What Can I Do with a Degree in Cooking?

Learn more about what you can do with a degree in cooking. Find information on cooking careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular online culinary arts schools that prepare students for careers in cooking.


Individuals that have a passion for food may enjoy a profession as a chef or cook. Although cooks are generally classified as part of the larger culinary arts profession, the work of the chef is notably unique. In addition to preparing the food that is served in restaurants and hotels, many cooks are responsible for developing new dishes and menus. Cooks that are capable of developing new recipes can even become famous. Rachel Ray, Gordon Ramsey and Wolfgang Puck are just a few of the talented cooks that have turned their passion for cooking into multimillion dollar enterprises.

In their jobs as cooks, professionals typically combine their love of food with the science of cooking in order to develop flavorful creations. Cooks that have a clear command of their art will be able to satisfy customers and generate a strong reputation for their work. In order to perfect their craft, most cooks must seek some post-secondary education. While a two-year Associates Degree can be acquired for those seeking advancement in culinary arts, many professionals can receive expert training in their field from vocational or technical schools specializing in culinary arts. Through education, cooks are able to take their raw talents in the kitchen and apply them to hone their skills and become more proficient in their craft.


The specific careers that cooks can seek vary based on the type of organization in which they are employed. Many fast food restaurants employ short-order cooks that are simply responsible for preparing menu items for direct sale to the customer. Cooks working in these professions will not be required to perform additional duties such as menu creation that are more typically found in chef and head chef positions. Careers for chefs and head chefs include a broader range of responsibilities that extend beyond simply cooking food. Professionals working as chefs or head chef will be responsible for developing menus, selecting restaurant meal themes, managing employees, managing customer relations, food preparation and inventory management. In larger establishments, some of these responsibilities may be assumed by a food preparation or service manager. Cooks initially employed to manage food preparation may be promoted to management positions as they advance in their field and acquire more experience.

Industry Salary Info

Salaries for cooks are dependent upon the specific type of establishment employing the professional. Fast food restaurants, which employ a large number of line or short-order cooks, pay relatively low salaries for professionals. Median annual salaries for cooks in these jobs range from $20,169 to $26,369. Cooking assistants, working in more upscale restaurants command slightly higher salaries that range between $22,233 and $28,695 annually. Professionals that are seeking to earn more in their positions as cooks will need to assume job titles that include more managerial responsibilities. For instance, executive chefs working for upscale restaurants typically command annual salaries between $57,471 and $87,563. Individuals in these positions typically manage a broad scope of operations for the organization and are responsible for overseeing most activities that occur in the kitchen. Many cook positions are part-time and require professionals to work on evenings and weekends in order to provide food service for customers.

Job Outlook

Job growth in the culinary arts continues to expand at a significant pace when compared with other professions. As a result of this growth, the demand for cooks at all levels is increasing. However, growth in certain types of cook positions is increasing faster than in others. In particular, increased demand by consumers for fast food continues to fuel the need for more line and short-order cooks. Expansion of the hospitality and service industry is also fueling demand for professionals in executive and management positions. Many professionals working as cooks want to focus on food preparation. As such, those willing to move into management positions will have access to more job opportunities. Cooks that seek post-secondary education and training in cooking and culinary arts will also have access to more job opportunities. Experience in the field will also be valuable for helping professionals advance their careers and find new career pathways.

Recommended Schools

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Turn your passion for food into a career at the Culinary Institute of Virginia.


  • Baking and Pastry Arts
  • Applied Nutrition
  • Culinary Arts
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Locations:  Norfolk

Virginia College  continues the tradition ofgiving lives new direction, fulfilling our mission statement tostudents wherever they live and offering the chance to pursue adegree while maintaining commitments to work and family.


  • DIP - Pastry Arts
  • DIP - Culinary Arts
Locations:  Richmond

Your creativity is a big part of who you are and where you're going. To take it, and your future, as far as you want, you need an education that's focused on developing your talents and putting you on the path toward the creative career that stirs your imagination.


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Locations:  Durham