Cooks: Salary Overview
Cooks held about 2.5 million jobs in 2018 and the numbers published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that this profession is expected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2018.
Like with all professions, salaries for cooks vary based on a wide range of factors, including their level of experience, the place of employment, and the region of employment.
Cook Salaries by Industry
Although cooks may work in a variety of settings, the majority of them find employment in restaurants.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for cooks who work in restaurants was $12.40 per hour as of May 2018.
Cooks who work in hospitals and other healthcare settings may earn slightly more.
According to BLS, the median hourly wage for cooks employed in the healthcare and social assistance field was $13.55 per hour.
The healthcare and social assistance industry employed less than 200,000 cooks in 2018 so finding a job in this field may be harder than finding employment in a regular restaurant or fast food.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for cooks who work in fast foods was $11.30 while those employed by private households earned a median hourly wage of $18.21, as of May 2018.
Cook Salaries by Employer
Wages may be higher for cooks who work for high-end restaurants and hotels who are located in resort areas or major metropolitan areas.
For example, executive chefs who work in a regular restaurant earn around $40,000 a year while those who work for a five-star hotel or luxury restaurant can earn up to $100,000 a year.
However, competition is fierce for jobs in private homes, five-star hotels, and luxury restaurants and if you want to get a better paying job, a degree or certificate from a reputable college or trade school and a few years of experience as a regular restaurant cook may give you an advantage over the other candidates.
The restaurant and hotel industry gives cooks a lot of room for growth and advancement opportunities and you can become a sous chef or a head cook after earning a few years of experience in the kitchen.
A chef position typically implies more responsibilities but will also give you a more attractive compensation package.
Your job duties as a cook also depend on the type of establishment.
Large restaurants typically have multiple menus and employ more cooks with different job titles (eg. vegetable cook, fry cook, grill cook) that reflect the principal ingredient they use or the type of cooking they do.
Smaller restaurants, on the other hand, employ fewer cooks who typically have to perform a wide range of duties.
Cooks employed by smaller restaurants may be responsible for making sure that the food is fresh, weighting the ingredients, baking, grilling, frying, garnishing dishes, and cleaning the work area.
Regardless of the place of employment, this profession can be stressful and you will have to follow very strict sanitation procedures.
An entry-level job in a small restaurant or fast food is a good starting point if you want to establish a career in the hospitality industry because it will give you the chance of understanding all the processes involved in preparing and serving food.
After gaining experience in a small-scale restaurant you can seek employment in a larger establishment or even start your own restaurant.
Cook Salaries Based on Compensation Structure
Cooks are usually paid hourly but, depending on their exact role, some of them are also given a monthly salary.
Chefs and those who hold management positions are typically salaried while regular cooks and entry-level kitchen employees are paid by the hour.
However, a monthly salary doesn’t necessarily mean getting paid more, especially if you work long hours.
For example, earning $3,000 a month as a sous chef or head cook can mean less than $11 an hour if you work 70-hour weeks which is less than the median hourly wage for cooks who work in restaurants.
If you’re passionate about food and would like to work in a fast-paced environment alongside a team of people who share the same passion, a career as a cook could be the right fit for you.
This profession can also be financially rewarding if you’re willing to work hard and perfect your skills throughout your career.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Cooks. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.