25 Best Associate in Culinary Arts Programs 2020

By the GradReports team | Updated April 1, 2020
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These 25 colleges offer the best culinary arts programs in 2020 based on median starting salaries. Graduates of the culinary arts associate degree program at University of Hawaii Maui College earned a median $37,600 in their first year after college. Coming in second, Johnson County Community College had a median salary of $34,400 for culinary arts students at the associate level.

Tuition, median salaries, and median debt were reported by the U.S. Department of Education. View our methodology for more details about these rankings or read more about the top-ranked schools.

Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Rank School Annual Tuition Median Debt Median Salary
#1 #1 $8,354 Not Reported $37,600
#2 #2 $6,600 $12,347 $34,400
#3 #3 $17,316 - $18,648 $22,625 $32,700
#4 #4 $6,120 $16,302 $31,500
#5 #5 $32,720 $12,000 $31,200
#6 #6 $5,561 $11,470 $30,200
#7 #7 $8,280 $10,250 $29,300
#8 #8 $9,611 $17,572 $28,700
#9 #9 $8,663 $8,750 $28,100
#10 #10 $8,912 $17,061 $28,100
#11 #11 $8,026 $14,666 $27,700
#12 #12 $5,248 Not Reported $27,300
#13 #13 $6,590 Not Reported $27,100
#14 #14 $11,012 $9,500 $26,900
#15 #15 $3,758 $12,950 $26,900
#16 #16 $6,578 $11,625 $26,800
#17 #17 $8,136 $11,871 $26,600
#18 #18 $15,938 $29,916 $26,600
#19 #19 $9,360 $10,156 $26,500
#20 #20 $13,338 $19,685 $26,500
#21 #21 $4,188 Not Reported $26,300
#22 #22 $6,465 $8,500 $26,200
#23 #23 $9,383 $14,491 $26,200
#24 #24 $7,649 $5,940 $26,000
#25 #25 $9,080 $14,250 $26,000

2020 Best Colleges Highlights

Learn more about the top colleges for an Associate in Culinary Arts degree. You can also read student reviews of each school by clicking on the stars. Although student reviews were not used as a ranking factor in this list, we provide ratings and reviews so students can consider the experience of alumni in their decision-making process.

Median Debt
Not Reported
Median Salary
$37,600

The culinary arts program at the University of Hawaii Maui College offers students education and choice. Students enrolled in the culinary arts program can choose between three levels of qualification, including a Certificate of Competence, a Certificate of Achievement, and a 75-credit Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts degree. The University of Hawaii Maui college prides itself on being competency-based, with a focus on teaching students practical skills and knowledge and giving them the confidence needed to succeed in the high-pressure environment of a professional kitchen.

Accredited by the American Culinary Federation, this associate degree provides the experience and qualifications necessary to succeed in the hospitality industry while students explore and grow their creativity. Students can choose between the baking track and the culinary arts track to best prepare them for their desired career paths. The culinary arts program encourages students to study cultures from all over the world and use this knowledge to expand their culinary repertoire.

Visit the University of Hawaii Maui College's website.

Median Debt
$12,347
Median Salary
$34,400

The chef apprenticeship program at Johnson Community College is an intensive, three-year course providing students with a thorough education culminating in an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts. Immediately upon enrollment, students begin paid work under American Culinary Federation-qualified chefs in a professional kitchen. Johnson Community College focuses on giving students the experience and confidence to become leaders in the kitchen through a diverse education that allows for specialization in any area or cuisine.

During the program, students learn techniques in cooking, baking, food preparation, and butchering, giving them the flexibility to work in any role in any kitchen. Students experience cooking at the highest level using Johnson Community College’s five culinary labs, innovation kitchen, and culinary theater. Upon completing the chef apprenticeship program, graduates are qualified to sit for the American Culinary Federation exams to become certified sous chefs.

Visit Johnson County Community College's website.

Median Debt
$22,625
Median Salary
$32,700

The Art Institutes offers students the opportunity to study in the culinary field best matching their passions and interests, including baking and pastry, culinary arts, culinary management, and food and beverage hospitality. Students are given instruction in all the essentials needed for a successful career in the culinary arts industry, including nutrition, food storage and safety, and inventory management.

Passion and creativity are encouraged in the culinary school at the Art Institutes, and students are taught to turn their talent and inventiveness into skill and technique. Students are motivated and challenged by a faculty experienced in their trades to study new and old culinary techniques from all over the world. The curriculum is entirely on campus, providing students with hands-on practice and the opportunity to fully engage with professors and peers in an environment identical to a working kitchen. The Art Institutes have several locations in Florida, Texas, Georgia, and Virginia.

Visit the Art Institutes' website.

Median Debt
$16,302
Median Salary
$31,500

Graduates of the culinary arts program Kirkwood Community College earn an Associate of Applied Science in Culinary Arts that is fully accredited by the American Culinary Federation. The two-year culinary arts program offers a comprehensive study of the field and places students on a direct path leading to a career as a chef, cook, baker, caterer, kitchen manager, or one of many other vocations in the field. While completing the course, students work in the Hotel at Kirkwood Center restaurant, a professional kitchen that serves guests of the hotel and conference centers. Gaining this professional experience while studying is an invaluable asset when looking for a job after graduation. In the final year of the program, students are tasked with organizing and running entire catering events at the college. With a focus on practical skills that can be used in any culinary profession, students learn not only cooking and baking, but also health and sanitation, hospitality, and management.

Visit Kirkwood Community College's website.

Median Debt
$12,000
Median Salary
$31,200

The associate degree program in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America endeavors to provide students a thorough education in the skills and techniques of cooking and baking in addition to practical knowledge of working in the culinary arts industry. Using state-of-the-art equipment in classrooms designed to resemble real professional kitchens, students learn to craft and develop flavors and to create menus.

The Culinary Institute of America also encourages learning on the business side of the food industry through coursework in business management, financing, and professional communication. This coursework provides students interested in restaurant ownership or management a framework of knowledge to build upon once entering the culinary industry.

A paid internship provides students the chance to practice and perfect their skills in one of the Culinary Institute of America’s more than 2,000 culinary industry partners. Students who have previously worked in the industry may be exempt from the internship, enabling them to graduate earlier.

Visit the Culinary Institute of America's website.

Median Debt
$11,470
Median Salary
$30,200
Median Debt
$10,250
Median Salary
$29,300
Median Debt
$17,572
Median Salary
$28,700
Median Debt
$8,750
Median Salary
$28,100
Median Debt
$17,061
Median Salary
$28,100
Median Debt
$14,666
Median Salary
$27,700
Median Debt
Not Reported
Median Salary
$27,300
Median Debt
Not Reported
Median Salary
$27,100
Median Debt
$9,500
Median Salary
$26,900
Median Debt
$12,950
Median Salary
$26,900
Median Debt
$11,625
Median Salary
$26,800
Median Debt
$11,871
Median Salary
$26,600
Median Debt
$29,916
Median Salary
$26,600
Median Debt
$10,156
Median Salary
$26,500
Median Debt
$19,685
Median Salary
$26,500
Median Debt
Not Reported
Median Salary
$26,300
Median Debt
$8,500
Median Salary
$26,200
Median Debt
$14,491
Median Salary
$26,200
Median Debt
$5,940
Median Salary
$26,000
Median Debt
$14,250
Median Salary
$26,000