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Cooks, Restaurant
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Cooks prepare, season, and cook a wide range of foods, which may include soups, salads, entrees, and desserts.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for cooks, restaurant are expected to grow by 12%, and should have about 195,700 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Cooks, restaurant are more likely to be automated than 89% of other careers.
Workforce size
Cooks, restaurant, with 1,231,900 workers, form a larger workforce than 97% of careers.
Only 5% of cooks have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by cooks
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
Fewer cooks have bachelor's degrees than 83% of other careeers.
The median (middle) salary for 93% of all other jobs is higher than the middle salary for cooks, restaurant. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most cooks, restaurant.
This job's median $27KAll jobs' median $39K$24K$38K20142015201620172018$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50K
Context: Median Salary
Women account for 36% of cooks -- that's a larger percentage than 50% of other jobs.
Gender of cooks
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For cooks, the median men's salary was 12% more the median woman's salary.
About 28% of cooks are minority, and 39% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of cooks
Pacific Islander
American Indian
Context: Foreign-born workers (39%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Cooks, Restaurant per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 24% of cooks, and 32% have company-sponsored health insurance (13% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for 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 cooks, restaurant who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (77%)
  • Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings (66%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (56%)
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations (46%)
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People (43%)
  • Consequence of Error (35%)
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do 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. In particular, the ACS data is reported for the larger career group cooks, which combines the data for 6 careers, including cooks, restaurant. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data is classified by SOC specialty, and excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for cooks, restaurant, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for cooks, restaurant compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for cooks, restaurant (BLS Salary Data)
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
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. Additionally, we only have ACS survey data for the larger career category and not for the specialty level. We first show the full salary distribution for all cooks, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for cooks compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for cooks (ACS Salary Data)
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
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 cooks, restaurant 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 Cooks (ACS)
Private for-profit (86.5%)
Private not-for-profit (3.8%)
Local government (3.3%)
State government (2.2%)
Federal government (1.3%)
Self-employed incorporated (1.1%)
Self-employed not incorporated (1.6%)
Working without pay (0.2%)
Distribution: Salaries of cooks by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses. These salaries were reported for the larger career group of cooks, which combines the 6 specialties for this career.
$21K$20K$22K$19K$19K$25K$21K$28K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of cooks, restaurant 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. Remember that the BLS salaries are for the specialty cooks, restaurant, and may differ signficantly from the ACS salary estimates which combine several career specialties.
$27K$28K$27K$25K$0$10,000$20,000$30,000$40,000$50,000State governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for 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.

$22K$22K$22K$16K$22K$22K$23K$20K$21K$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
050K100K150K200K250KNumber 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
Cooks and gender

With 36% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 50% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
Gender of Cooks
Men (64%)
Women (36%)
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 cooks, with the median salary for men 12% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

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. Cooks have one of the smaller percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job lower than that for 65% of other jobs.


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 and origin of 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 cooks than for 83% of other careers. This career hires a larger percentage of foreign-born workers than most other careers.

Race/origin of cooks
White (59% )
Black (16% )
Other (14% )
Asian (6% )
Multiracial (3% )
Hispanic (1% )
American Indian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
Distribution: Salaries for 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.

$20K$20K$20K$20K$21K$21K$21K$22K$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50KAmerican IndianBlackMultiracialWhiteHispanicOtherPacific IslanderAsian
Distribution: Salaries for cooks by nativity
$20K$22K$0$10K$20K$30K$40KAll native citizensAll foreign-born

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 cooks, restaurant

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), cooks, restaurant typically hold no formal educational credential.

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 cooks as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for cooks.

Education attained by cooks
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Details: Education and training recommended for cooks, restaurant

Vocational cooking schools, professional culinary institutes, and some colleges offer culinary programs for aspiring cooks. These programs generally last from a few months to 2 years and may offer courses in advanced cooking techniques, international cuisines, and various cooking styles. To enter these programs, candidates may be required to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Depending on the type and length of the program, graduates generally qualify for entry-level positions as a restaurant cook.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for cooks? Below we see the distribution of cooks salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as 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.

$20K$20K$21K$22K$24K$23K$24K$27K$0$20K$40K$60KNone (28%)High School (42%)Some College (20%)Associate's Degree (5%)Bachelor's Degree (4%)Master's Degree (0%)Professional Deg/Doct (0%)Doctorate (0%)
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.

