March 17, 2021

Deciding to continue your culinary education 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 degree? Associate 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 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 pastry chef rolling flour dough in 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 an 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 are also less expensive than degree programs. With the shorter time requirement, flexible online programs, and lower cost, these diplomas are great for students who want to get to work as soon as possible.

Female 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 helps 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.

Diploma students at Escoffier also start preparing for the business side of the culinary industry in the Entrepreneurship course. 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 – offered online through our Boulder campus)
  • Diploma in Professional Pastry Arts (Distance learning – offered online through our Boulder campus)
  • Diploma in Plant-Based Culinary Arts (Online)
  • Diploma in Plant-Based Cuisine (Boulder Campus)

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 2-year Associate degrees, 4-year Bachelor of Art degrees, and even Master of Art degrees. But most culinary students who seek degrees begin with an Associate degree.

Chef mixing ingredients in a bowl
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 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 additional 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 training 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, degree programs can be completed in 15 months (60 weeks).

Escoffier Culinary Arts students preparing food in the professional classroom kitchen
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 – offered online only through our Boulder campus)
  • Associate of Occupational Studies Degree in Plant-Based Culinary Arts (Online)

All students at Escoffier, regardless of their programs, will complete at least one industry externship. This lets them continue learning and practicing their skills in a professional setting. Graduates have the opportunity for real-world experience to put 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 help students to assess the credentials of the college and the education they’ll receive there.

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


Escoffier’s online programs are offered through the nationally accredited Boulder campus

Escoffier’s Boulder campus, which also offers online programs, is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET). The Austin campus is accredited by the Commission of the Council on Occupational Education. It’s also authorized as an Associate of Applied Science degree-granting institution through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

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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