, including a hands-on industry externship. Online diploma programs take 60 weeks, but they also offer greater flexibility since students can complete their coursework on their own time as long as they meet scheduled deadlines.

Diploma programs can be less expensive than degree programs. With the shorter time requirement, flexible online programs, and lower cost, culinary diplomas are great for students who want to get to work as soon as possible.

culinary student glazing dough in tray home kitchen

Culinary diplomas are usually focused on culinary arts or baking & pastry arts. Culinary arts students could explore classical and contemporary culinary techniques, world cuisines, breakfast, charcuterie, garde manger, and more. This is a broader culinary education, and can help prepare students for entry-level jobs in restaurants, hotels, and catering companies or could help those already working in the industry advance in their career. If you hope to one day become a chef, an education in culinary arts is a good place to start.

Baking and pastry students could focus on artisanal breads, cake decorating, pies, tarts, and other baked goods. These programs can help prepare students for their first jobs in bakeries or as entry-level pastry cooks.

Students at Escoffier can also start preparing for the business side of the culinary industry in the Entrepreneurship course, included in the degree or diploma programs depending on campus. Business planning, business ethics, leadership, and pricing are all part of the curriculum. Students get to practice by creating a business plan for a foodservice establishment for their final project.

Some schools also offer specialized diploma programs in hotel management, restaurant and catering management, and hospitality management.

Escoffier offers the following diplomas:

  • Diploma in Culinary Arts (Austin and Boulder campuses)
  • Diploma in Pastry Arts (Austin and Boulder campuses)
  • Diploma in Culinary Arts and Operations (Distance learning – available online through our Boulder campus)
  • Diploma in Professional Pastry Arts (Distance learning – available online through our Boulder campus)
  • Diploma in Plant-Based Culinary Arts (Online)
  • Diploma in Plant-Based Cuisine (Boulder Campus)
  • Diploma in Holistic Nutrition and Wellness (Online)

Remember that culinary school graduates, new to the industry, don’t walk away from their programs with the title of chef. That appellation must be earned through education and experience. These programs are designed to prepare students quickly for an entry-level position in a restaurant, resort, hotel, catering company, or other food service establishment.

Get an In-Depth Education with a Culinary Degree

Formal culinary degrees include two-year Associate degrees, four-year Bachelor of Art degrees, and even Master of Art degrees. But most culinary students who seek degrees begin with an Associate degree.

“While each classmate brought their own strengths, we were encouraged to collaborate and push one another to achieve our daily goals. I knew I would have the support of an amazing network ensuring my successful career upon completion of the program. I am extremely pleased with my choice to attend Escoffier.”*
Suzanne Clancy, Kitchen Manager, Hillstone Restaurant; Boulder Culinary Arts Graduate

To receive an Associate degree, students must complete both culinary training and some general education (Gen Ed) coursework in subjects like English and math. At a community college, these Gen Eds will usually be somewhat generic, since they’ll be taken by students from all different specializations.

At Escoffier, the broader Gen Ed requirements for an Associate degree are satisfied with culinary-specific courses, like Technical Writing for the Hospitality Industry, The Science of Nutrition, and Foodservice Math & Accounting. This industry-specific training can be particularly valuable to students who hope to become managers or own their own culinary businesses one day.

In addition to the Gen Ed courses, Associate degree programs may include additional coursework or have longer externship requirements. This is why these programs are usually longer than diploma programs. They can take up to two years, although at Escoffier, culinary arts degree programs can be completed in 60-84 weeks.

Two Escoffier students with their backs to the camera while cooking on a stove

Escoffier offers the following degrees:

  • Associate of Applied Science Degree in Culinary Arts (Austin campus)
  • Associate of Applied Science Degree in Pastry Arts (Austin campus)
  • Associate of Occupational Studies Degree in Culinary Arts (Boulder campus & distance learning – online)
  • Associate of Occupational Studies Degree in Baking and Pastry (Boulder campus & distance learning – online)
  • Associate of Occupational Studies Degree in Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management (Distance learning – available online only through our Boulder campus)
  • Associate of Occupational Studies Degree in Plant-Based Culinary Arts (Distance Learning – Online)
  • Associate of Occupational Studies Degree in Holistic Nutrition and Wellness (Distance Learning – Online)

All students at Escoffier, regardless of their programs, complete at least one industry externship as a requirement to graduate. This allows them to continue learning in a professional setting, while practicing the skills picked up during their studies. Graduates then have the opportunity to put this real-world experience on their resumes when they complete their programs.

Why Accreditation Counts

Not all culinary schools are accredited. Accreditation is provided by neutral third parties to certify that a curriculum and quality of education meet certain pre-set criteria. These standards can help students to assess the credentials of the college and the quality of education they can receive there.

Accreditation is also a requirement for students to be eligible for federal financial aid. So any student who needs some sort of tuition assistance should consider accredited schools that also participate in Title IV funding (federal financial aid).

Online culinary student taking a course on the computer

Escoffier’s Boulder campus, which also offers online programs, is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).

It’s also approved and regulated by the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE), Division of Private Occupational Schools. Escoffier in Boulder has been approved by CDHE to participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA).

“Attending Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts has directly contributed to my success. For me, the chef educators and courses built a foundation of knowledge, confidence and creativity. By working with people who did not attend pastry school, I have found that my experience at the school really did prepare me for my career.”*
Lezlie Mills Gibbs, Head Pastry Chef & Co-Kitchen Manager, La Pâtisserie by Luxe Sweets; Austin Pastry Arts Graduate

The Diploma in Pastry Arts, Diploma in Culinary Arts, and Associate Degree in Culinary Arts (residential only) programs are accredited by the American Culinary Federation Educational Foundation Accrediting Commission.

Escoffier’s Austin campus is nationally accredited by the Commission of the Council on Occupational Education. It’s also approved and regulated by the Texas Workforce Commission-Career Schools and Colleges, and is authorized as an Associate of Applied Science degree–granting institution through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The Diploma in Culinary Arts program in Austin is accredited by the American Culinary Federation Educational Foundation Accrediting Commission.

Still Unsure?

There’s a lot to consider when choosing between degrees and diplomas, on-campus and online!

To learn more about the different programs offered at Escoffier, contact us today. We can help you assess the programs and decide which one will be the best choice to help you get where you want to go.

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This article was originally published on March 17, 2021, and has since been updated.

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