Education level of awarded degrees
Less than bachelor's
bachelor's degree
Higher than bachelor's
Gender of graduates
Race/origin of graduates
Number of degrees awarded in 2017
Culinary Arts
Cooking and Related Culinary Arts
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for cooks

What jobs will most 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 cooks reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

CooksFood preparation workersChefs and head cooksWaiters and waitressesCashiersFood service managersFirst-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workersCombined food preparation and serving workersHand laborers and freight, stock, and material moversFood preparation and serving workers
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for 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 7 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as cooks as well as 1% of respondents after working as cooks. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for cooks: full listings

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

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Read about cooks, restaurant
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Cooks typically do the following:

  • Ensure the freshness of food and ingredients
  • Weigh, measure, and mix ingredients according to recipes
  • Bake, grill, or fry meats, fish, vegetables, and other foods
  • Boil and steam meats, fish, vegetables, and other foods
  • Arrange, garnish, and sometimes serve food
  • Clean work areas, equipment, utensils, and dishes
  • Cook, handle, and store food or ingredients

Cooks usually work under the direction of chefs, head cooks, or food service managers. Large restaurants and food service establishments often have multiple menus and large kitchen staffs. Teams of restaurant cooks, sometimes called assistant cooks or line cooks, work at assigned stations equipped with the necessary types of stoves, grills, pans, and ingredients.

Job titles often reflect the principal ingredient cooks prepare or the type of cooking they do—vegetable cook, fry cook, or grill cook, for example.

Cooks use a variety of kitchen equipment, including broilers, grills, slicers, grinders, and blenders.

The responsibilities of cooks vary depending on the type of food service establishment, the size of the facility, and the level of service offered. However, in all establishments, they follow sanitation procedures when handling food. For example, they store food and ingredients at the correct temperatures to prevent bacterial growth.

The following are examples of types of cooks:

Restaurant cooks prepare a wide selection of dishes and cook most orders individually. Some restaurant cooks may order supplies and help maintain the stock room.

Fast-food cooks prepare a limited selection of menu items in fast-food restaurants. They cook and package food, such as hamburgers and fried chicken, to be kept warm until served. For more information on workers who prepare and serve items in fast-food restaurants, see the profiles on food preparation workers and food and beverage serving and related workers.

Institution and cafeteria cooks work in the kitchens of schools, cafeterias, businesses, hospitals, and other institutions. Although they typically prepare a large quantity of a limited number of entrees, vegetables, and desserts, according to preset menus, they do sometimes customize meals according to diners’ dietary considerations.

Short-order cooks prepare foods in restaurants and coffee shops that emphasize fast service and quick food preparation. They usually prepare sandwiches, fry eggs, and cook french fries, often working on several orders at the same time.

Private household cooks, sometimes called personal chefs, plan and prepare meals in private homes, according to the client’s tastes and dietary needs. They order groceries and supplies, clean the kitchen, and wash dishes and utensils. They also may cater parties, holiday meals, luncheons, and other social events. Private household cooks typically work full-time for one client, although many are self-employed or employed by an agency, regularly making meals for multiple clients.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

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

Cooks need to understand orders and follow recipes to prepare dishes correctly.
Cooks should have excellent hand–eye coordination. For example, they need to use proper knife techniques for cutting, chopping, and dicing.
Physical stamina
Cooks spend a lot of time standing in one place, cooking food over hot stoves, and cleaning work areas.
Sense of taste and smell
Cooks must have a keen sense of taste and smell to prepare meals that customers enjoy.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for cooks, restaurant
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) for 93% of all other jobs were higher than the median (middle) salary for cooks, restaurant. 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 $27KAll jobs' median $39K$26K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for cooks, restaurant are anticipated to grow by 12% over the next decade; only 19% of jobs are predicted to grow more.

The projected employment for cooks, restaurant 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.

Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
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 cooks, restaurant? 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 cooks, restaurant. 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.

One important factor in the differences between ACS and BLS data is that the ACS numbers are for all cooks, comprised of all specialities listed in the menu bar, and you can choose to view the BLS at the specialty or full career level.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Number of Cooks, Restaurant per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where cooks, restaurant 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 cooks compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for 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. The ACS salaries are for all cooks, which combines the specialities from which you can choose at the top of the page.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Median salary ratio: Cooks, Restaurant to all workers (BLS for this specialty)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which cooks, restaurant 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
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 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?
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