Cooks: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Education Required
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.
Training Required
Most cooks learn their skills through on-the-job training, usually lasting a few weeks. Trainees generally first learn kitchen basics and workplace safety and then learn how to handle and cook food.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 6% (As fast as average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
The American Culinary Federation certifies chefs, personal chefs, pastry chefs, and culinary administrators, among others. For cooks seeking advancement to higher level chef positions, certification can show accomplishment and lead to higher paying positions.
Median pay: How much do Cooks make?
$22,850 Annual Salary
$10.99 per hour

Cooks prepare, season, and cook a wide range of foods, which may include soups, salads, entrees, and desserts.

What do Cooks do?

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 dovegetable 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:

Careers for Cooks

  • Banquet cooks
  • Breakfast cooks
  • Cafeteria cooks
  • Camp cooks
  • Certified personal chefs
  • Chefs de partie
  • Falafel cart cooks
  • Fast food fry cooks
  • Fast-food cooks
  • Fraternity house cooks
  • Fry cooks
  • Fryline attendants
  • Galley cooks
  • Griddle attendants
  • Griddle cooks
  • Grill cooks
  • Institution and cafeteria cooks
  • Institutional cooks
  • Line cooks
  • Mess cooks
  • Personal chefs
  • Personal cooks
  • Private chefs
  • Private household cooks
  • Restaurant cooks
  • Sauciers
  • School cooks
  • Short order fry cooks
  • Short-order cooks
  • Snack bar cooks
  • Specialty cooks
  • Vegetable cooks

Similar Careers