Students prepping for mock service in the ICE kitchen

How Long is Culinary School?

It can be flexible depending on your schedule and program.

Culinary school isn't a one-size-fits-all experience. With courses offered year-round at different times of the day, your time at ICE can range in length and fit into your schedule.

Something you may be considering when making the decision to begin a cooking career is how long a formal education will take. The duration and time commitment of any given culinary curriculum depends on a number of factors. Determining how long culinary school might be for you requires a couple of considerations.

How Much Time Do You Want to Spend?

My own culinary journey began because I was looking for a dramatic change, but I already had a master’s degree under my belt. I wanted to quit my full-time job to attend culinary school, but I was in my mid-30s and had already spent several years of my young adult life as a full-time student so I was eager to establish culinary credentials in a quicker time frame.

A five-day-a-week diploma program at ICE can be completed in a little more than six months, whereas an evening or hybrid track can take between nine months to a year. I began my Culinary Arts program at ICE at the end of February 2011, completed coursework in mid-August of the same year, and was finished with my externship and working full-time again in a new setting by mid-October.

How Much Time Can You Commit Each Week?

Culinary school is still an option for you even while maintaining a full-time job. The programs at ICE have options for attending a few evenings a week or weekends-only at the New York campus, in addition to Monday to Friday, four hours a day. The evening and weekend schedules can extend the number of total months of your culinary school program at ICE, but it’s a viable option for those who work, often career changers. (Long before I was attending ICE, one of my roommates was pursuing Pastry & Baking Arts while keeping her full-time job, bringing home literal buckets of desserts several nights a week.)

Consider also that even the weekday programs aren’t entirely full-time in the same way a full-time job or a full-time degree program might be. My own culinary program at ICE was held in the morning. I attended five days a week and was done by noon every day. Though I had quit my full-time office job to attend culinary school, I was able to supplement my income — and my education — by taking on a front-of-house restaurant job in the evenings and weekends during my program. Several of my culinary school classmates began line cook jobs in the afternoons and evenings before the start of their official externship.

2019 ICE graduates toss their toques
Institute of Culinary Education students graduate from diploma programs in 8-13 months.

What Are Your Career Goals?

The focus of coursework at ICE is on cooking (or on applied management principles) and the various programs at ICE's New York campus are considered diploma (not degree) programs. A culinary or management diploma is typically all that is needed to get you in the door at a restaurant or hotel for a trail or externship, which is the first step toward the possibility of securing a permanent job. You will have experienced all the necessary skills during your program to be capable of performing extremely well in a kitchen, hotel or culinary management role.

One of the unique opportunities that ICE offers students pursuing management or entrepreneurship is a dual diploma in Restaurant & Culinary Management and one of three other diploma programs. Students who enroll in Culinary Arts, Pastry & Baking Arts, or Health-Supportive Culinary Arts can take the management program at the same time or afterward with a discount. Graduates can also pursue continuing education in Artisan Bread Baking, the Art of Cake Decorating or Intensive Sommelier training to specialize while adding a certificate to their resume.

While you can launch a hospitality career with a diploma as 14,000 ICE alumni have, the Los Angeles campus began offering AOS degrees in 2021. You can learn more about those programs in California here.

In short, calculating the length of attending culinary school isn’t an exact science, but an Admissions coordinator can help you find the program and schedule that suits your ambitions and obligations.

Pursue your culinary passions with career training at ICE.

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