What is the Salary Range for Those with a Culinary Arts Degree?

What is the Salary Range for Those with a Culinary Arts Degree?

Mar 30, 2015 | 9:00 am

The Versatile Career

The only good reason for getting a culinary arts degree is that you love to cook. With or without a degree, the salary you’ll earn is going to be dependent on a number of factors such as your position within the food industry, the location, the company you work for and your work history. The advantage of a culinary arts degree is that your job opportunities will be greater. You will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to go into food science or to become a dietician, and an associate’s degree if you wish to work as a nutritionist. Management level positions in most restaurants and high-end hotels require advanced education courses in the culinary arts, hospitality and business management.

When Location Makes or Breaks You

The highest paying culinary arts salary range is generally found in the metropolitan areas. With a culinary arts degree, your first job in a restaurant might be as a line cook or as an assistant. If it’s a moderately sized restaurant, you can expect to earn a wage of nine to thirteen dollars an hour, and an average twenty-two hour work-week. An assistant earns a salary that averages between $22,000 – $28,000 a year, but is expected to work long hours, weekends and holidays, so the actual hourly pay would average out about the same as a line cook.

Your culinary arts degree begins paying off when you advance to the position of a sous chef. At the low end, you can expect a salary of $38,000 a year, and in exclusive or high end restaurants, as much as $56,000 a year. Typically, cooks gain their experience by working for more than one restaurant, going up the ladder by hiring out to those offering the best positions for the most money. In the restaurant industry, it’s all about previous performance and work experience. A corporate hotel might offer you a top-paying chef’s position in hospitality after you’ve worked several years as a line cook for a commercial restaurant.

While the jostling for a top position is not as great in small towns, the cost of living is often lower. The amount you make as a head cook for a small town restaurant may be no greater than what you would make as an assistant in a bustling metropolitan restaurant, but you may be able to afford a higher quality of life on your income.

Specialization and the Culinary Arts Salary Range

Your culinary arts salary range starts to look a bit more interesting if you specialize in a particular area of the food industry. By specializing in diet and nutrition, you may choose to work in a hospital or clinical setting, advising clients on healthy diets, create menus for a school cafeteria, produce exciting products for a health club or cater to the dietary needs of clients on a cruise ship. The average salary for those who specialize in diet and nutrition is around $55,000 a year. Some health industries require licensing and most require a Bachelor’s degree in food science.

Research chefs also enjoy promising career prospects. Research chefs experiment with recipes and cooking methods to produce new food offers that are eye appealing and nutritious. Often, they work for the pre-packaged food industry, averaging between $55,000 – $65,000 a year. Research chefs also need a Bachelor’s degree in food science.

Sushi chefs earn the highest culinary arts salary, rivaling even the pay of top executive chefs for high-end restaurants. Their salary expectancy is usually a minimum of $70,000 a year, but it takes many years and a lot of practice to become an established sushi chef.

When You Become an Executive Chef

In any kitchen, the top paying job goes to the executive chef. This is an administrative job and requires culinary arts courses in management, hospitality and business administration. It’s not a position you will automatically fall into by completing a culinary arts program. Most executive chefs have at least twelve years of professional cooking experience, have worked for several restaurants, and have proven themselves to be excellent cooks, proficient managers, creative thinkers, knowledgeable in business and people oriented. Depending on the type of restaurant or hospitality service, your culinary arts salary range can be anywhere from $38,000 to $90,000 a year.