The culinary arts incorporate an expansive range of potential careers. Many people believe that a culinary course can only lead down one career path towards becoming a chef. However, there are a plethora of choices available to the willing culinary student. Teaching, restaurant or hotel management and specialist chef roles such as pastry chef are just a small selection of the roles that are available for individuals with culinary interest and talent.

Employment and Earnings Statistics

Potential wages vary greatly depending on the industry and the precise role. According to the Department of Labor there were over 115,000 chef and head cook jobs in May of 2005 and the average hourly wage was given at $17.23 per hour. There were 1.5 million cooks’ jobs ranging from fast food to restaurant cooks. The average hourly wage ranged from $7.45 per hour for a fast food cook to $11.18 per hour for a private household cook. Top chefs can expect to earn $30 or more per hour with $17 or more per hour for the most highly-regarded household cooks.

A Change in Culinary Demands

Demand for chefs and cooks will always remain relatively constant. The major differences tend to be between the industries in which the roles are available. More and more people have turned to fast food as an easy and quick meal and, as such, there are many more cooks jobs available in the fast food industry than there were ten or even five years ago. In contrast, though, the population is now beginning to lean towards the higher-end restaurants with a greater variation in food. This means that in the next five to ten years a larger number of gourmet chefs will be required compared to fewer fast food cooks.

The Best Course of Education or Vocation

It is possible to advance up the culinary ladder in terms of career development but it can take years as a cook or assistant cook before any real advance is seen. A smart option is to earn a certificate or degree in a culinary subject. Most cook’s positions do not require a degree – a certificate or relevant experience is often enough – however, top chef jobs will generally require a good degree or a certificate and a good level of experience.

View a list of schools in California offering culinary arts programs >>