Up until very recently, one had to be self-taught to become an expert within the plant-based “niche.” Be it in nutrition or a professional kitchen, today’s vegan professionals learned the basics of their work in an animal-focused world, having to break some of the rules, experiment, and discover industry-specific reading material on their own. Now, you don’t have to self-educate to become a plant-based professional. Higher education institutions, from culinary schools to universities, are slowly starting to realize the potential of the plant-based movement. Study up on these five colleges to find the program that fits your career endeavors.

1. Loma Linda University
This small, southern California university has made academic history by offering the region’s first and only doctoral program in nutrition. The Loma Linda University School of Public Health launched its Ph.D. program in plant-based nutrition in fall 2018. The program is heavily research-based, as the school is surrounded by a vegetarian-dense community. In fact, the school has hosted the International Conference on Vegetarian Nutrition, an event that occurs every five years, for the past 35 years.

2. University of California Berkeley
In the start-up capital of the U.S., UC Berkeley has established an Alternative Meats Lab as part of its Engineering Department to offer students the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience in the emerging field of sustainable food technology. The spring course, Challenge Lab: Alternative Meat, is part of the school’s Certificate in Entrepreneurship & Technology curriculum. Students are paired in teams to build and present the most innovative product by the end of the semester. Beyond the classroom, the greater San Francisco area has become home to a number of plant-based and clean meat startups, including Impossible Foods, New Wave, Clara Foods, and Memphis Meat.

3. Cosumnes River College
This Sacramento-based community college is offering more than just general education courses. Cosumnes is paving the way for junior colleges to offer innovative classes, such as the new Plant-Based Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture Certificate program. Students working on their Associate’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics are eligible to enroll.

4. T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
You don’t have to be a college student to receive higher education in plant-based nutrition. Cornell University’s online platform, eCornell, offers a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition—no admissions essay required. The course is facilitated by the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies program, a nonprofit that partners with this digital learning space to provide higher level education to the public. Students must complete three two-week courses to obtain their certificate.

5. Institute of Culinary Education
An established culinary school, the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) has just partnered with the Natural Gourmet Institute (NGI) to offer its students a diploma in Health-Supportive Culinary Arts. This new professional chef’s training program is completely plant-based and allows ICE students to take both mandatory and recreational courses in plant-based cuisine offered by the NGI. To facilitate this new emphasis on plant-based and holistic nutrition, ICE debuted its Natural Gourmet Center, where students can explore beyond the traditional French cooking techniques and embrace exciting new plant-based cuisine.


Tanya Flink is a writer and journalist living in Orange County, CA.