Career Change?

Joined Mar 29, 2020
Hello all. I am heavily considering going back to school for culinary arts but would like some thoughts/advice. Currently, I have a bachelor's degree in nursing and work as an emergency registered nurse. I've always been the creative type and culinary school has always been something in the back of my mind; and with this pandemic I think its been the push I need to seriously consider going for it. I'm still undecided though. I have the opportunity to go to the community college that I first started at to obtain an associates in culinary arts; but if I commit to this I want to have a game plan on what I'll do once I graduate. What opportunities are available for someone with an associates degree? The program is accredited by the American Culinary Federation if that helps any. I have no desire to work as a head chef or anything to that scale, but I also want to do more than work as a line cook (not that theres anything wrong with that; but in my current profession I've become accustomed to making decisions and working autonomously). As it stands right now, I really enjoy baking the most and am interested in possibly focusing on that aspect of the art. What kind of opportunities are out there?
Joined May 19, 2014
With this pandemic you are far more valuable where you are at. To the greater community in which you live especially. Some 70% of all the good folk I personally know in the hospitality business have been put out of work right now. Stay where you are at. Save a few dozen lives and know that you are appreciated immensely for who you are and what you do.
Joined Sep 21, 2001
You'll make more money in nursing than baking. But I understand why you might decide to take on something aside from nursing. Honestly? Before you make a big move like that, is there any way you can get some experience in a culinary or baking setting to see how you like working and having to perform in that setting?
For me the only way to get better at cooking and baking was to dive in and see what I could find. In doing that though, I found myself in work experiences that now looking back I had to go through to get where I am? Those places were not always pleasant, happy, safe, or well paying. I made it though. And I keep doing it, so it must have worked out alright.
And as for school? Going to school will teach you skills and method. If you want to be any good at baking and/or cooking have a plan for what you want to do with those skills once you get them. School doesn't teach a person creativity or vision. Those are BYO.
Thank you for being there for us during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Joined Feb 8, 2009
I understand not wanting to be a Nurse in todays world. That being said Look into a Baking program that would maybe allow you to open your own small bakery in time. If you don't want to be a Chef there really isn't any money being in or around the front line position. If your interested in Catering then cooking skills would be necessary. Depending on your area there may not be many Pastry Chef positions available. I think pinpointing your desired long term goals may help you down the right path.....Good luck and stay healthy and thank your all you do........ChefBillyB
Joined Aug 21, 2004
My wife was an ER nurse for years. Nurses are always in demand, which means that they can pretty much pick and chose their schedules, working as much or as little as they want, days and hours that they want, etc. Use that to your advantage and drop down to part time nurse and find work in a bakery or pastry shop to get an idea of whether the industry will be a good fit for you or not, before enrolling school for culinary arts. I would suggest working in the industry for bare minimum 6 months, although a year would be better. Enjoying baking and doing it for a living are two totally separate animals. They are the same thing...only different!!! :~)
Joined Oct 31, 2012
Without question you need to work in a bakery/restaurant/anywhere before you drop being a nurse. As the others have pointed out, loving to bake and working in the industry are Not the same thing. So you need to know that you enjoy working in a commercial baking/cooking environment, and you may end up in one where professional standards may not feel necessary to everyone.
I'd like to add that after many years of restaurants/hotels/etc. I ended up working foodservice in a local hospital. Hospitals are a different animal. What I like about it is that the general attitude throughout the whole place that carries over into the foodservice operation is one of necessity and urgency. Those who don't carry their weight are dismissed fairly quickly. Incompetence and laziness is not tolerated. I'm sure you already know this from your experience. If you switch to foodservice in any form, You may not find this same atmosphere.
In addition to helping you know if you'll like it, getting some experience will help you see what type of work atmospheres and people you will encounter. Not all of them of course, but enough.
Fwiw, under the current situation your efforts and talents have never been more noticed or appreciated. And never more needed. Please don't quit now. We are all scared.
Joined Mar 1, 2017
Here are the opportunities you will have after graduating with A.S. in culinary arts: 0

Here some other facts that apply to a life spent in the culinary profession:

- 70-80 hr weeks;
- 0 benefits/time off for at least the first 5 years, probably 10, until you reach some sort of management position;
- You will be working weekends and holidays as they are the busiest times.
- You will have no time for a social life;;
- You will have no time for a romantic life, either;
- The last two points mean you will be working when your kids (assuming you somehow find the time to have a relationship and kids) are having their birthdays, school plays, sports games and recitals;
- This is a profession with one of the highest substance abuse rates second only to Dentists;
- This profession is in the top five for divorce rates;
- There is no job security;
- You will be at least 5 years into your career before you ever start having a retirement and then, maybe;
- The pay sucks - imagine trying to make ends meet on about 1/3 of your present take home pay;
- The average career in the culinary world lasts about 18 months with or without culinary school;
- A culinary education is extremely narrow and rather expensive. Outside of the food industry, it will not help you land a job in any other career. Yet, you will still have to pay those hefty student loans.

