diploma, certificate, associates, bachelors?
My nephew went to the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill in Philadelphia. His was the first year that they offered a bachelor's degree, so he took that option. Because he went to school year round, it took 3 + years instead of 4. He had a a decent amount of experience in bars & restaurants, both serving & managing, and thought about taking the management track. My sister advised him to go the culinary route because her assessment was that he could always pick up the management/business skills. She felt that going the culinary route would give him better grounding. If he ever found himself in a management position, at the very least his culinary skills would give him "street creds".
As it turned out, he is a gifted chef. He was hired right out of school into Hyatt's management training program in the culinary end of things. He's on his second assignment, having helped to open Hyatt's brand new facility in San Antonio, and looks to be named an Executive Sous in his next assignment.
I have to tell you, though, that he puts in a tremendous amount of hours. Granted, he is driven, but that's one of the things you buy into if you go culinary. I'm not so sure that the Hyatt interns for the other parts of their operation put in nearly those kinds of hours.
as has been mentioned, it really is an individual choice. I have certificates in restaurant management and culinary arts, and for when I was in the food service industry those were just fine, combined with experience (internships etc.). I would say most places, even fine dining are willing to work with individuals that they can see have talent and want to grow. I'm not in food service now, but if you don't have your bachelors I would recommend that mostly because I am an advocate of higher education and the bachelors is going to denote to future employers a certain level of education they expect from you (i.e. good communication/writing/decision making skills).
Take a look at all the programs available to you and make your decision based on what your future goals are.
I checked out your blog. You're already way ahead of your would-be fellow students in culinary school, who are more concerned with jello shots and late night Big Macs. I think you should grovel work your way into any number of fine dining restaurants where you live. The pay will suck and it will be a sacrifice, but you're not paying them, and you'll pick up some pro cooking chops. I'd hire you tomorrow if you lived here. Give yourself 4 or 5 years of humble servitude and it will pay off. Bonus if you already have a degree in another field.
You should consider "everything" in your choice. A friend went to Culinary School, was fine several years, while in practice or working. He reached a stalemate when places wanted the Chef to have superior management with emphasis on financial skills. He slipped on skipping a Bachelors Degree, and going back to school is out of the equation.
How do you decide what?
What do you want to accomplish? Do you ultimately want to cook or manage a restaurant, or maybe do broader hospitality work like resort administration?
Look at the people who are already doing what you want to do, whatever that is. How did they get to where they are now? Talk to them - if they had it to do again, what would they have done differently with regard to their education?
If you are truly casting about without any sense of direction, enroll in an accredited degree program. Everyone needs general education and the process will help you explore what you want to do (sometimes by the process of elimination).
Best of luck to you in your journey.
Seconds on this.
What part of the business do you want to enter? The following list is by no means comprehensive: food photography, food writing & editing, catering, events planning, institutional f&b management (hotel/school/cruise ship/corporate cafeteria/hospital), restaurant cooking, catering, wedding cake baker & decorator, butcher, personal chef, nutritionist. Figure out which one(s) interest you, and try to speak to people in that field, asking the advice outlined above.