What Certificates are Needed to Become a Cook?

by | Aug 12, 2021

In general, official certification isn’t required to work as a chef or cook in the U.S. However, there are many certifications chefs can obtain to demonstrate they have the necessary skills to run a kitchen and meet specific industry standards. 



There are many ways of becoming a professional cook. Many chefs start their careers right after high school as kitchen assistants under experienced cooks. Other people receive formal training at university culinary programs or a culinary school. 



With a degree or certification from a reputable school, you can increase your chances of landing a job at a great restaurant, usually as a line cook or a sous chef. From there, you can start gaining experience so you can eventually become chef de cuisine.




Should You Get a Degree or a Certification?


The main difference between a culinary degree and a certification is that a degree is usually a more in-depth program that takes longer to complete. However, a certification program can be a quick and effective way of accessing new opportunities and jobs. While a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts might take four years to complete, you can get hands-on experience in a few months with a certification course through a college or private institution. 



Certificate programs are a lot less expensive than attending a culinary institute. Culinary school certainly is a fantastic experience, but for people who want to get started as soon as possible, a certification is a more affordable and faster way of getting into the industry. 




What are the Benefits of Certification?


Certifications are an excellent way of improving and showcasing your skills as a cook. Even if you already have a cooking degree, specific certifications can make your resume look better and give you an advantage in the hiring process. 



People without a cooking degree and a few years of experience under their belt can benefit significantly from a certification. Real work experience combined with an official accreditation looks excellent in the eyes of employers. Even seasoned chefs and head cooks can benefit from specific certifications, adding a new specific set of skills to their toolbox. 



Various organizations in the U.S. offer educational opportunities for cooks and chefs. These include the American Culinary Federation, the Culinary Institute of America, and the United States Personal Chef Association.



American Culinary Federation


The American Culinary Association offers up to 16 different certifications to help you advance your cooking career. There is a wide range of certifications across many areas and for different experience levels. For example, they offer both an entry-level certificate and an executive chef certification. The Certified Fundamentals Cook certification requires no previous experience and is a great place to start your culinary career. 



Culinary Institute of America


The Culinary Institute of America is known for its in-depth associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees. They also offer an Accelerated Culinary Arts Certificate located in Napa Valley that lasts 30 weeks. This program is a great way of starting your journey toward becoming a master chef. 



United States Personal Chef Association


If you want to become a personal chef, the United States Personal Chef Association offers an excellent certification. With it, you’ll be able to grow your foodservice business as a personal chef with new clients and opportunities. 




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