Chefs and head cooks
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Overview
Chefs and head cooks oversee the daily food preparation at restaurants and other places where food is served. They direct kitchen staff and handle any food-related concerns.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for chefs and head cooks are expected to grow by 10%, and should have about 20,500 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Chefs and head cooks are less likely to be automated than 75% of other careers.
Workforce size
Chefs and head cooks, with 146,500 workers, form a larger workforce than 74% of careers.
Education
Only 13% of chefs and head cooks have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by chefs and head cooks
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
Fewer chefs and head cooks have bachelor's degrees than 64% of other careeers.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for 50% of all other jobs is higher than the middle salary for chefs and head cooks. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most chefs and head cooks.
This job's median $48KAll jobs' median $39K$45K$38K20142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 19% of chefs and head cooks -- that's a smaller percentage than 65% of other jobs.
Gender of chefs and head cooks
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For chefs and head cooks, the median men's salary was 20% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 33% of chefs and head cooks are minority, and 36% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of chefs and head cooks
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (36%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Chefs and Head Cooks per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 30% of chefs and head cooks, and 45% have company-sponsored health insurance (16% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for chefs and head cooks
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of chefs and head cooks who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (96%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (88%)
  • Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings (84%)
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People (59%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment (55%)
  • Exposed to Contaminants (54%)
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations (52%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Conditions (44%)
  • Consequence of Error (39%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do chefs and head cooks earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for chefs and head cooks, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for chefs and head cooks compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for chefs and head cooks (BLS Salary Data)
$48K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$48K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. We first show the full salary distribution for all chefs and head cooks, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for chefs and head cooks compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for chefs and head cooks (ACS Salary Data)
$31K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$31K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where chefs and head cooks work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Chefs and head cooks (ACS)
Private for-profit (87.0%)
Private not-for-profit (4.0%)
Local government (1.0%)
State government (0.7%)
Federal government (0.5%)
Self-employed incorporated (3.7%)
Self-employed not incorporated (2.9%)
Working without pay (0.3%)
Distribution: Salaries of chefs and head cooks by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$31K$31K$34K$34K$29K$26K$25K$41K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of chefs and head cooks by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$48K$71K$45K$48K$51K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for chefs and head cooks

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$33K$21K$35K$31K$35K$28K$32K$32K$30K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
020K40K60K80KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Chefs and head cooks and gender

With 19% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 65% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
19%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Chefs and head cooks
Men (81%)
Women (19%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%. The situation is a little better for chefs and head cooks, with the median salary for men 20% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$26K$31K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Chefs and head cooks have one of the higher percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase for the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job even higher than that for 60% of other jobs.

20%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of chefs and head cooks

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. There is a higher percentage of minority chefs and head cooks than for 93% of other careers. This career hires a larger percentage of foreign-born workers than most other careers.

Race/origin of chefs and head cooks
White (59% )
Asian (17% )
Black (11% )
Other (8% )
Multiracial (3% )
Hispanic (1% )
American Indian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
33%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
36%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for chefs and head cooks by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$26K$27K$27K$29K$30K$30K$33K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KAsianAmerican IndianOtherBlackHispanicMultiracialWhite
Distribution: Salaries for chefs and head cooks by nativity
$28K$32K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KAll foreign-bornAll native citizens

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by chefs and head cooks

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chefs and head cooks typically hold a high school diploma or equivalent.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as chefs and head cooks as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for chefs and head cooks.

Education attained by chefs and head cooks
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for chefs and head cooks

Although postsecondary education is not required for chefs and head cooks, many attend programs at community colleges, technical schools, culinary arts schools, and 4-year colleges. Candidates are typically required to have a high school diploma or equivalent to enter these programs.

Students in culinary programs spend most of their time in kitchens, practicing their cooking skills. Programs cover all aspects of kitchen work, including menu planning, food sanitation procedures, and purchasing and inventory methods. Most training programs also require students to gain experience in a commercial kitchen through an internship or apprenticeship program.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for chefs and head cooks

Although not required, certification can show competence and lead to advancement and higher pay. The American Culinary Federation certifies personal chefs, in addition to various levels of chefs, such as certified sous chefs or certified executive chefs. Certification standards are based primarily on work-related experience and formal training. Minimum work experience for certification can range from about 6 months to 5 years, depending on the level of certification.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for chefs and head cooks? Below we see the distribution of chefs and head cooks salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as chefs and head cooks, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$25K$29K$31K$37K$36K$33K$0$20K$40K$60K$80KNone (15%)High School (31%)Some College (23%)Associate's Degree (18%)Bachelor's Degree (12%)Master's Degree (1%)
Certificate/degree pathways

The Department of Education recommends the following college degree programs as preparation for this career. You can click a program row to learn more about the program and explore a list of schools that offer the program.

