USA Career Guide- Chefs and Head Cooks

Education & Training needed to be Chefs and Head Cooks

To become chef or Head Cook formal training is not a necessary requirement and  most chefs acquire their skills through work experience. However, there are a number of community colleges, technical schools, culinary arts schools, that provide a 2-year or 4-year college programs. A few learn through apprenticeship programs or in the armed forces.
The American Culinary Federation accredits more than 200 formal academic training programs at post-secondary schools and sponsors apprenticeships around the country.


The American Culinary Federation certifies pastry professionals, personal chefs, and culinary educators in addition to various levels of chefs. Certification standards are based primarily on work-related experience and formal training. The minimum work experience for certification can range from 6 months to 5 years, depending on the level of certification.

Pay of Chefs and Head Cooks

The median annual wage of chefs and head cooks was $40,630 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that hotels amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,260, and the top 10 percent earned more than $70,960.

 The median annual wages in the industries wise Chefs and Head Cooks (2010)
Traveler accommodation, including and motels    $47,350
Other amusement and recreation industries    $47,340
Special food services    $42,380
Full-service restaurants    $38,520
Limited-service eating places    $27,840

Source:Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition

Job Prospects of Chefs and Head Cooks

Projected employment growth varies by specialty.  Employment of chefs and head cooks is projected to experience little or no change from 2010 to 2020 as per BLS. Much of the increase in this segment, however, will come from job growth in more casual dining and from from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. Job opportunities will be best for chefs and head cooks with several years of work experience.
There will be strong competition for jobs at upscale restaurants, hotels, and casinos, which tend to pay more. Workers with a combination of business skills, previous work experience, and creativity will have the best job prospects. The growth in tourism has increased demand for highly skilled chefs, particularly in establishments of international standard.

Industrial Overview of Chefs and Head Cooks

Chefs and head cooks held about 100,600 jobs in 2010. Industries employing the most chefs and head cooks in 2010 were as follows:

Full-service restaurants 46%
Traveler accommodation, including hotels and motels 11%
Special food services 9%
Other amusement and recreation industries 6%
Limited-service eating places 5%
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition
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