How Much Does Culinary School Cost

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Is it worth going to culinary school?

Celebrity chefs, cooking shows, cookware deals, and New York Times best-selling cookbooks have made the dream of a life in the culinary world and there is an increasing number of students who are considering a culinary career. Culinary school enrollment is on the rise, and the schools are not only competitive and selective about who can be accepted, but they also come with steep tuition rates.

How much does culinary school cost?

The average cost of culinary school is over $30,000. For many students, this is a very steep price to pay and often requires the use of financial aid. It is critical when looking at culinary schools to determine whether the tuition cost covers the whole degree program or only a portion of it. Often the tuition structure is not the same as a typical four-year college education. Instead, many culinary school tuitions cover the entirety of the degree The Culinary Institute of America charges nearly $13,000 per semester for a nine-semester program. Meanwhile, for a program like the Arizona Culinary Institute has, a nine-month program will cost approximately $25,990. It’s important to investigate these kinds of details when researching culinary schools as the difference in costs and timeframes for programs can vary significantly. 

Like the cost of many education programs, culinary school tuition rates are steep and rising. Currently, culinary school tuition typically costs over $30,000. That’s a steep price for most students to consider, and one that will force many students to utilize financial aid.

Why is Culinary School So Expensive?

Culinary schools provide an intensive program that requires student commitment. They will spend a lot of time in the classroom and kitchen compared to traditional four-year schools. The school must also take into account the cost of all the ingredients and tools used in culinary courses.

Just like other universities and colleges, culinary schools require students to pay various fees in addition to their tuition. Below is a rundown of the fees for one semester at The Culinary Institute of America:

Tuition costs: $12,950

Application fee: $50

Confirmation fee: $100

Culinary utensil and tool kit, textbooks and uniforms: $1,395

Board fee: $1,330

General fees: $615

TOTAL: $16,440

Types of Degrees Available

Culinary schools offer students several options for completing a degree. They may have bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees or certificates available. Some smaller schools may only offer one option while larger institutions life the CIA or Le Cordon Bleu offer all three. general, A bachelor’s degree programs are the most expensive but also provides the more experience and prestige but is typically the most expensive of the three options. 

Culinary school degrees typically focus on either culinary arts or baking and pastry making. Additionally, there are a variety of other degrees including, culinary management, culinary operation, restaurant management and hospitality management. Some of these degree programs may also be available through online schools. 

Is it worth going to culinary school?

As the myriad of tv shows, cookbooks and reality competitions would suggest, the culinary industry is notoriously competitive. Many culinary school grads still must start in low-paying jobs, which should be a consideration when thinking about the costs of culinary school. If it’s possible, try to meet with professionals in the industry and ask if they would recommend going to culinary school, with the knowledge they have from working in the industry. 

It is worthwhile to make a personal list of pros and cons, but some examples to get you started including:


  • Your job in culinary school is to learn – when you are paying money to go to school, you are there to learn and will learn much differently than if you were simply working in a restaurant completing daily tasks. Culinary school provides a structured environment where have time to work through materials and learn culinary theory and just execution.
  • You don’t have any restaurant or company affiliations which makes you very flexible – as a student you are able to  visit  various restaurants and culinary companies and trial or intern to see what their culture is like and if it is a good fit.  
  • You are building and creating access to a diverse alumni network – like a traditional four -year degree, your friends and fellow students will go own to work in a diverse array of jobs and culinary locations. This network can play a critical role in finding new positions and expanding your career.


  • Culinary school cannot teach work ethic or truly replicate a work environment – like any schooling you have to be dedicated and committed to working hard to achieve success. The same goes when you enter your first culinary job. 
  • Culinary school skills require repeated practice to stay relevant – all of the skills you use learn in culinary school like knife skills, meat cookery, plating, etc.  requires independent practice to master them. Culinary school provides an un-interrupted environment for you to start the process, but skills must be practiced continually. 
  • Culinary school is not free, and you may need to plan for debt – with the costs mentioned above you will need to factor in potential student loan debt into your overall financial plan, goals and other expenses.

Regardless of what path you take when it comes to culinary school, the culinary industry remains very competitive and you will likely need to “prove yourself” throughout your career. The culinary industry is challenging and demanding but can ultimately give you a very fulfilling career if you define your goals and continually to work hard to achieve them.

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