Career Prospects

What can you expect from a job in the culinary arts?

The culinary industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the nation. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will soon be over 12 million people employed in the industry. In fact, there’s a good possibility that the demand for trained chefs, cooks, and food preparers may soon exceed the supply.

Benefits of an Education

The vast majority of jobs in the culinary industry are entry-level positions and typically don’t require any formal culinary arts education. Some don’t even require applicants to have graduated from high school. However, these jobs are all low paying.

Those with a formal education from a cooking school may be able to start in a cook or chef role without having to spend time in one of these lower skilled and lower paying kitchen jobs. Although some graduates will be expected to pay their dues by starting in an entry-level position, they’ll be given the opportunity to move up the ranks.

An education in the culinary arts gives you a distinct advantage when applying for a high-paying job, such as an executive chef position in the kitchen of a prestigious restaurant or hotel (where hiring standards are much more demanding). Keep in mind that there’s often intense competition for these jobs.

Expected Earnings

For most culinary-school graduates, there are a number of factors that’ll determine their potential earnings. Upon graduation, most will step into jobs paying somewhere between $8.50 and $15.00 an hour. Hard working and creative graduates will move up in the industry, and can eventually expect to earn salaries in the range of $36,000 to $63,000, depending on the level of education they have achieved and if they’re able to land a job at a top-rated restaurant.

As the figures below show, the average annual salary of a chef increases proportionately to the level of education that he or she has achieved:

  • No high school diploma - $20,000
  • High school diploma - $28,000
  • Associate’s Degree - $36,000
  • Bachelor’s Degree - $50,000
  • Master’s degree - $63,000

Recent statistics show that the current average wage for cooks is around $13.50 an hour. 50 percent of cooks earn an hourly wage of between $10.00 and $19.00. The highest ten percent earn over $25.00 an hour. The median income for chefs is around $34,000 a year, but educated chefs working at the most fashionable restaurants can earn in excess of $60,000.

Advertiser Links for culinary careers