Culinary Careers

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Earning a degree in culinary careers is a great way to explore your passion for creating new and exciting dishes. If you love food, you can develop the skills you need to become a top chef in the field!

List of the Top 40 Culinary Careers & Salaries

There are several career paths in the culinary world, from food safety and inspection to restaurant management and specialized chefs. To give you an idea of what occupations are available after graduating from a culinary program, we have put together a list of popular career choices and their median annual salary.

Job Title Job Summary Median Salary
Corporate Chef Responsible for the management and menu selection of one or more branches of a restaurant. $76,414
Food and Beverage Director Executive who works in hospitality to oversee the entire food and beverage service of a company. $69,424
Food Safety Manager Ensures that all consumable food items under their responsibility are handled and stored in a safe manner. $67,459
Food Scientist Performs tasks related to the production, testing, and consumption of food. $64,358
Executive Chef Manages all food and beverage operations for their kitchen, as well as menu development and task delegation. $61,313
Chef de Cuisine In charge of all kitchen operations, including menu creation, prep work, and final plate examination. $54,186
Executive Sous Chef Supervises and coordinates every aspect of food production to ensure high-level quality. $54,916
Executive Pastry Chef Manages the creation of baked goods in a bakery, catering company, or restaurant. $57,522
Food Service Director Plans, organizes, directs, and manages their department and is responsible for the overall function of dining services. $54,454
Food Safety Specialist Works as a food inspector and is responsible for assessing and monitoring food quality and safety. $58,031
Food Safety Supervisor Works for food establishments to ensure that safe food handling and hygiene procedures are being followed. $58,482
Food Technologist Works for a company that produces food and is tasked with the development of new types of foods or flavors. $56,707
General Manager, Food Service Manages the tasks of food quality and customer satisfaction by overseeing safety standards and day to day operations. $48,497
General Manager, Restaurant Responsible for overseeing all of a restaurant’s operations, including staff management and dealing with food suppliers and vendors. $49,871
Cooking Instructor, Postsecondary Provides students with knowledge and skill training in their specialized culinary field at the college level. $50,105
Food Safety Coordinator Ensures that their company is following health and safety guidelines relevant to the food industry. $50,896
Head Chef Works in a variety of industries that serve food and is responsible for training employees and meeting the quality standards of their employer. $46,673
Chef Manager Management position in a food establishment that trains staff and ensures food production is high quality. $50,126
Nutritionist Studies nutritional plans and provides diet recommendations for individuals and institutions. $46,894
Restaurant Manager In charge of the daily operations and staff of an eating establishment. $46,908
Catering Manager Responsible for the daily running of food services within a catering establishment. $46,277
Personal Chef Hired to work in personal home settings to prepare meals for individuals and families. $52,745
Pastry Chef Professional chef that works at a variety of food establishments to create attractive and delicious pastries. $45,692
Sous Chef In charge of the majority of the kitchen before, during, and after every service and supervises the kitchen staff. $45,004
Pastry Sous Chef Works under the head chef of the kitchen to prepare and create desserts. $45,071
Kitchen Manager Responsible for keeping the “back of the house” and kitchen of a food establishment running smoothly. $43,305
Assistant Pastry Chef Works with a team under the direction of a pastry chef to create desserts. $38,794
Kitchen Chef Prepares food for their establishment’s diners and may work in either public or private institutions. $39,903
Restaurant Assistant Manager Works under the supervision of a manager in a restaurant and oversees the work of restaurant employees. $39,262
Fast Food Manager Oversees the day to day operation and food preparation of a fast food location. $39,085
Kitchen Supervisor Ensures that all duties within a restaurant or cafeteria are carried out in a safe manner to satisfy customers. $34,629
Caterer Responsible for serving food at large social events, including weddings, parties, and business functions. $30,726
Baker Creates baked goods for their establishment including artisan breads and specialty desserts. $32,145
Chef de Partie Operates kitchen equipment, tastes products for quality assurance, and follows recipes to prepare quality food. $36,227
Line Cook Works in fast paced environments to efficiently prepare food up to their restaurant’s standards. $29,315
Pastry Cook Works in bakeries and restaurants to create pies, cakes, and other desserts. $36,174
Prep Cook Entry-level position that is responsible for performing preparatory work for the head chef. $28,793
Cook, Restaurant Typically works under a head chef and is involved in each stage of dish preparation. $30,578
Cook, Institution and Cafeteria Prepares and cooks food for large volumes of people while adhering to quality standards. $27,981
Grill Cook Kitchen employees that specialize in grill work to prepare specific menu items. $26,491

Data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Payscale.com

What can you do with a Culinary Degree?

As you can see from the information above, there are a wide range of culinary jobs in the modern workforce. Whether you specialize in pastries, specialty cuisine, or management, the food service business is always on the lookout for talented chefs willing to go above and beyond in creating quality food for customers.

Median salaries for culinary graduates vary widely based on their skill level and experience. The culinary industry can be competitive, and most chefs start out in entry-level positions before working their way up to becoming executive chefs. In the culinary field, experience is highly regarded and with consistent effort, you may be able to make as much or more than the top salaries portrayed in the table above.

What is a Culinary Degree?

While some chefs start their careers in low-level positions without a formal post-secondary education, it is advantageous to earn a degree in order to reach top culinary positions. There are several degree levels available in the culinary arts, from certificate programs to graduate level education.

The most common degree amongst chef candidates is an associate’s degree in culinary arts. This program provides a two-year foundation in culinary training that graduates can then use to pursue chef work or advance to a bachelor’s degree program.

There are several sub-fields of the culinary arts, including ethnic cuisine and pastry work. However, throughout the course of any culinary degree program you will likely take courses that cover the following topics:

  • Basic and Advanced Culinary Skills Training
  • Management and Leadership
  • Kitchen theory
  • Classical Culinary Foundations
  • Accounting and Business Principles

If you are interested in the management and operational side of the culinary arts, there are reputable online culinary schools that offer culinary degree online programs that allow you to learn essential skills on a schedule that fits into your busy life.

Culinary Career Outlook

When it comes down to it, restaurants will always be on the search for talented chefs to make them stand out from the crowd. Due to this, skilled culinary students have a positive job outlook despite the competitive industry. If you are interested in finding out what the growth rate is for specific culinary occupations, we recommend that you look at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for accurate data on outlook and salary.

The BLS projects that the outlook for chefs and head cooks within the culinary industry will grow 7% from 2019 to 2029, and gain about 1 million jobs. This growth rate is faster than the national average across all occupations. Additionally, food service managers are expected to have a 1% growth in the same time frame, which is comparable with the national average.

Based upon the job outlook and low time frame to get started in the field, many students find culinary degrees to be excellent starting points for a promising career. If you have an excellent work ethic and passion for food, the culinary arts are a perfect choice for a fast-paced and varied occupation!

Ready to start your journey?
Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.