Here's the big hurdle: learning that cooking/baking commercially is not even in the same galaxy as cooking at home for friends and family. Everything from the recipes to the equipment is completely different. Most people who leave this profession do so because they cannot adjust to life in a commercial kitchen.

My advice: If you can do anything else, do anything else. But, should you decide to leave the relative security of the nursing profession, at least spend 6 months to a year working in a commercial kitchen and see for yourself if you are right for this sort of work before you commit to an expensive culinary education.

Trust me when I say this......there are few who work their whole lives in this industry and make it to retirement or have a retirement to look forward to.

If I sound grim, its not intentional and I apologize. But, this is what this life is like. There's no sugar coating here. Its a hard life for both you and your future family, especially your family. Give this a lot of thought. When you think you're ready to make the switch, think on it some another 10 years. Meanwhile, there's no law that says you can't continue to be a nurse and work part time for the bakery on the corner. Trust'll be far happier.

Good luck. :)
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Joined Nov 28, 2014
I'm a Career and Technical Education instructor. I teach Culinary Arts. Are you open to alternate suggestions? Given all of the time and effort you put into becoming a nurse, have you considered the possibility of becoming a CTE instructor? A lot of districts offer vocational training at the high school level for students to become nurse's aides.

I was an elementary teacher for 17 years. I spent the latter half of my career working abroad at international American schools. I was in Beirut after the Israeli Air Forced bombed the city in retaliation for Lebanon's failure to control Hezbollah in their on-going attacks against Israel. After evacuating back to the States, I found that I couldn't readjust to teaching the U.S. public schools and I opted out.

I went back to school, earned an Associate's in Culinary Arts, and worked in the food service industry as a line cook. Even though teachers don't make much, my years of experience and my Master's degree gave me a comfortable income . My income as a line cook was much less than what I made as a teacher.

After working in the food service industry for five years, I realized several things.

  1. I HATED not having sick days. As a teacher I had a certain number of sick days in which I could call off and the school would have to replace me with a substitute. In the food service industry, I had no sick days and if I found myself unable to go to work, I had to arrange for another employee who was off shift to cover for me. Assuming I could find anyone to cover, I made no money if I didn't work.
  2. My vacation days were AWFUL. As a teacher, I had a at least 4 days for Thanksgiving, two weeks for Christmas, a week for Spring Break, and two months of summer vacation. In the food service I started with one week off per year ... and the day after my vacation began, the restaurant called me in because they were short staffed. i got a lousy extra $200 in my pay check and they never gave me my vacation days back!
  3. As a teacher unless we had an open house or a school related event, my nights were my own. I had weekends and holidays off. Although I took work home as many teachers do, I worked set hours. In the restaurant I often worked double shifts and I particularly hated working swing shifts i.e. working third shift, closing and cleaning the restaurant, and then going home only to have to come back to work 5-6 hours later to work the opening shift.
I returned to education five years later as a Culinary Arts instructor. I've been in Nevada for 7 years and I'm making nearly twice what I made as an elementary teacher, partially because I'm considered a specialist but also because I moved to Nevada from Texas which have different rates of pay. The fact that I volunteered to teach at a rural Title 1 (low income) area school came with an unexpected bonus that's added to my salary.

Prior to our Covid-19 school shutdowns, my official work hours were 7:30 AM to 2:30 PM, M-Fri. I typically worked from 6 AM to 3 PM with an extra hour on Monday afternoons that was devoted to weekly shopping for culinary supplies.

While your life is your own and you're certainly free to pursue an Associate's degree and to find work at a low paying entry level position, if you were to become a Career and Technical Education teacher, you'd be better paid, you'd have better benefits, and you'd also have set working hours.

Most states have alternative certification tracks that allow you to use your bachelor's degree and relevant work experience to apply for a provisional (temporary) teaching certificate. With your education and background, you could easily become a CTE instructor. If you're interested, google "alternative teacher certification" for whatever state you're in. This search should turn up a link to a webpage that you could read to see what the path to teacher certification would look like. There should also be a phone number for you to call if you had specific questions about this process.

As an alternative, you might also consider becoming as school nurse. School budgets being what they are, you'd probably be assigned to 3-5 schools that you'd cover with the assistance of a nurse's aide. In my district, each school has a nurse's aide who is there through the week. The school nurse rotates between schools on a weekly basis. As with teachers, this would be on a 9 month contract. You'd have set working hours and you'd have the same vacation days that the teachers and students have. While your prior years of experience as a nurse would NOT be counted if you were to become a teacher (because districts only count years of prior teaching experience), your prior experience as a nurse would certainly count on the salary schedule.

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