Food Preparation Workers
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Perform a variety of food preparation duties other than cooking, such as preparing cold foods and shellfish, slicing meat, and brewing coffee or tea.
Titles for this career often contain these words
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Responsibilities and activities

Food preparation workers typically do the following:

  • Clean and sanitize work areas, equipment, utensils, and dishes
  • Weigh or measure ingredients, such as meats and liquids
  • Prepare fruit and vegetables for cooking
  • Cut meats, poultry, and seafood and prepare them for cooking
  • Mix ingredients for salads
  • Store food in designated containers and storage areas to prevent spoilage
  • Take and record the temperature of food and food storage areas
  • Place food trays over food warmers for immediate service

Food preparation workers perform routine, repetitive tasks under the direction of cooks, chefs, or food service managers. To help cooks and other kitchen staff, they prepare ingredients for dishes by slicing and dicing vegetables and by making salads and cold food items. Other common duties include keeping salad bars and buffet tables stocked and clean.

Food preparation workers retrieve pots and pans, clean and store kitchen equipment, and unload and store food supplies. When needed, they retrieve food and equipment for cooks and chefs. In some kitchens, food preparation workers use a variety of commercial kitchen equipment, such as commercial dishwashers, blenders, slicers, or grinders.

In restaurants, workers stock and use soda machines, coffeemakers, and espresso machines to prepare beverages for customers.

Median salary: $26,070 annually
Half of those employed in this career earn between $21,400 and $30,850.
Context: Median Salary
How do salaries for this career compare to other jobs' salaries?
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Salary growth for food preparation workers
Is this job likely to reward you for sticking with it through pay raises and promotions? The higher a job’s “experience quotient,” the more you are likely to get as you stay there.
Experience quotient percentile
Take a minute to look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working at each age change. Does this seem to be a job for the young or the old, or could it be a career offering steady salary growth for many years?
Salary distribution
Number employed
About Food Preparation Workers
How do benefits for this career compare to other jobs? The availability of health care, especially employer provided health care, and pension plans can add significantly to the value of compensation you receive in a career. These charts compare how this career compares to other careers with regard to health care and pension plans.
Employee has health insurance
Employer is providing health insurance
Employer-provided pension plan is available
Worker concerns
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of food preparation workers who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (78%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health (70%)
  • High Conflict Frequency (57%)
  • Unpleasant or Angry People (47%)
  • Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites (40%)
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Personality and skills
Can you see yourself in the ranks of Food Preparation Workers? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.
Food preparation workers chop vegetables, cut meat, and perform many other tasks with sharp knives. They must have the ability to work quickly and safely with sharp objects.
Listening skills
Food preparation workers must understand customers’ orders and follow directions from <a href="/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/cooks.htm" title="Cooks"><u>cooks</u></a>, <a href="/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/chefs-and-head-cooks.htm" title="Chefs and Head Cooks"><u>chefs</u></a>, or <a href="/ooh/management/food-service-managers.htm" title="Food Service Managers"><u>food service managers</u></a>.
Physical stamina
Food preparation workers stand on their feet for long periods while they prepare food, clean work areas, or lift heavy pots from the stove.
Physical strength
Food preparation workers should be strong enough to lift and carry heavy food supply boxes, which often can weigh up to 50 pounds.
Injury and Illness
About 289 food preparation workers become injured or ill for every 10,000 workers, making this job more dangerous than 97% of other careers. The most common specific illnesses or injuries are detailed following.
Heat (thermal) burns
All cuts, lacerations, punctures
Bruises and contusions
Education pathways to this career
Education attained by food preparation workers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), food preparation workers 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 food preparation workers as reported in responses to the American Community Survey.
Details: Education and training recommended for food preparation workers

There are no formal education requirements for becoming a food preparation worker.

Education level of Food Preparation Workers
Only 8% of food preparation workers have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by food preparation workers
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Degree
Where are the jobs
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.
Select a state to see local area details
Number of Food Preparation Workers per 1,000 workers (ACS)
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Job density versus job count
Which states hire the most food preparation workers? 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 food preparation workers. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where food preparation workers 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 food preparation workers compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for food preparation workers.
We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which food preparation workers earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this figure 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
Location-adjusted median salary for Food Preparation Workers (ACS)
58% of Food preparation workers are working part time.
We’ve found that some jobs have a huge number of part-time workers, and typically that is because they are unable to find full-time work or the job itself can’t provide full-time hours. With 58% part-time workers, this occupation has a higher percentage of part-time workers than 96% of careers.
Employer types
This donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, giving us a picture of what employers most typically hire for this career.
Employers of undefined (ACS)
Private for-profit
Private not-for-profit
Local government
State government
Federal government
Self-employed incorporated
Self-employed not incorporated
Working without pay
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Distribution: Salaries of food preparation workers by type of employer
Here are the salary distributions based on employer type.
$20K$23K$18K$20K$20K$21K$20K$22K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Food preparation workers and gender
With 54% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 67% of careers.
Gender of Food preparation workers
Men (46%)
Women (54%)
Distribution: salaries by gender
Does gender greatly influence your salary in this career? The closer the bars are, the less discrepancy there is.
We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.
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Context: Women in the workforce
How does this career compare to other careers with regard to the percentage of women in the career.
Context: Salary inequity
The median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 19%. The situation is a little better for food preparation workers, with the median salary for men 10% higher than the median salary for women.
Race and origin of Food preparation workers
This donut shows the distribution of race and origin among those employed as Food preparation workers.
Race/origin of food preparation workers
White (59% )
Black (14% )
Other (13% )
Asian (8% )
Multiracial (3% )
Hispanic (1% )
American Indian (1% )
Pacific Islander (1% )
Distribution: salaries by race/origin
Some careers might have a pay disparity based on race or origin, the closer the below bars are the less of a discrepancy is present.
$18K$18K$19K$19K$20K$20K$21K$21K$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50KAmerican IndianPacific IslanderBlackWhiteHispanicMultiracialOtherAsian
We only include salary data when the survey error is less than 20%, so you may see only partial information for some categories.