Food preparation workers
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Overview
Food preparation workers perform many routine tasks under the direction of cooks, chefs, or food service managers. Food preparation workers prepare cold foods, slice meat, peel and cut vegetables, brew coffee or tea, and perform many other food service tasks.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for food preparation workers are expected to grow by 8%, and should have about 158,000 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Food preparation workers are more likely to be automated than 71% of other careers.
Workforce size
Food preparation workers, with 871,100 workers, form a larger workforce than 95% of careers.
Education
Only 8% of food preparation workers have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by food preparation workers
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
Fewer food preparation workers have bachelor's degrees than 74% of other careeers.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for 97% of all other jobs is higher than the middle salary for food preparation workers. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most food preparation workers.
This job's median $24KAll jobs' median $39K$21K$38K20142015201620172018$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 54% of food preparation workers -- that's a larger percentage than 69% of other jobs.
Gender of food preparation workers
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For food preparation workers, the median men's salary was 9% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 27% of food preparation workers are minority, and 36% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of food preparation workers
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 Food Preparation Workers 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 27% of food preparation workers, and 32% have company-sponsored health insurance (16% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for food preparation workers
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 food preparation workers who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (78%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (70%)
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations (57%)
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People (47%)
  • Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings (40%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do food preparation workers 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 food preparation workers, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for food preparation workers compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for food preparation workers (BLS Salary Data)
$24K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$24K$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 food preparation workers, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for food preparation workers compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for food preparation workers (ACS Salary Data)
$19K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$19K$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 food preparation workers 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 Food preparation workers (ACS)
Private for-profit (89.9%)
Private not-for-profit (3.0%)
Local government (2.9%)
State government (1.7%)
Federal government (0.6%)
Self-employed incorporated (0.8%)
Self-employed not incorporated (0.9%)
Working without pay (0.1%)
Distribution: Salaries of food preparation workers by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$19K$19K$19K$19K$21K$19K$20K$23K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of food preparation workers 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.
$24K$28K$24K$24K$0$10,000$20,000$30,000$40,000State governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for food preparation workers

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.

$21K$16K$20K$21K$21K$19K$20K$21K$19K$0$10K$20K$30K$40KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
020K40K60K80K100KNumber 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
Food preparation workers and gender

With 54% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 69% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
54%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Food preparation workers
Men (46%)
Women (54%)
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 food preparation workers, with the median salary for men 9% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$18K$20K$0$10K$20K$30K$40KWomenMen
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. Food preparation workers 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 75% of other jobs.

9%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 food preparation workers

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 food preparation workers than for 80% of other careers. This career hires a larger percentage of foreign-born workers than most other careers.

Race/origin of food preparation workers
White (60% )
Other (14% )
Black (13% )
Asian (8% )
Multiracial (3% )
Hispanic (1% )
American Indian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
27%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
36%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for food preparation workers 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.

$15K$18K$18K$18K$19K$20K$20K$20K$0$10K$20K$30K$40KAmerican IndianBlackPacific IslanderWhiteHispanicMultiracialOtherAsian
Distribution: Salaries for food preparation workers by nativity
$18K$20K$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 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. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for food preparation workers.

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

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

Distribution: Salary by education level

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

$19K$19K$18K$20K$21K$21K$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50KNone (25%)High School (38%)Some College (23%)Associate's Degree (6%)Bachelor's Degree (7%)Master's Degree (1%)
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for food preparation workers

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

Food preparation workersCooksCashiersCombined food preparation and serving workersWaiters and waitressesFood service managersCustomer service representativesChefs and head cooksFood preparation and serving workersJanitors and building cleanersFirst-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workersRetail salespersons
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for food preparation workers

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 9 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as food preparation workers as well as 1% of respondents after working as food preparation workers. 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 food preparation workers
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
Combined food preparation and serving workers
736,700
$0$200K$18K
Retail salespersons
676,200
$0$200K$31K
Cashiers
659,300
$0$200K$20K
Waiters and waitresses
522,900
$0$200K$21K
Cooks
358,700
$0$200K$21K
First-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workers
147,300
$0$200K$25K
Food preparation and serving workers
89,600
$0$200K$20K
Food service managers
37,100
$0$200K$37K
Chefs and head cooks
20,500
$0$200K$31K
Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for food preparation workers: full listings

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

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for food preparation workers
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?
Combined food preparation and serving workers
736,700
$0$200K$18K
3.1%
Retail salespersons
676,200
$0$200K$31K
1.3%
Cashiers
659,300
$0$200K$20K
4.3%
Waiters and waitresses
522,900
$0$200K$21K
3.5%
Nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides
380,800
$0$200K$25K
1.1%
Cooks
358,700
$0$200K$21K
11.1%
Maids and housekeeping cleaners
207,700
$0$200K$20K
1.2%
Food preparation workers
158,000
$0$200K$19K
27.3%
First-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workers
147,300
$0$200K$25K
1.4%
Food preparation and serving workers
89,600
$0$200K$20K
3.0%
Dishwashers
83,000
$0$200K$17K
1.6%
Nonrestaurant food servers
43,000
$0$200K$23K
1.8%
Food service managers
37,100
$0$200K$37K
1.7%
Chefs and head cooks
20,500
$0$200K$31K
1.1%
No occupation
17.3%
Read about food preparation workers
Responsibilities and activities
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.

Personality and skills
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.

Dexterity
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"><u>cooks</u></a>, <a href="/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/chefs-and-head-cooks.htm"><u>chefs</u></a>, or <a href="/ooh/management/food-service-managers.htm"><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.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for food preparation workers
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) for 97% of all other jobs were higher than the median (middle) salary for food preparation workers. 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 $24KAll jobs' median $39K$22K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for food preparation workers are anticipated to grow by 8% over the next decade, which is faster growth than is predicted for 49% of other jobs.

The projected employment for food preparation workers 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.

20002010202020300200,000400,000600,000800,0001,000,0001,200,000
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 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.

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 Food Preparation Workers per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.05.010.015.020.0
Salary
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.

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: Food Preparation Workers to all workers (BLS)
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 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
0.00.20.40.60.81.0
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 Food preparation workers (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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Knowledge
Physical Abilities
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