Quick Facts: Chefs and Head Cooks
2012 Median Pay $42,480 per year
$20.42 per hour
Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation 5 years or more
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 115,400
Job Outlook, 2012-22 5% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 6,000

What Chefs and Head Cooks Do

Chefs and head cooks oversee the daily food preparation at restaurants and other places where food is served. They direct kitchen staff and handle any food-related concerns.

Work Environment

Chefs and head cooks work in restaurants, private households, and other establishments where food is served. They often work early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays. The work can be hectic and fast paced. Most chefs and head cooks work full time.

How to Become a Chef or Head Cook

Most chefs and head cooks learn their skills through work experience. Others receive training at a community college, technical school, culinary arts school, or a 4-year college. A small number learn through apprenticeship programs or in the armed forces.


The median annual wage for chefs and head cooks was $42,480 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of chefs and head cooks is projected to grow 5 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Job opportunities will result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. Candidates can expect strong competition for jobs at upscale restaurants, hotels, and casinos, where the pay is typically highest.