Program
Education
Education level of awarded degrees
Less than bachelor's
bachelor's degree
Higher than bachelor's
Gender
Gender of graduates
Men
Women
Race/Origin
Race/origin of graduates
White
Minority
International
Number of degrees awarded in 2017
Culinary Arts
16,792
Baking and Pastry Arts
6,850
Cooking and Related Culinary Arts
4,681
Restaurant, Culinary, and Catering Management
2,455
Culinary Science
170
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for chefs and head cooks

What jobs will most chefs and head cooks hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of chefs and head cooks reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Chefs and head cooksCooksFood service managersFood preparation workersFirst-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workersFirst-line supervisors of retail sales workers
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for chefs and head cooks

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 4 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as chefs and head cooks as well as 1% of respondents after working as chefs and head cooks. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Lateral-move careers for chefs and head cooks
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Cooks
358,700
$0$200K$21K
Food preparation workers
158,000
$0$200K$19K
First-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workers
147,300
$0$200K$25K
Food service managers
37,100
$0$200K$37K
Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for chefs and head cooks: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as chefs and head cooks? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of chefs and head cooks surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for chefs and head cooks
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Waiters and waitresses
522,900
$0$200K$21K
1.7%
Cooks
358,700
$0$200K$21K
18.4%
Food preparation workers
158,000
$0$200K$19K
3.4%
First-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workers
147,300
$0$200K$25K
2.7%
Food service managers
37,100
$0$200K$37K
2.4%
Chefs and head cooks
20,500
$0$200K$31K
47.4%
No occupation
9.8%
Read about chefs and head cooks
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Chefs and head cooks typically do the following:

  • Check the freshness of food and ingredients
  • Supervise and coordinate activities of cooks and other food preparation workers
  • Develop recipes and determine how to present dishes
  • Plan menus and ensure the quality of meals
  • Inspect supplies, equipment, and work areas for cleanliness and functionality
  • Hire, train, and supervise cooks and other food preparation workers
  • Order and maintain an inventory of food and supplies
  • Monitor sanitation practices and follow kitchen safety standards

Chefs and head cooks use a variety of kitchen and cooking equipment, including step-in coolers, high-quality knives, meat slicers, and grinders. They also have access to large quantities of meats, spices, and produce. Some chefs use scheduling and purchasing software to help them in their administrative tasks.

Chefs who run their own restaurant or catering business are often busy with kitchen and office work. Some chefs use social media to promote their business by advertising new menu items or addressing customer reviews.

The following are examples of types of chefs and head cooks:

Executive chefs, head cooks, and chefs de cuisine are responsible primarily for overseeing the operation of a kitchen. They coordinate the work of sous chefs and other cooks, who prepare most of the meals. Executive chefs also have many duties beyond the kitchen. They design the menu, review food and beverage purchases, and often train cooks and other food preparation workers. Some executive chefs primarily handle administrative tasks and may spend less time in the kitchen.

Sous chefs are a kitchen’s second-in-command. They supervise the restaurant’s cooks, prepare meals, and report results to the head chefs. In the absence of the head chef, sous chefs run the kitchen.

Private household chefs typically work full time for one client, such as a corporate executive, university president, or diplomat, who regularly entertains as part of his or her official duties.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of chefs and head cooks? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Business skills
Executive chefs and chefs who run their own restaurant need to understand the restaurant business. They should know how to budget for supplies, set prices, and manage workers so that the restaurant is profitable.
Communication skills
Chefs must communicate their instructions clearly and effectively to staff so that customers’ orders are prepared correctly.
Creativity
Chefs and head cooks need to be creative in order to develop and prepare interesting and innovative recipes. They should be able to use various ingredients to create appealing meals for their customers.
Dexterity
Chefs and head cooks need excellent dexterity, including proper knife techniques for cutting, chopping, and dicing.
Leadership skills
Chefs and head cooks must have the ability to motivate kitchen staff and develop constructive and cooperative working relationships with them.
Physical stamina
Chefs and head cooks often work long shifts and sometimes spend entire evenings on their feet, overseeing the preparation and serving of meals.
Sense of taste and smell
Chefs and head cooks must have a keen sense of taste and smell in order to inspect food quality and to design meals that their customers will enjoy.
Time-management skills
Chefs and head cooks must efficiently manage their time and the time of their staff. They ensure that meals are prepared correctly and that customers are served on time, especially during busy hours.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for chefs and head cooks
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) for 50% of all other jobs were higher than the median (middle) salary for chefs and head cooks. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $48KAll jobs' median $39K$41K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for chefs and head cooks are anticipated to grow by 10% over the next decade, which is faster growth than is predicted for 63% of other jobs.

The projected employment for chefs and head cooks is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

2000201020202030050,000100,000150,000200,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most chefs and head cooks? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as chefs and head cooks. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Chefs and Head Cooks per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.01.02.03.0
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where chefs and head cooks earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for chefs and head cooks compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for chefs and head cooks.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Median salary ratio: Chefs and Head Cooks to all workers (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which chefs and head cooks earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.00.51.01.52.0
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Chefs and head cooks (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
Choose the similarity measure to compare careers
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