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Business, Social Science, & Public Service Academic Division Norfolk Campus: How to Choose a Culinary School or Hospitality Program
chefs and cooking

Thirty years ago, there were only two post-secondary culinary arts programs and a handful of hotel schools in the country.  The decision was easier.  Today, the choices are more varied and it takes some investigation and research to make the right choice. [print information in pdf]
Possible offerings by various programs:

Program Length  

  • To complete a culinary/hospitality degree - from a few weeks to three or four years
  • Certificate programs of a year or less usually prepare you for entry level positions
  • Two and four year degree programs can supply you with general education and elective courses that will result in a more well rounded education. 
  • In better culinary programs, you may be attending class eight hours a day, five days a week for up to two years.  That may equate to more than double the time most four-year college students  dedicate to a bachelor’s degree.


  • Tuition costs can range from
    • a few hundred dollars at a well-established community college
    • $10,000 or $20,000 per year from a hospitality or culinary school with specialized training. 
  • Apply for scholarships and loans.

Entry requirements

  • Industry experience
  • Vocational high school training 
  • High school diploma
  • GED

Class Scheduling

  • Part time or flexible scheduling? 
  • Do classes need to be taken in a particular order?
  • How often they are offered and what time of year?
  • Evening or weekend programs availability
  • Can you complete you course of study in your time frame and at your own pace?
  • General education classes online?

Facilities and Resources

  • How up to date are the laboratory and teaching facilities? 
  • What percentage of time is spent doing hands-on lab work and how much time in a lecture environment? 
  • Will you be exposed to a variety of experiences? 
  • What kind of technological resources does the institution possess?  (Computer access, multimedia, state of the art equipment) 
  • Is there an area, like a working restaurant dining area, where you can put into practice skills as you learn them? 
  • Does the school have learning resources such as a research library or video collection?

Faculty Qualifications

  • At most colleges and universities, instructors usually have industry certifications from
    • the American Culinary Federation,
    • American Hotel and Lodging Association or
    • IFSEA. 
  • Most also hold a university degree and many years of industry experience. 
  • Do they hold any other distinctions or awards for achievement? 
  • Has any of the faculty won competitions or prizes or have they published anything? 
  • Does the faculty continuously upgrade their skills and participate in professional development?

School Accreditation

  • Any school that has been operating for at least five years should have some form of accreditation. 
  • Is the school accredited by one of the six regional associations or by one of the three organizations that accredits private colleges? 
  • Industry certifications are also a plus. 
  • Groups like the American Culinary Federation certify about 100 programs nationwide as meeting the hospitality industry standards for learning.

Real-world Experiences

  • Public restaurants or lodging venues that are staffed by students as a part of the program 
  • Internships
  • Co-operative education
  • Mentorship

Job Placement

  • Does the school have a placement office that will help you become gainfully employed in your new career? 
  • Do they track the progress of past graduates and monitor their success? 
  • Where do the graduates of the program go to find jobs? 
  • As a past graduate, will you be able to use the school as a source of finding employees or interns for your own operation?