Have you ever considered attending a trade school instead of a traditional four-year university? The benefit of this path is that you can graduate in and make an above-average income, often without needing to be in school for a full four years. And if you do choose to follow the four-year, bachelor degree course, you more than likely will be spending a good deal of your time in a practical-application environment and participating in externships or internships. This makes the culinary school option particularly appealing to those who may not see themselves as traditional students. Just because you get bored sitting in a stuffy classroom listening to tired professors drone on for an hour and a half, doesn’t mean school isn’t for you. Rather, you might need to think outside the box! And career-centric educational programs aren’t limiting, either. For example, if you attend culinary school, you could graduate with the credentials to apply for any number of jobs!
Obviously, you could become a chef.
This is the career path that most people probably think of when they hear that someone they know is attending culinary school. Even within the category of “chef” you’ll have many options. For example, you could be a sous chef, which is another way of saying assistant chef. You will spend a great deal of your time cooking dishes and assisting the head chef with whatever he or she needs. If you are a head, or executive, chef, you will still spend time cooking, but you will also be responsible for supervising other employees, planning menus, maintaining the inventory of food and supplies, hiring other cooks, and checking the kitchen for proper sanitation practices. If this isn’t enough leadership for you, you could open up your own restaurant and act as both the head chef and owner. In this circumstance you will also be responsible for the finances and all administrative duties both in the kitchen and out front in the restaurant.
Less obviously, you could set your sights beyond the kitchen.
Especially if you end up with a degree in culinary arts management, you might not find yourself working in a kitchen at all! Some people decide during their studies that they have more of an interest and skill in the administrative side of the industry. These people might become the manager of a single restaurant, all of the restaurants within a division or region (if the restaurant is a chain) or might find themselves working at the home office of a food service corporation. You could also open your own restaurant and hire others to do the cooking, while you would still have a hand in menu design, preparation, and presentation. If you do well, you could end up with multiple locations!
Still less obviously, you could end up working in media, education, or research.
Some people who have degrees in culinary arts don’t end up working in or near a restaurant at all. For example, you could become a food writer or critic. In this case you would work for a newspaper or magazine and visit restaurants to do write-ups of their most popular dishes. You might also be responsible for coming up with fun recipes to print, especially if you work for a food or cooking magazine. One day you might even write your own cookbook! Others might decide to use their knowledge of the culinary arts to teach others. In this case, you might end up working at a culinary institute or community college teaching students about the fundamentals of cooking and baking. If you’re more science-inclined, you could end up conducting research to develop sustainable cooking practices, to devise new forms of agriculture, or to examine current food products for safety and benefit.